Some readers think it's no different than lending a book out, a library, or used book sales, but that isn't the case. The Internet is a universal access point. The damage is widespread. The theft is massive.
Consider that the author who spends hours a day, sometimes for months on a single project, makes a percentage of sales. A short story selling for just under three dollars might net the author sixty cents per sale. We pay our own taxes, pay social security and federal taxes. If the publisher is international, there is the conversion rate to consider. Then consider that popularity of a book fades after just a few months.
In polling several authors, mainstream and erotic, I found that sales can be as low as a few dollars a month. Most publishers won't issue a check below a certain sales figure. I know one author who wasn't paid royalties for five months because sales and conversion rate put her beneath the minimum earning rate for a check to be issued. Now consider that most writers have families or day jobs or both.
Piracy is piracy. Stealing from a hardworking person, taking from their store of creativity isn't suddenly right because you are Internet-faceless. It is tantamount to a stranger walking in off the street, going into your desk, stealing confidential files you've worked months on and selling it as his own.
The author doesn't get paid. Their families, children, household income suffers significantly. They depend on the income to make ends meet whatever the economy. Some authors may feel giveaways help them. Fine. Let them give away copies without limitations, that's their choice. But making the universal choice for someone else about their work is a violation of copyright, a violation of creative integrity, and a violation of someones financial support structure.
We don't make much. Even those of us who do well still need outside work to pay the bills. We don't strut around in feather boas and lounge in silk pyjamas. We don't have pool-boys peeling grapes for us. We're like the readers, the general workforce, out there who make a living doing what we know how to do and hoping we bring joy in the process.
I'm being stolen from. The site has been given a cease and desist. They took it down and another person re-posted my work. I can see the number of times it has been downloaded and I know that number will reflect in my publication check. In three days my books were downloaded over 1500 times from various sites. I have yet to receive my first paycheck from either of the two publishing companies who published my books. In three days I'm out a lot of money because each download adds up. How much have I lost in two or three months?
On another blog there was discussion about recent movies. A commenter who claimed to read my blog regularly posted a link for a free full movie viewing of Star Trek (in theatres now). I remarked that had she read my blog, even in the last day, she'd have seen my post on piracy. This is what she said:
I agree. Stealing is stealing. But in my defense, first I watch
online, then I buy when it comes to DVD. But I only steal from the rich. Fuck
those Hollywood celebrities and their big paychecks. I would never, ever steal
from a writer. I buy books. The actual rectangular objects made of paper and
ink. None of that online crap.
Of course I reminded her, regular blog reader, that I write that online crap which then goes to print and it's still stealing. Her response:
I will forever and always buy books. I support authors and all of their
hard work. I know it's not an easy industry. You don't make a lot of money
unless you hit it big like Rowling or even those stupid Twilight books. I would
go all vigilante on someone for stealing from authors.
Overall, she back-peddled fast. But she is just one of many (and she from the college age group) who see nothing wrong with obtaining copies for free. They qualify their need and rationalize the theft as though they are doing nothing illegal but heroic. In this case, Robin Hood of movies.
Piracy is wrong. It's stealing. My wallet is being picked and I'm not alone in the battle.