Online Piracy? – Give Me a Break!   13 comments

Greetings Ye Scurvy Knaves Who Read My Blog For Free!

Today I was directed to an awesome link at the homesite of Baen Books.  It is called the Baen Free Library.

I had heard about this project in the past, and fully support it – though I hadn’t taken the time to go to the site and see what they had to say.  Today I decided to give it a look, and I’m very glad I did.  It’s not just a library page of books you can read online, but a lengthy explanation of both how and why the free library came to be.

I strongly urge you to read the page – especially if you are an author or publisher!

The subject of the page is online piracy and what we should do about the “problem.”  Many of you already know how I feel about this issue.  And those of you who are authors and publishers generally scoff at me for it.  “Why, you must not want to make money from your books!”  “Boy, I bet you’d change your tune if it were YOUR books being stolen!”

Well let me handle those two comments one at a time.  First, I’ll put aside the sad commentary on the attitudes of capitalism the first comment makes.  I mean,  what a society I live in that thinks “not making money” is the ultiamte sin, and that a person who isn’t concerned about losing out on a buck is somehow mentally ill.  Welcome to the Feringi homeworld, folks!

Fuck Everything - Acquire Profit

But I digress…  For all of you Quarks out there, you can calm down and put away your torches.  I don’t believe in giving away free material because it loses me money.  I believe in giving it away becasue it makes me money.  And if you can’t figure out how that could be – then I urge you once again to read what the good folks at Baen Books have to say on the matter.  They are a business, they’ve applied the model, and they have reported their results.  It. Makes. Them. Money.  😉 

Not only that, but the author of that page does a great job of putting the entire issue of online piracy into proper perspective.  (For example, he points out that book loans – between friends and from libraries – far outweigh what online pirates get for free.  Sure, lawyers love to hype the whole thing as the worst thing to ever happen to their fellow Feringi – but Baen Books more sanely compares online piracy to kids stealing bubble gum.  It’s minor, and no authors are going hungry because of it.

As to the second statment – which in essence says “put up or shut up.” – I have the perfect answer.   Try this little experiment.  Head over to Google, and type in these words:  Leitch Angelical Langauge

Now enjoy the FREE PDFs of both volumes of the book you will find hosted on many file-sharing sites around the web.  🙂

No, I didn’t put those PDFs up myself.  I’m sure Llewellyn would have a few nasty emails to send me if I did such a thing.  However, am I upset those PDFs  have turned up?  Have I sent out a single cease-and-desist letter?  Have I alerted Llewellyn so their legal department can do it for me?  Have I even tried to keep quiet about the fact they are out there?  The resounding answer to all of these questions is NO!

Why?  Because those PDFs are great free advertisement for the books.  People who have never seen the books before, or knew about them but weren’t sure if they were worth the price (nearly $100 for the set) can now sample them and see just how awesome they are.  The word gets spread.  My work reaches a greater audience.  And, yes folks, it Makes. Me. Money.  because it increases the sales of “dead tree” editions.  Not to mention the fact it increases the number of people who know about me and thus attend my lectures and workshops!  (cha-ching again!)   😉

So far, I’m still waiting on some dedicated Pirate to make a PDF of my Secrets of the Magickal Grimories and release it.  I recently heard one exists, but it is supposedly hosted on an invitation-only pirate website – and I don’t think anyone believes my sincerity when I ask to be invited so I can get a PDF of my own book.  😦  So I don’t really know the book is there for sure.  If it is, perhaps someday it’ll make it onto file sharing servers, which will result in several further sales of “dead tree” editions for me.  🙂

So, kudos to Baen Books for showing both sanity and vision in this regard.  And, while I’m at it, I happen to know the good folks over at Scarlet Imprint hold similar (not identical, but similar) views to my own.  So they are worth checking out as well.

Meanwhile, enjoy The Angelical Langauge along with the host of essays and articles I make freely available on my webiste.   And don’t shed a tear for me!  I’ll cry all the way to the bank.  😉

Zorge,

Aaron

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Posted June 26, 2012 by kheph777 in books, Intellectual Rights, social commentary

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13 responses to “Online Piracy? – Give Me a Break!

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  1. Hey Aaron, great post. Thanks.

    Another thing about pdfs on the net etc, is that if done properly, you can find something you’ve read in the book so much faster. So, nice pirates for that.

