To the person who left me a comment…

(Note: this is a repost).

To the person who left me a comment saying they may look like spam but assuring me otherwise, your site looks like…well, spam. You say you’re not a publisher and yet you’re making money selling free ebooks. This is an oxymoron. If you are selling books they’re not ‘free’. Secondly, you say you’re not a writer so from where are you getting these books? Are you selling other people’s free ebooks? If you’re doing so without their permission you are in violation of copyright law. If you are buying ebooks and selling them on, you are in violation of copyright law. On both counts, I advise you to read the statement re copyright on this site. If you are doing something else that I don’t understand, my apologies, but no, I’m not going to download your report file from a site that says little. For all I know, it could be a virus. I’d advise everyone else not to do so either. This isn’t personal. I’m just being sensibly cautious. Sorry.

Look, copyright law on ebooks is simple. It prohibits the copy, distribute, resale or loan of an ebook. Saying that, most of us wouldn’t object if we heard readers have made a backup copy purely for personal use. We live in a wonderful age of technology but technology fails us from time to time. We hear of someone selling our work and we’d like to come down on them like the proverbial tonnage. Writers and publishers are getting better at locating piracy sites and law enforcement are finally taking it seriously.

A common question is “If I can resell or loan a printed book, why can’t I, as a reader, resell or loan ebooks?” To be honest, even the reselling or lending of some printed books is a grey area. However, it tends to be overlooked because of several reasons.

  1. Most people hate the idea of printed books being destroyed. If you’re finished with them and cannot pass them on in some way they are only good for recycling.
  2. When a printed book is passed on, someone may find an author they like and start buying new books by that author on a regular basis. It’s sort of free advertising and yes, one could argue this would apply to ebooks but a major difference and reason exists why this doesn’t work so read on.
  3. Many second-hand books are sold for charitable purposes.
  4. The reader gives up the physical edition of the book and will no longer own it.

Point 4 is the major one. When you give, sell, or loan a printed book you give away the item you purchased. Even when lending it, you risk not getting it back. You are not making a ‘physical copy’ of that book to pass it on.

When you pass on an ebook (and some people do this in innocence not piracy but they are still in the wrong) the reader tends to ‘keep’ their version and simply send the file on, thereby making a ‘copy’. This is as illegal in both electronic and printed works.

Imagine taking one of Stephen King’s novels, dissecting it, scanning it in, printing it up either by POD, or via the printer at home, and trying to give it away, sell it, or hand to a friend. Should SK find out, do you think he wouldn’t sue? Do you think he’d be flattered?

The point is no one is allowed to make a ‘copy’ of any written work be it printed or electronic. You may (usually) print off an electronic book for the purpose of reading it in that form should you not wish to read on screen, but that printed form is subject to the same laws. You may not sell it, or pass it on. If you wish to pass on an ebook the only viable way is to buy an extra copy, and what’s so wrong with that? We all have people to buy presents for.

Oh…and to those who think they can file share their ebook library, has nothing I’ve stated sunk in? An individual’s collection is NOT a library and even if it could be there is such a thing as the ‘public lending right’. This means an author can if they wish, claim a small payment every time a library lends one of their books.

  • You are not a publisher and the author has not signed a contract with you. You do not have the right to sell.
  • You are not an official state library. You do not have the right to loan (and let’s be honest — loan in electronic format means copy and give away).
  • You are not friends with thousands of strangers online that you simply ‘must’ lend your books to (and we’ve already established that you are not lending but copying) and authors and publishers will not turn their back on you ‘giving’ their work away.

I’m not speaking to those who are deliberately committing an act of piracy. They know they are breaking the law, damaging authors and the publishing industry, and they don’t care. The most we can do is assure them that while there will always be crooks there will always be those willing to fight criminal activity. I’m speaking mainly to those that do this in innocence, not understanding they do anything wrong. Readers claim to love writers. They claim to love our work. We do work — hard — at this. Most of us have day jobs, families, lives just like everyone. We have to find time to write on top of all that. We often forsake sleep. Many don’t make as much money as people think and even if we did, haven’t we ‘earned’ it? Readers say they love our characters, our worlds, our stories. They claim to love our work and even to love us. Why do something fundamentally harmful to someone or something you love?

12 thoughts on “To the person who left me a comment…

  1. Some people will steal anything not nailed down and claim, “No one said it was theirs.”

    And when people loan, copy, sell, or give away our written, copyrighted work, they are stealing.

