Avast, Mateys! It’s “Steal Like a Pirate” Day

Yesterday, I finally joined the club. I had an entire book pirated. I’ve had short stories stolen before, even one translated into Russian and published without my knowledge or consent, but this is the first time someone’s gone to all the bother of ripping off an entire book. And it was at least a little bother. Someone took the time to convert the only electronic files available into an entirely different format, one I’d never sanctioned, and made it available for download for free (and NO, I’m not going to say which or where, you sillies).

I’m a little annoyed, yes, but not much more than that. See, I spent several years on the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) Anti-Piracy Committee, helping to track this sort of abuse. I learned a few things in my time there. One was that there were several types of pirate, who distributed work not their own for different reasons. Some were just out to make a buck on other people’s hard work, and those were the ones we tried to shut down whenever possible. Some were like hoarders, and more or less “counted coup” on the number of free books they could accumulate on their disks, and reading any of the stash was never the point. And then there were the ones who considered themselves fans, and honestly thought they were doing nothing wrong but rather helping the writer out by making the work more widely available. I’m not really convinced by that reasoning but I have to concede the possibility, because the other thing I learned, both on and off the committee, was that any given writer’s worst problem was not piracy, but obscurity. You might lose a few sales, but most likely they were to the sort of reader who wouldn’t have bought the book anyway because they didn’t have a clue who you were. Next time? Well, that’s where it gets tricky. Especially if the pirates are enthusiastic and determined.

So what am I going to do? I’m going to monitor the situation and consider a takedown notice if I think he’s doing more harm than good. The pirate is Russian, but his hosting service isn’t, so there may be something I can do. But maybe I won’t need to. We’ll just have to see.

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