How Internet Pirates Affect Authors and the Publishing Industry – Jack White | Guest Post


Ebook piracy is a big threat that publishers and authors alike need to confront head on.

Ebook piracy has significantly encroached into the profit margins of the publishing industry. The recent online copyright infringement research conducted by Kanter Media estimated that about 4 million or 17% of ebooks are read through online piracy. The 7th wave research was a continuation of the original 2012 study that UK-based communications regulator Ofcom and Intellectual Property Office commissioned and funded, respectively.

Andrea Simmons, writing service provider, points out how the publishing industry has come a long way from its roots when Chinese inventor Bi Sheng created a movable earthenware type in 1045 and Johannes Gutenberg developed his own immovable type circa 1450 with casting innovations using a matrix and a hand mould.

In what proved to be the first legal decision regarding copyright dispute, King Diarmait mac Cerbaill’s intervention in mid 500s continues to reverberate up to these days. The king had to decide whether the Irish abbot and missionary St. Columba’s action of copying a manuscript by Movila Abbey’s St. Finnian was a legal one. The dispute was about a psalm, which contained a volume of the Book of Pslams. Eventually, the king’s judgement was succinctly quoted as “To every cow belongs her calf, to every book belongs its copy.” This came to be known as the Battle of Cul Dreimhne.

Forward to the 21st century, the definition of publishing has encompassed the dissemination of information, music, or literature. With the advent of technology, pdf versions of books albeit produced illegally using a range of readily available apps have pushed the publishing industry players to look at things seriously and with urgency.

It is worth noting that those who opted to read copyrighted materials through Internet piracy come from socio-economic groups that are categorized as better-off and belong to the 31-50 age bracket, said Stephen Lotinga of the Publishers Association.

It is high time that the millions of people who patronize ebook piracy see this issue from the perspective of the most affected and understand the impact of their actions.


Impacts Royalties and Bottom Line

With the drop in book sales, it is natural that authors and publishers, who have spent a huge amount of creativity and money into pushing a material into the public spectrum, are the most affected by ebook piracy. Consider the 29% decline in the median income of a professional author from 2005 data to 2013 at £11,000, according to a survey by the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society.

It has to be stated that every download of an ebook pirated material is a lost sale. The argument of people that ebook piracy is not a big deal as they will not be purchasing the book anyway is filled with ad hominems in a modern society where rules thrive over anarchy. This argument posits that authors need to be thankful to these people who bother to read their books without the former’s effort of encouraging the latter is a hypocritical example of simplifying things to evade accountability.

And surprisingly, as stated above, the people who are into ebook piracy are better of economically or most probably have access to formal education and who are friends or who have friends within their immediate network of creative people, book authors, essayists, graphic artists, among others.


Stunts Creativity

How many authors who have originally planned to launch a sequel etc. have aborted such moves because of ebook piracy? And how many publishers have to thwart collaborations with authors because it does not make sense to produce a printing material of a book due to the reality of being copied online eventually?

The answer to both questions is: A lot.

It is professionally hindering advancement of people who would follow the footsteps of great authors who have significantly contributed to the creative narratives that societies need regardless of geographical boundaries and situations.

No one will be encouraged to be authors or to dream big of having their works published because they are not compensated or recognized. The monetary side of publishing a book, for instance, is a manifestation of a person’s recognition of another person’s ability and creativity. By trivializing the act of downloading a material without properly compensating the author or publisher, you are, in effect, putting a big stop to the wheel of what we know as a creative process.


Encourages Intellectual Theft

Internet piracy attacks the very core of an individual’s right to be creative and contribute to society. By supporting pirated materials such as ebooks, you are supporting theft in digital form.

It was the Statue of Monopolies and the British Statue of Anne in 1624 and 1710, respectively, that established the concept of intellectual property. Centuries later, the United Nations created an agency called the World Intellectual Property Organization through a treaty. Eventually, countries adopted their intellectual property laws. As such, the goal is to provide protection to encourage innovation.

People who support ebook piracy must be aware that what they are doing is a violation of intellectual property rights of authors and publishers. Ignorance of current law do not exempt people from liabilities. Local and international laws have firmly defined what intellectual property rights are: industrial design rights, geographical indications, trade dress, plant variety rights, patents, trademarks, and copyright; the last one covers ebooks.

Will ebook piracy push the publishing industry in general to oblivion?

That has to be determined soon.

There is a suggestion from an anonymous book pirate named The Real Caterpillar:

I guess if every book was available in electronic format with no DRM [Digital Rights Management; the ability to choose on which devices you can read and share a book — Books Editor] for reasonable prices ($10 max for new/bestseller/omnibus, scaling downwards for popularity and value) it just wouldn’t be worth the time, effort and risk to find, download, convert and load the book when the same thing could be accomplished with a single click on your Kindle.

Is this really what the publishing industry needs? Are people just ignoring and disrespecting established laws? Is ease of accessibility the right question to ask? Are we just skirting the issue of intellectual theft? Or do these book pirates understand that what they are doing is called stealing?

What authors, publishers, and industry players need to do is to be vigilant and seek the refuge of intellectual property rights available to them. With such scenario, the private sector needs the assistance of the government regulators to curb ebook piracy the soonest possible time. Another option for the publishing industry is to be innovative – find a unique solution to outsmart book pirates, enhance the suggestion of The Real Caterpillar, and save the publishing industry from all harm.

For writers, authors, designers, and other people whose main talent is their creative skills, it is their right to demand payment. It does include the millions of online users who are very much aware that they are accessing writing materials they did not purchase properly.

What is non-negotiable is that authors and publishers deserve to be compensated for their creative collaborations. That they need to be thankful for the book pirates is illogical and should never be entertained at all as such argument diminishes the value of creativity and supplants the time-honored intellectual property rights.

Stop ebook piracy now!


Jack White Bio picBIO

Jack White started at the bottom and worked his way up to become the excellent writer he is today. Jack White has had a varied career, but he found that he enjoyed writing and took it up as a full-time and professional career. You can follow him on Twitter.


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