Rant originally posted August 3, 2010 at andimarquette.com.
On June 28, 2010, a copy of one of my books was uploaded to a website that doesn’t do much by way of policing its users. That upload may have cost my publisher and me quite a few sales, because other users most likely downloaded it. My book wasn’t the only one there. I saw several titles by colleagues and I spent a lot of time alerting them and the publishers about what was going on in this dark corner of the web.
Here’s the thing. If you make unauthorized copies of something and then distribute it online, you are stealing. If you do not have written permission from the rights-holder(s) of that work to make reproductions and distribute it, you are engaging in theft and copyright infringement. If you are downloading pirated copies of stolen work, you are a thief, too.
This particular part of this particular site is geared toward lesfic readers. It’s also home to several users that I and a bunch of my colleagues are watching. A few of them are busy little pirates, and have over a hundred illegally reproduced and uploaded titles that they distribute to whomever wants them. A few are so out of bounds that they actually request a donation from downloaders. That’s right. They are making money off a book they did not write, they did not edit, they did not produce, they did not publish, they did not market, and whose copyright they are violating. That’s like coming into my house, picking up my wallet, taking part of my paycheck, and leaving.
Now, I don’t mind if people buy one of my books and share it with a few real friends. And I have been known to send free copies of my books to people I know who are having a harder financial time than I am, and who I know would buy that book if they could. So yes, pass it around among 3 or 4 of your friends. Talk about it. Recommend it. Enjoy it.
But don’t steal it. If you take that book, scan it, and post it online so dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of people can read it, you have taken a lot of money away from my publisher and from me, and by extension, you’ve impacted your fellow readers who are supporting us by buying our work. Because if that publisher isn’t getting paid, she can’t stay in business.
This is lesfic we’re talking about. It ain’t a big community. Many readers meet their fave authors in person, as well as their fave publishers. For every hundred books that are downloaded for free, that’s a bill I’m going to have a hard time paying. Some of you may know my dog, Taylor. If not, you can find her on Facebook and find out some of the medical issues she has. Some of you probably have pets yourselves. My royalties–which aren’t much, because this is a small, select audience–help pay for her medicine. I don’t have kids. Taylor’s the closest thing I’ve got to that.
Every book you steal from me affects her, as well.
My royalties also help pay my rent. I’m extremely grateful that I get those royalties, because if I have any left over, they go into an emergency account.
Every book you steal from me diminishes my emergency account. And in this day and age, every bit you save is important.
My royalties also help pay for transportation to get me to work. I have to work. But I’m not making anything even close to a six-figure salary. I’m barely scraping by, like most of you.
Every book you steal from me means I scrape harder. I count on those royalties to help me with certain bills. But every book you steal leaves me tightening my belt a little more. And certain things, like Taylor, come first in my world. So do family emergencies. And sometimes there are car situations. Or plumbing problems. Like any of the many things that can crop up.
Every book you steal from me hits me where it hurts.
I, like 99 percent of my fellow authors, work a full-time day job. I try to make a lot of stuff available for free online for readers. There are also many, many sites that offer even novels that authors post–with permission–for people to see, read, enjoy, and share. But published works are a direct result of many people working to produce something. Producers work hard. And I, personally, think that paying producers for their hard work is a reasonable thing to do. It shows you support our missions, you support the publishers who are making lesfic available to you, and you would like to keep that author writing.
Every book you steal from me ensures that my publisher doesn’t get paid, I don’t get paid, and other readers suffer because without money to keep the publishers going, they can’t pay the producers, either, and thus another resource may tank.
Every book you steal from me screws us all.