  2. Amen sister! This piracy stuff, is getting out of hand. And you’re right, I’m sure some people don’t see the harm in “lending” an ebook to a friend so your explanation about the physical copy and chancing it won’t be returned was a good one. The info about the libaray was something I didn’t know, so thanks for that. As for pirating sites, maybe we should all get together and start sending out demands for payment. As for what the person was doing who left a comment on your site…seriously? You’re selling free book? WTF?

  3. Thanks for stopping by. I have to admit that since becoming a writer myself I’m very more conscious of loaning books to friends. I’ve bought more books as gifts rather than loan, and if I’m giving away books I’m done with then I pass them to Charity or a hospice, hospital, care home. And, India, there is a public lending right in the UK, I’m not sure about the US and you have to sign up although I’m not sure where, but I’m sure it would be easy to find out. Many authors don’t but that’s through choice. The point is there the author still has ‘rights’ even with library lending. And yes, selling a free book? Where in the universe does that make sense?

  4. I am just a reviewer/reader and I my stomach gets all tied in knots when I see a pirater (is that even a word) I review books and see how much authors put into their work and it just seems like something should be done about it. It is becoming a too common occurence for authors to be finding their books for sale on someones site who is not a publisher. It really gets my panties in a twist.

  5. Sharon, you are dead on the money. When someone copies an ebook and sends it on to someone else, they are illegally distributing a product. MY product, YOUR product–in violation of our rights as the owners of that intellectual property. Most people don’t realize that there really is no difference between illegal file-sharing and out and out theft. And it’s a shame.

  6. I cannot believe the brass nerve of some people! eBook piracy IS a menace and I think the only way we can counter it is to take swift legal action with punitive damages against any perpetrator.

  7. I have to admit these file sharing sites ‘p’ me off. I’m beginning to wonder why they exist in the first place. Most of them seem to carry mostly pirated content. Yes, I can see that they could have a use. I used one ages ago to give out a story and then I decided, hell, it was easier to just put it up on my website. But I don’t see the reason for anyone to file share anything they don’t ‘own’. The problem is they tie up their ‘rules’ in on these convoluted agreements that no one reads, instead of making the point if the content is not something you’ve produced yourself you probably don’t have the legal right to share it around. People think they buy music or a book and suddenly they ‘own’ it. What they don’t understand is the own the item, not the ‘right’ to do what they want with it.

    We will always have to fight the pirates but those readers who don’t realise they’re doing anything wrong, I guess the best we can do is try to educate them.

    And HI A.J. Not said hello for awhile. Nice to see you around.

  8. Dani, I just came across your post by reading Dayana Knight’s blog. Thank you for expressing with such clarity a real problem in our world of ebooks. Piracy of ebooks is big business.

    Some people (Even family and friends, I’m sorry to say) just don’t get the amount of hours, the degree of stress, and the heart and soul we authors put into our books. Not to mention the limited income most of us make on them.

    Sadly, just yesterday I had members of my husband’s family over for dinner. They wanted copies of my printed book, but one had the audacity to say to me, “I won’t pay $12.99 for it.” And at $12.99, I was willing to sell it to her without tax or shipping added. I smiled a grimace, and handed her an autographed copy. She did not hand me a check!

  9. Oops! I addressed my comment to the wrong person. I had been reading something else by Danielle Thorne, and posted my comment here to her. I’m pretty sure I’m talking to SHARON now! Sorry for the mix-up.

  10. LOL. That’s fine, Sandra, and thanks for stopping by. Sorry I’ve not replied before now but I was unavailable.

    You raised another good point in your first comment. Many people assume all your friends and family will clamour for a copy of your work and fall over themselves to hand over the cash for it but that’s not the case. Many family and friends ARE only too willing but others assume you should give them a copy. It amazes me why they can’t see how this just isn’t possible even if I wanted to. The author only receives so many author copies, perhaps a few more at discount, and then in some cases has to pay full price. My choosing to give away a copy is one thing but people expecting it or feeling insulted when you refuse is another matter. I’ve a ‘very’ wealthy friend who said for my first book, “I’d love to read it. Send it along then.”

    Pardon? Excuse me? I do have a couple of friends I give books to. For one, my new releases are now her yearly Christmas presents and she’s very happy with that, thank you very much. But no, this person who has more money than they know what to do with, did not receive one of my books for free. They eventually bought one although it was a completely different title. I think you were very good to hand one over. I’ve started taking a harder line. People who are rude or demanding just don’t receive.

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