“Piracy.” It sounds so romantic, doesn’t it? The high seas. Adventure . . .
But there’s nothing romantic about the case in Minnesota where a woman was fined $2 million for illegally downloading 24 songs and sharing them with others. Last Friday, the judge slashed her fine dramatically – by more than $1.8 million — saying the initial punishment was too much.
However, he still fined her.
And guess what? She’s fighting against paying even the much reduced amount.
Piracy has been on my mind lately because of the Google Settlement deadline. (It’s Jan. 28, Kids, in case you still haven’t decided what to do.) And the fact that I think the terms are so iffy and squirrely that it verges on a landgrab.
And then I read about the Minnesota case in Huffington Post. Last Friday’s decision stimulated an interesting conversation in the comments. Many readers implied that the woman was a victim of corporate greed. Indeed, they asserted, she was the one wronged.
Wait a minute . . .
Am I missing a crucial piece of information here?
Was she forced to download these songs?
Did someone hold a gun to her head? Threaten to kill her children?
The woman willfully took items that didn’t belong to her. She took them because she didn’t want to pay for them.
Um . . . correct me if I’m wrong, but the last time I looked that was called “stealing.”
If someone walked into her house and took 24 things she’d spent months or years making, do you think she would’ve stood for it? Or would she have called the police to report a robbery?
My bet is on door #2.
So why is piracy tacitly condoned in many circles? Why do normally intelligent and considerate people think that it’s perfectly okay to pilfer someone else’s work? (I’m talking about taking it. Owning it. Often sharing or selling it . . .)
Some of you might be thinking, “Pari, chill out. Each song would’ve only cost her a few cents, maybe a dollar or two.” I can see you shaking your head at me in pity. “Don’t we have bigger problems in the world than a couple of bucks?”
Not if you’re a novelist.
And if you are a novelist and you’re not paying attention to piracy, you’re worse than the proverbial ostrich. By not standing up against it – and by pirating other’s works yourself – you’re helping destroy your own career.
Simple as that.
Every day I hear of – and see — more and more sites that are distributing full copies of our works for free. Without our permission. Without our publishers’ permission.
In my case, I own electronic rights to my works. That means these people are stealing directly from me. And my children.
Punishable by law.
Yes. It may be only a few cents per work, but it’s my effort on the line. Here’s a little secret: I didn’t expend so much time and energy to get published so that someone else could feel entitled to rip me off.
I might not have this reaction if novelists and other writers were paid one-time high fees for their work. But most of us aren’t. Our money comes from advances and then royalties tallied against actual sales. Wholesale, mind you. Not net. As far as I’m concerned, every time someone downloads one of my books without paying – it’s an active slap in the face. It’s wrong and needs to be stopped.
I’ve had discussions with my creative friends – writers, photographers, painters, songwriters – and we constantly come to the conclusion that creativity in our society is horribly undervalued. It’s as if people seem to think that anyone could write Jane Eyre or The Raven. That once a book – or other creative endeavor – is produced, it should enter the public domain.
But how are creatives supposed to live in a society that doesn’t want to pay for their work?
I don’t know. Can you tell me?
And why would anyone think that we should work hard . . . for free?
What’s going to happen to our culture, our society, if the most original and creative people decide it’s not worth the trouble? I wonder.
This takes me back to piracy.
It’s not innocent.
It’s not okay.
It’s not cute.
It’s fucking wrong.
And I’m sick of it.
What about you?
Do you think it’s all right? A act against “the MAN?”
Do you think I’m being unreasonable, that it’s a brave new world and I’d just better get with the program?
I look forward to this conversation.