    And honestly, I have used a few pdfs for reference purposes when not at home with books by my side. If the publishers of these older materials released e-books at a decent rate, I’d buy them in a flash. I imagine the same is true for many other folk. Thanks 🙂

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    • Hey Peregrin!

      You bet! One of the things I love most about the PDF versions of The Angelical Langauge is that the text is searchable. (Which is incredible given that the pages were scanned.) It is often quite useful to have the PDF open even when you’re reading the hard-copy. You can quickly find any word in the Lexicon that way – or even search for partial words when you’re looking for roots or are unsure of proper spelling, etc.

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      Aaron

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  2. The comparison between 35,000 downloads of a book from a file-sharing site (a number given to me by an astrology author of one of her books that she made little money on in print) vs. 35 free author’s copies is huge. I don’t think they can be compared. I would like to see if this library is still extant in five years. Also, I have heard this argument before from occult authors who consider their books to be ads for their classes, talks, lessons, seminars, fireside chats, talisman sales, spellwork-for-hire, phone consultation, and what have you. IMO, there is something dishonest about a book as an ad for something else. What next? Product placement? Why not? It’s the latest corporate means to make money off content. How is it different than using a book as an ad?

    The other thing is as someone who has a good-sized site with a lot of free information on it, no ads, you can just read it for nothing off my pretty fast server and you don’t have to buy anything or even give your email addy, I have repeatedly found my text stripped of all references to my shop and put up on torrent sites, which have their own ways of making money, like ads. How do you explain that action in this paradigm? People just want to check out my shop without going there or seeing any prices or the name of the shop? They often put their own name on it and sell it on Lulu and ebay as their book, so it’s not like they just want to make the information even more freely available. I don’t believe that’s to my advantage or even to the reader’s advantage, since people who do that invariably don’t know jack about the subject and can’t answer any questions about it or show people how to get farther along with the material on their own–which I can do off my own site. I don’t see how people stealing my content that is offered for free makes this a better world or is a blow against the corporate machine, either.

    To me, this issue is about something bigger–it’s about ALL content as commodity, as something that is in fact never free of ads. It’s just a question of who is profiting from the ads, a torrent site or a magician who gives classes or a record company. The way I see it, the attitude of content as a come-on to buy something else is the corporate view. I think to some extent this also appears in the fetishization of bookbinding. I love pretty books, but I find disturbing this trend of turning books into fetish objects, as if the information in the book is turned into a thing to possess. Creepy.

    Well, I doubt anyone will change their mind on account of what I have to say here. I will just get a lecture about how I need to change my business model to make money in this shiny new world of rampant content theft and content commodification..

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    • ((The comparison between 35,000 downloads of a book from a file-sharing site (a number given to me by an astrology author of one of her books that she made little money on in print) vs. 35 free author’s copies is huge. I don’t think they can be compared.))

      Personally, I don’t think the comparison should be between free downloads and author’s copies. The comparison should be between how many people would be exposed to (and/or purchase) your work without the free downloads vs. how many are exposed to it with the downloads. If you book is going to be purchased 2000 times in print form with standard advertising (fairly common for the kind of stuff I write), but it gets 35,000 downloads online and only a mere ten percent of those people go on to buy the “dead tree” edition – that’s 3500 sales on top of the original 2000. If only a *single percent* of the 35,000 go on to buy the book, that’s an extra 350 books on top of the 2000.

      ((I have repeatedly found my text stripped of all references to my shop and put up on torrent sites, which have their own ways of making money, like ads. How do you explain that action in this paradigm? People just want to check out my shop without going there or seeing any prices or the name of the shop? They often put their own name on it and sell it on Lulu and ebay as their book, so it’s not like they just want to make the information even more freely available.))

      Now you’re going past online piracy and into the realm of outright plagiarism. And plagiarism remains a despicable practice no matter the medium. I assure you, if ‘The Angelical Language’ were stripped of my name and re-published as someone else’s work, I’d see to it that Llewellyn’s lawyers were all over it.

      ((Also, I have heard this argument before from occult authors who consider their books to be ads for their classes, talks, lessons, seminars, fireside chats, talisman sales, spellwork-for-hire, phone consultation, and what have you. IMO, there is something dishonest about a book as an ad for something else.))

