There is an author I follow on Facebook who is an Objectivist (as am I), but lately I’ve been having to exercise more than a modicum of self-control with regard to his posts. (Insofar as I know, he does not publicly identify as Objectivist, so — for that reason and others that will quickly become apparent — I shan’t name him.)
In the past few years, he had his first book published, and from what I know, it was more than reasonably successful. In the past few weeks, he’s been railing against his book being pirated.
At least one of his posts stated that his book had been pirated (that is, downloaded/copied without compensation to him) 100,000 times, which meant that he was robbed 100,000 times.
Which, if you will excuse my language, is bullshit.
The response I refrained from sending was, essentially: “You mean 100,000 people who never would have obtained your book otherwise now have your book, might read it, might like it and start buying your books, and you’re bitching about the Free Advertising???”
Of course, it wouldn’t have had the desired effect. He’s got his mind made up, and no stranger pointing out facts that counter his position will do anything other than annoy him and cause him to double down.
Further, I did not bring up other aspects of his position that he was not following, such as The Terrible Threat Of Used Book Stores. Because if you’re going to complain about an author’s intellectual property changing hands without due compensation to the author, you really should hunt those despicable blackguards down and Make Them Pay. And what about Libraries? Or those awful, awful people who loan the books that they have bought to friends? Isn’t that nearly as outrageous?
How many of your favorite books or authors did you find by buying them blind, at full price, making sure that the author got fully compensated? Or did you find them through borrowed books, loaned books, and free recommendations, none of which put money directly in the author’s pocket?
But once you did find a favorite, did you go out of your way to keep him from receiving any of your hard-earned cash? Of course not!
And shall we discuss the lessons of Baen Books? Oh, yes, let’s.
Baen Books, a for-profit company that deals in science fiction and fantasy, gives away lots of their books in free electronic editions. And they’ve been doing it for more than a decade! (They began in 2000.)
And yet, somehow, despite pirating their own books, they’re very far from hurting, financially speaking. Worse, their other electronic books, the ones you pay for? Digital Rights Management free. Meaning you can pirate them endlessly with no hassle at all. And still Baen is somehow able to profit and prosper.
Isn’t amazing how well your customers treat you when you don’t presume them to be criminals?
I have long supported Creative Commons licensing, for the excellent reason that it just makes sense. You and every other internet user are a de facto Creative Commons user, or else everybody who reads any web page ever is a Dread Pirate. The act of loading the page on your browser is an act of copying intellectual property.
Also, I’m currently reading Lawrence Lessig’s CC manifesto, Free Culture, and it’s eye-opening. I’ll post more about it some other time.
The long and the short of it is, every word I self-publish will go out under a Creative Commons license, and that is your permission to pirate my words to your heart’s content (so long as you abide by the terms of the license on that work). My marketing plan as it stands now (subject to change at any moment) is to publish at a low, low pricepoint, but CC license everything (and, yes, give away copies for review and suchlike). You could, theoretically, wait a bit after a book comes out, and read everything I write for free without compensating me, ever. And if you do, I shan’t call you a pirate or say nasty things about your personal hygiene. Promise.
(On the other hand, if you read and like one of my books, and don’t bother to pony up a measly buck for the happy experience… well, that’s between you and your conscience, really.)