I love a good pirate story.
I’ve been enjoying the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series a lot. I even included pirates in my Actuator series. There’s something appealing about bucking unjust authority, although it requires some pretty advanced mental gymnastics to justify the heinous things done by real pirates.
These days pirates tend to be the type who steal media. Most of them do it because they want to see movies for free or before the release date. There are also plenty of people looking to get free music or books. Consequently, most or all of my books have been pirated. In fact, one of my books, Exacting Essence, has been pirated so extensively that it hasn’t even sold many legitimate copies. I’ve even found discussion boards where people were recommending it to each other… which struck a whole range of conflicting emotions. At the very least, they could have reviewed it!
I can’t help thinking back to my teens when I pirated music. First of all, I should say that I also bought a lot of music. However, my humble means and the exceptional importance of music to my social group and our generation added a lot of pressure. Plus, I had this neat boom box that had a double cassette deck with high speed dubbing that made it sooo easy… So I copied music from and for friends. Later, I mended my ways and now I get my music legitimately. Movies and books, too. I later bought most of that music legitimately, but I’m probably getting my just desserts.
So what can an author do? The Internet makes it so easy to share files now, I suspect there’s not much we can do. Technically, one can pay a lawyer and try to sue people for it. But most of the “sharing” on the Internet is done by anonymous people who try not to leave any detectable trace. I have one publisher who sends “cease and desist” orders to anybody they find posting their books illegally, but it’s a never-ending game. The truth is, if somebody decides they are going to pirate something, the effort it takes to stop them is usually a lot more time and money than it took them to do it. They even program bots to do it, leaving almost no trail. So it’s a game that can’t be easily won. (Maybe a super-corporation like Disney can make some headway, but not an independent author.)
Oscar Wilde is an example of an amazing writer whose life turned tragic because of an emotionally charged law suit. Imagine how many more great works he could have written if he spent his efforts differently.
So I think the only healthy attitude is to not burn energy getting angry and trying to fight it. Pirates gonna steal. But since they aren’t likely to have ever bought my book in the first place, it doesn’t really matter. I just chalk it up to “exposure” and hope over time it will contribute to a general increase in name recognition. Maybe they’ll recommend it to somebody who’ll buy the book in the future. It’s not all that different from libraries lending books to many patrons… except nobody bought the first book. Honestly, I’ll just give my books to anybody willing to review them. So if you ever stole one of my books, please leave a review and we’ll call it good.