      I think you mistook my “assurances to the Feringi that I am making money like a good boy” as my primary motivation. It is not. Seriously, have you read my work? Does any of it look to you like a mere come-on to buy tickets to my lectures? I sincerely doubt it.

      ((Well, I doubt anyone will change their mind on account of what I have to say here. I will just get a lecture about how I need to change my business model to make money in this shiny new world of rampant content theft and content commodification..))

      Actually, Harold, the pirates I am praising in my posts are very much *against* the commodification of intellectual content that you decry yourself. 🙂 It is why they are pirates.

      LVX
      Aaron

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      • You know, another thought occurs to me… I hear so many horror stories about folks having their work stripped of their name and sold elsewhere as someone else’s work. Yet, in all of the years I’ve been publishing my work – on the web, for Llewellyn, for various digital and print magazines – I have YET to find this has happened to me. Now why do you suppose that is?

        I have seen my work turn up in Lulu compilations that others are selling. Does it urk me? A little – but *only* a little. Still, my name is always right there as the author.

        Only ONE time has a picture I’ve taken (of my Solomonic altar set up) been used on the cover of someone else’s book without credit to me. I wrote to them and asked for credit a credit inside the cover – but they (sadly) chose to remove the photo instead. I think they misunderstood me when I wrote to them…. and that’s a shame.

        So, I gotta ask – if the theft (not piracy but outright plagiarism) of online content is so rampant, what mystical forces have been protecting me from it all of these years? Or… could it be that this plague of plagiarism is more hype than fact? Just a thought…

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  3. Without “pirating” books I would have missed out on som great titles that are now part of my library. If I like and use the book I will probably buy it.

    So I agree that putting a book for free can be great for the sales.

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  4. Very true Aaron, and an echo of my own views. Whether or not certain people wish to believe it, the fact is that if your book is of quality and the material you’re presenting isn’t just more “trash for cash”, it being uploaded as a PDF is not going to hurt you. On the contrary, it is going to serve as an advertisement and some of those who download it are going to buy it. People can argue and debate all they want, I am not speaking theoretically here, but from experience. My $10 Mardukkite Magick eBook was uploaded to the very site you are speaking of, the invitation only one, a few months back. I got an email a day later from one of my blog readers letting me know about it, and my response was “Eh, screw it”. Over the next two weeks I got 14 emails from people on that site looking to buy Talismans, signed copies of Crossed Keys, services, etc.. and my blog followers increased by 20%. And thats just the ones who would admit to having downloaded the book or acknowledge that they’d come across me and my work via a torrent site. I’d wager there were at least double that many.

    The ones who moan and groan most about their intellectual property being stolen are the ones who have the least intellect to steal, and the reason uploading of their work hurts their sales is because people have a chance to preview the work before they buy it, and therefore see what a bunch of crap it is.

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  5. I really like your stance on this and wish more authors had it.

    There’s two main schools of thought here – the TV school and the book school. The TV school is “the online school” where when we discuss online piracy, people immediately jump to TV, Movies, Music which are typically things we consume through our TV. It’s only been recently that book piracy has come to the forefront and I think it’s because the price of a used nook or kindle has gotten to a pricepoint people are comfortable with. (I myself just bought a Nook for $40 and made an android tablet out of it so it can run both kindle and nook books). The book market has always been concerned with residual sales and books which are marked as “destroyed”. The book market is steeped in physical media while the movies, TV and music market has been thinking about digital content for awhile.

    I think it frames the discussion for a lot of authors and writers, and it’s something software developers have been thinking about quite awhile: What’s the role of the commons in all of this? The TV industry I think would love to have the library shuttered overnight. The ebook industry (for the moment) has acknowledged the commons and has agreements where you can use ebook content in a library format. I can walk into my local library and I can “borrow” a book via the wifi. A B&N store lets me “borrow” a book for an hour over wifi. People borrow books for either personal use or research and it’s something we take for granted with media in a library.

    What the TV industry calls piracy, the author should consider advertising. The fact that I get the book for free is irrelevant to the fact that I want to mark up the book with my own notes on the subject. (The library frowns upon this). At very least being cited in a paper or recommended to friends furthers the fact that good work is going to generate money. Crap work is not. I hate to say this but there’s a lot of crap in the new age field or even books which don’t fit the tastes of the readership – certainly not your work but in general – and I really like the research-before-you-pay model. If I read a book at the library and I really like it, I’m going to purchase that book.

