However, I do not recall him calling on pirates of the world to
And this is what the proponents of the "words should be free" argument so often forget. Surely the choice should be made by the creator of the content? Otherwise it's theft.
Whether or not illegal downloading increases sales is utterly beside the point. It may well do so. All my self-published ebooks are DRM-free, not because I want them to be stolen but because I want my readers to be able to read them on any device in as many places as they wish, and if the price I must pay is that some people will steal, that's a price I'll pay. That does not mean that I am happy with anyone stealing it, or that I can afford to be stolen from. But frankly, even that misses the point: theft is still theft however much the victim can absorb the loss.
Recently on my Crabbit At Home blog, I linked to an excellent but long piece arguing why illegal downloading is morally wrong, but to be honest, when will we stop making the arguments so complicated?
Taking something without the owner's permission is theft and theft is wrong. I grant that if you'd die without the stolen item, it's forgivable. But it's still theft. And last thing I heard, books may be important but you don't generally die for the lack of one.
It really is that simple.
Recently, I downloaded the remarkably wonderful Adblock program, a piece of free software which instantly removes all adverts from my internet experience, including those dreaded "belly-fat" ads on Facebook. After I'd downloaded, I was given the option of paying a contribution, if I wished. I paid $5.
A few days later, I received this email (my bold):
I wanted to say thanks for paying for AdBlock at http://chromeadblock.com/pay. I wrote AdBlock hoping to make people's lives better, and you just told me that I managed to do it :) Thank you very, very much!
It's been over a year since I quit my job, asking my users to pay what they can afford for AdBlock to fund its development. Most users (like, 99%) choose NOT to pay, so you should know that I appreciate your support that much more!99% of people choose not to pay? I'm not sure whether I'm shocked or just mildly surprised. I'm sure that the vast majority of these, however, would not dream of downloading illegally. Would they?
In any case, Katie and I feel that this is important work, so I'll keep working on AdBlock as long as I am able. Thank you! :D
Those are quite different scenarios, different choices by the creators, but each is about the struggle of the creator to earn from his or her work.
When we buy a book, we have several choices, of format, of price and of retailer, new or secondhand. Or we can borrow free from a library or a friend. It seems to me those are sufficient choices to make illegal downloading a purely selfish and/or ignorant crime that never has any justification.
It seems to me that if we value creation, it is morally right to respect the creator and not steal from him. Many creators - Paulo Coelho and the Adblock guy, for example - are being extremely generous in their offering. Many writers, especially those who control their own output, are being similarly generous, trying to offer many options in price and free downloads. Other writers, whose books and pricing are controlled by their publishers, behave generously in many other ways, for example by going to great lengths to give up time to campaign for libraries - including school libraries, where we don't earn PLR, and none of us grudge for one moment a book lent free in a school library.
That's what genuine book-lovers do. They do not steal from writers.