Friday, April 12, 2013

Cyber-pirates: How to Thwart them. How to make them work for you. Part 2: Education.

Your typical image of a cyber-pirate is someone either trying to make a buck stealing someone else's books and selling them. Either that, or you have the image of a cyber-rebel like Anonymous who believes that the copyright laws are too
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restrictive and that everyone should have to right to have access to everything anyone else writes, publishes or produces online.

In both these cases, you have people who are knowingly breaking the law. However, a major portion of cyber piracy takes place "innocently." In other words, the people violating your intellectual property rights aren't hackers either for money or a cause. They are ordinary people who simply don't understand, first, what they are doing is illegal, and secondly, do not understand the consequences to the author of what they are doing.

At a very minor level, this can be something as simple as buying a book they really like and then making a copy of it and giving it to a friend or relative. They see it as the same as letting someone borrow a print copy of the book. They do not realize the difference is that they are creating a new copy of the book which can then be copied again and again. Some of the major producers of ebooks understand the impulse to lend a book to someone else and have set up tools to allow it without creating massive file sharing.

This process of lending among small groups of friends can be beneficial to an author. Someone said that piracy is not the greatest threat to an artist. Obscurity is. We will talk about that in our next post. However, one of the leading ways people choose a book to read is through the recommendation of a friend or family member. They can choose an author the same way. You might lose that one sale, but gain a buyer for all your other books.

Where innocent or unintentional piracy becomes a problem is when people take their lending outside of the small circle of close friends and makes their books available on file sharing sites. Posting a book or even all of an author's books on one of these sites makes that book available free to thousands of people.

Most people on these sites don't think about how this can affect an author. They are enthusiastic about the book. They want others to read it. They also like having free access to other books. They may not even know that they have no legal right to post that book without the authors permission. I'm amazed at the number of people who naively believe a site must be operating legally or they wouldn't be allowed to continue. Like there is a government agency that looks over every web developer's business plan and has to approve it before going online.

One thing indie authors and small publishers can do is start educating their readers on blogs, author pages, through Facebook and Twitter, that when they download an unauthorized free copy of a book, they are taking money out of an author's pocket and that, by and large, authors make very little money as it is. The Hollywood image of the author as wealthy jet setter is embedded into their mentality. Just including in your Facebook posts that reflect your real lifestyle and your joy over a royalty check albeit a small one can help educate people that you are a real person who depends to a greater or lesser extent on your legitimate sales for your income.

It is very easy to not think about how your file sharing will affect that wealthy author you see in the movies. It is much harder to ignore it's affect on that author who posted on twitter the other day about trying to save money on plumbing and fixing the faucet yourself.

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