Some (meta) thoughts on piracy

I don't post much on piracy on TDR. It's still a sore topic and it's been done to death. But last night I had an epiphany and I think I might have something original to add to the topic. There's a certain type of anti-pirate advocate that I've always found annoying. I finally figured out why I find them annoying, and it's actually very simple. It turns out that this isn't a philosophical disagreement, it's not a matter of principle, and I'm not having an emotional reaction to doubts about my position on piracy. I simply don't like listening to people who whine about things beyond their control.

This led me to examine why they complain about it and why I don't care, and I noticed a difference in mindset that I found interesting and wanted to share.

Richard Curtis penned a post yesterday that inspired this little soliloquy. The tone of his post is expressed in the opening paragraph:

Tim O’Reilly famously said, “Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.”  That’s very witty, but anyone who’s had their property hijacked by pirates will fail to see the humor. Take Colleen Doran, a cartoonist and illustrator with hundreds of major credits. She would gladly opt for obscurity if it meant getting compensated for the 3000 hours of work stolen from her.

So here's the thing about the piracy debate: there are 3 parties involved, not 2. The third party is neither pro nor anti piracy; we're simply ambivalent. Piracy simply is, and there's nothing we can do about it.

That's the mindset of a certain part of the digital generation, though I suspect few have realized it. And I'm not just talking about pirates here; there are some content creators who have faced facts, accepted that they can't do anything about piracy, and moved on. I'm saying that as a not just as a content consumer, but also as a content creator. I've been pirated before and while I do make minimal efforts to get the content taken down, I don't get upset over it.

Piracy is a fact of life.  You might as well complain about being caught in a rain storm (for all the good it will do).

About Nate Hoffelder (11368 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

4 Comments on Some (meta) thoughts on piracy

  1. Nice post. Finally someone taking a sane position. Now for some observations from the music industry experiences that publishing would be wise to heed (and I’m talking about people file-sharing with no money changing hands here, not bootleg sales. The latter should be fought with vigor):

    1: One download does not equal one lost sale. It’s questionable whether even 100 downloads equals one lost sale.

    2: There is no form of DRM that cannot be cracked. Quit spending time and effort on that. Instead, the best way to combat file-sharing is…

    3: Provide what the customer wants in a format the customer’s looking for at a reasonable price.

    This includes dumping territorial restrictions. It’s ludicrous, in this day and age of the Internet, that I should be denied buying the electronic version of a book when I could buy the physical from the same online shop, merely because of where I live.

  2. “I simply don’t like listening to people who whine about things beyond their control.”
    “Piracy simply is, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
    1. If everybody just assummed things are beyond their control, we’d still be living in caves.
    2. I wonder if you meant only people who whine against piracy, or also those who whine for piracy and against all forms of intellectual monopoly.

    • Well, the people who whine about it can’t figure out what to do besides complain. It is beyond their control.

      And I don’t have to listen to people espousing piracy; there aren’t very many of those in publishing. I can’t help but meet the other type, unfortunately.

  3. Dr Herbert J. teaBagger // 21 November, 2010 at 5:34 pm // Reply

    I do not advocate piracy!
    however trying to purchase an ebook in another country since it is not available locally, then entering all the payment detail and then have it declined because I am not from the USA is i am sure contary to what the author intends.

    I was so pissed off at this legitimate attempt to support the author that i located a “in the wild” copy just so i could read the book on my kobo.

    This has not just happened once to me.

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