    This is all about to change for the simple fact that book piracy has been low due to the cost of printer ink compared to a DVDR. Now that we took the paper and ink out of the equation I’m really curious to see what happens.

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  6. I was not accusing you individually, Aaron, of being an author who sells books as ads for lessons and whatnot. I was thinking of others, one very popular author in particular who has discussed this openly as his strategy and others who have mentioned it re their own works.

    Why does no one pirate your work? Maybe you don’t look, for one thing. When I don’t look, I don’t see anyone pirating my website either. The other thing is that you are a known person in the occult world; I’m not. For a long time I did not have my name after the copyright symbol on every single page of my site; I had my company name. Maybe people thought that it was okay to steal from a company somehow. Or maybe I am just a liar who makes things up to convince people of my ideas on their blogs because that’s just the kind of guy I am–all hype. Or you could ask cat yronwode, who runs luckymojo.com, how many times she has found her website content being sold as a book by some schmo on lulu. Often enough to have a lawyer, I can tell you that. But maybe she is a liar too.

    I will just stay out of this discussion henceforth.

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    • ((I was not accusing you individually, Aaron, of being an author who sells books as ads for lessons and whatnot. I was thinking of others, one very popular author in particular who has discussed this openly as his strategy and others who have mentioned it re their own works.))

      Ah – then I apologize for my comments in that regard. I had thought you were responding directly to my comments that free content puts more butts in chairs at my lectures. 🙂 Taken in the proper context now, I can see your point indeed. I’m not sure which author(s) you are thinking of as examples, but I can grok where you are coming from.

      ((Why does no one pirate your work? Maybe you don’t look, for one thing. When I don’t look, I don’t see anyone pirating my website either. The other thing is that you are a known person in the occult world; I’m not. ))

      I’m fairly confident that any of my work that got plagiarized would be brought to my attention – such as have the PDFs, Lulu publications and that photo I talked about. However, you make a damn good point about my being a known author. It would be harder to pass off material as your own when everyone already knows it’s mine.

      ((Or maybe I am just a liar who makes things up to convince people of my ideas on their blogs because that’s just the kind of guy I am–all hype. Or you could ask cat yronwode, who runs luckymojo.com, how many times she has found her website content being sold as a book by some schmo on lulu. Often enough to have a lawyer, I can tell you that. But maybe she is a liar too.))

      Ah – now you’re making the same mistake I did. My comment was intended in general – a sudden occurrence to me that my work never seems to be stolen when I hear others complain about it all the time. (Cat is one example, in fact – I’ve seen her post about it a time or three.) It wasn’t intended to be personal, Frater. 😉

      ((I will just stay out of this discussion henceforth.))

      Pffft! Come on, man! Debate is a healthy thing, and you’re more than welcome to share your opinions here. 🙂

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      Aaron

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      • That is very gracious of you, Aaron. I will say this. For the last several years I’ve been working on a book about herbal magic. 3/4s done, I have found myself constantly dithering over whether it is worth finishing because I see what happens with theft. I was a professional ghostwriter for six years before I opened my shop in 2000, so I know that good writing is worth money, and my writing is good enough that I have been paid well to write about various topics. I decided to take that book and turn it into an ad-driven website, partly because of the theft issue and partly because a site will allow me to do a lot more graphically, which for me is great fun and gets my art jones some exercising. Is it skeevy and terrible to make an ad-driven content site? IMO, it is more honest than writing a book that is really an ad. Anyone will be able to read it for free, just like my ecommerce site now, but I am designing this new website so that it will be difficult to steal the content. And I will go after any thieves who do manage to make off with my work. The way it is now, I hardly have time to do that and I rarely do. Today, because of this conversation, I did a quick copyscape search and found a shop using 20 pages from my site to sell their own products. Clearly, others recognize the value of my writing.:)

        And that leads me to those who say that the reason why folks don’t want anyone to rip off their books is because their books are bad. Bah humbug. If their stuff is crap, no one is going to steal it. People steal things that are worth something to them. My writing is worth something. I intend to protect it. And if that means kicking ass legally, hey, if you want to be a pirate, you’d better be prepared to fight off the law.

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