Yesterday I read an amazing blog post from Chuck Wendig about piracy*. At the end he invited people to share their thoughts on the subject, suggesting we make the 6th of Feb ‘Please Don’t Pirate My Book Day’.
It doesn’t take much to get me to give my opinion about anything, so here it is…
But first, a note about pirates
I’m talking about old school pirates. I know the majority of the world loves pirates. They’re cool and dangerous and often seen as funny.
But let’s take a step back and think about them for a moment. A pirate is a person who attacks or robs ships at sea. They do a side-line in rape and murder. They also have the best PR people ever! Because, despite how awful they are, society has a soft spot for them. We even dress our children up as pirates. Like that’s supposed to be cute. Last time I checked the local store didn’t stock a Hannibal Lecter costume for the under 5’s or anything else from the ‘my little criminal’ range.
I’m just as guilty myself. I tell my son pirate jokes and we even have a game where we each dance like pirates and the best one gets the pirate feast.
But the point is that despite it all appearing fun, there is something weird (and I suspect, wrong) about celebrating the acts of violent criminals.
Let’s talk about literary pirates now
In case you’re an alien or new to the idea a literary pirate is somebody who uses another person’s ideas or words as if they were his/her own.
We’d all agree that’s bad.**
But what about the people who don’t sell the words on, they just want to read them for free? You might argue it doesn’t hurt anybody physically (like the old school pirates do). You might argue that they’re just sampling the merchandise. You might argue lots of things.
Fundamentally, though it’s still wrong. This is a very dull argument but there it is.
It hurts the writer of the words, whether they are poor and struggling or sitting back in their heated pool. It doesn’t matter which one! (You can’t justify crime based on the wealth of the victim). It hurts the publisher of the words and all of the many people involved in that writing process (very few of which will be getting paid much btw). And eventually it hurts the pirate when they go to Book Hell.***
It’s easy to copy a file and that means it can be easy to disengage morality. The reason I’m excited by Chuck’s idea is that I believe the more people engage with what they’re doing, the less they’re likely to do shitty things. In this case book piracy but hopefully other things too.
*Actually he wrote 2. The other is here.
**If you don’t, please leave a comment (which must include the word ‘Yaarg!’)
***I made that up to have a third point in my paragraph. Still, I’d love to hear about your conception of book hell. You tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine.