On Copyright Theft

/begin rant

Pirated books are nothing new. When I was younger, photocopies of books were passed around until the pages were torn, worn, and almost illegible. Another photocopy would appear and continue making the rounds. The digital age just makes it easier.

Most authors, especially indies, spend an inordinate amount of time protecting our ownership of our books. This involves tracking down the owner(s) of a site (sometimes an exercise in futility because they’re well hidden) and sending a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notice. Sometimes it works, sometimes the pirates just laugh. If I had the money, I’d hire a lawyer to prosecute every pirate. I don’t. But every illegal download is taking money from the author’s pocket, whether the site charges for the copy or not.

A couple of days ago, a friend found a Facebook group that was sharing pdfs of books still in copyright. When the friend called them out on it, one of the responses was, “I didn’t copy the book. I found it on Google, or another website. I’m not guilty of theft.”

Well, yes honey, you are. From the Wikipedia article on copyright:

Forgive my horrible highlighting but if you lend (share) a book without an author’s (or publisher’s) permission, you are guilty of copyright infringement.

Still don’t get it? Okay, how about an analogy:

Let’s say someone stole a painting from a museum. Oh, not to sell it to some rich collector, but to allow many people to enjoy it in their own home. The painting passes from art lover to art lover, without charge, and finally to you. It’s hanging on the wall, right where you can enjoy it from the comfort of your sofa.

Then the cops come to your home and find the stolen painting. “But I didn’t steal it,” you say. “It was given to me by someone else. I have no idea who took it from the museum.”

Do you think the police are going to let you go scot-free? Nope. You’re going to be charged with possession of stolen property.

Perhaps not the best analogy but you should get the idea. If you do not purchase a book from someone the author or publisher has given permission to sell it, or borrow it from a bona fide library you are guilty of a form of theft.

//end rant