So we all know as long as there have been digital files, there have been people stealing them. Generally I don’t lose sleep over my books surfacing on torrents or forum websites. I know in 90% of cases they’re using my title to hide a virus, and the people downloading them wouldn’t have paid money for my books anyway, etc etc. I know in the grand scheme of things, I’m not losing much in real terms from piracy. That doesn’t mean I have to like it, or condone it, and you can bet your ass when I find it, I report the shit out of it. I can write DMCA notices in my sleep.
Plenty of people argue that if it doesn’t hurt, why fix it? I’ve heard people say that piracy is going to happen whatever I, and authors like me, do to prevent it, so why bother? But you know what, none of the bad things that happen in this world would happen but for the inaction of good people. If I see somebody getting attacked in the street, intervening won’t stop all violence from happening, but I’ll have stopped one instance. That’s all any of us can hope to do.
In order for the little people to make a difference, however, we need the big organisations to support us. We need the criminal justice system to penalise antisocial behaviours. We need proper recourse when we have been wronged. And we need corporations to stand with us and say, “Not in our name.”
So when a fellow author stumbled across an open and public group on Facebook, freely sharing copyrighted book files, you’d assume they’d respond quickly to a report, right?
“We reviewed the group you reported for containing theft or vandalism and found it doesn’t violate our Community Standards.”
Community Standards which are in breach of American copyright law, I hasten to add. Sadly, however, DMCA notices (legally binding for American companies) can only be issued by the author or copyright representative of the title being pirated, meaning unless they get involved, we are at the mercy of Facebook’s ridiculously unequal TOS. Show two shirtless guys almost kissing and you’re banned for months. Illegally share copyrighted work and they’ll look the other way.
And just in case you think I’m being melodramatic about the reach of this group, here’s a screenprint of the files being shared right now.
That’s Twilight, 50SOG, George R. R. Martin, Dan Brown, and countless others, for those who can’t be bothered to embiggen.
And here, from the group description:
“Only copyrighted material gets uploaded to this group.”
How brazen do you have to be?
Here’s the thing, when we say “pirate” we all think of a happy-go-lucky band of scallywags, likely led by Johnny Depp, who cause trouble for the establishment but make the underdog laugh with their foolish japes. It’s bullshit. These people are thieves, no more or less, and they deserve our contempt.
You are not the hard-done-to underdog if you don’t want to pay for a book you want to read. It’s called budgeting, and we all do it. There are plenty of films I’d like to watch at the cinema, but I wait until they’re out on DVD or Prime because it won’t cost me half as much to view them. If I want a book but don’t want to pay the list for it, I’ll wait until a site like ARe has a rebate and get it half-price. Hell, most Kindle books are loanable and there are plenty of groups which will set strangers up to do loan exchanges so you can read a title for nothing without the author being ripped off. Sites like Scribd offer subscription services to read as many books as you want for a flat fee. There is no excuse for stealing books. None.
I know there will always be
pirates thieves, but I’ll be damned if we just turn a blind eye and let them flaunt their thefts in public. The harder we make it to find pirated books, the less people will consider the theft worth the effort or risk. I know I wouldn’t download anything from a torrent in case it wiped my hard drive. Some people will always choose to steal rather than buy, but let’s push them back to the underbelly, where they belong. Groups like this have no place on reputable sites, and shame on Facebook for not removing this one immediately.
Update: after a veritable flood of reports, success!
While we won this battle, this group was far from alone on Facebook. The only way to win is to keep reporting them, keep the pressure up, and make these big corporations accountable for their actions until they decide to remove illegal content when they find it, not when there’s an outcry. It shouldn’t be so difficult to get a large company to do the right thing.