A Bootleg E-Book Bazaar Operates in Plain Sight

Psst! Wanna download a collection of Kevin Andersons? 48 titles for an unbelievable $8.00! How about Janet Evanovich? 39 e-books for a rock bottom $8.00! Nora Roberts? 161 titles for $13.00. The complete Harry Potter series for $7.00. Seven dollars will also get you 82 novels by science fiction great Roger Zelazny.

Or maybe your taste runs to James Patterson? Would you believe 67 files for $10.00? Suzanne Brockman? 51 for $9.00. 42 Lisa Kleypases for $8.00. Dan Brown? 6 for $4.00. Sandra Brown? 46 for $9.00. How about 4 Scott Turows for $2.oo? Turow is president of the Authors Guild.

These are a few of the bargains available at one of dozens and dozens of easily accessed pirate and file-sharing websites operating under the very noses of leading authors, publishers and literary agents. In this first of a series of weekly articles addressing the issue of piracy, we’ve posted the complete book list of an all too typical pirate site. Though a great many operate out of foreign lands far beyond the reach of any law, innumerable others ply their trade domestically and defiantly, daring outraged authors and publishers to stop them – or, when stopped, reassembling themselves like lizards that regenerate lost limbs.

In subsequent postings we’ll tell take you for a tour of the pirate underworld, demonstrate how easy it is to steal copyrighted material, and examine the role played by advertisers and legitimate Internet Service Providers. We’ll explore the frustrations of consumers that make them susceptible to the temptations of free or dirt-cheap books. We’ll show you how organized Internet racketeers lure customers to their sites with the bait of free e-books, then plunder their bank, credit, and identity information. And we’ll offer some solutions.

So –  check out the Bootleg E-Book Bazaar. Look for your favorite authors. If you don’t see them here, just search “[Author Name] Free Download”.  But think twice before you open the files.  Many are virus traps or phishing sites waiting to lure victims to grief.

Richard Curtis

Here are the A’s.  For a complete A to Z list click here.



ARTHUR, KERI – Riley Jenson 8 – Bound to Shadows (UPDATE) $1.00


43 Responses to A Bootleg E-Book Bazaar Operates in Plain Sight

  1. Rowena Cherry says:


    How about “Share Term Papers” which is supposed to be educational, but has a section where members (membership is free to anyone) are invited to upload any ebook they please?


    The owner of the site is well aware that copyright infringement is taking place, and chooses to ban authors from membership if they attempt to gently point out that sharing in-copyright novels is against the law.

  2. Neil Marr says:

    Worth noting, of course, that much of this darknet work is stolen not from ebooks but from easily scanned treebooks.

    Rowling, for instance, refuses her publisher digital rights because she doesn’t like ebooks — so every Harry Potter novel is a scan from harback or paperback.

    This is just one of the reasons why the industry’s claim that DRM padlocks on ebooks is an anti-piracy measure is so darned transparently false. Another is that any self-respecting pirate worthy of his Jolly Roger can strip DRM from a file as quickly as you can say ‘Jack Sparrow’.

    DRM on ebooks doesn’t discourage dishonesty, it penalises honesty.

    Best wishes. Neil Marr

  3. Ah, scanning of paperbacks.

    Did you know that under the Chafee Amendment to the DMCA, it is legal for anyone to scan any paperback or hardback they please without permission, as long as the person doing the scanning is a volunteer who plans to upload the scanned work to a site catering for people who have difficulty accessing print works (for instance, the dyslexic, the blind, persons with learning disabilities). This according to BOOKSHARE.

    “Bookshare is a global online library for blind, vision impaired, learning disabled, and physically disabled readers to download into a variety of formats (Braille, synthetic speech, speech to text, large print). It received a $32 million award from the Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, last fall to provide free accessible library services for five years to every American student with a print disability. We currently have 90,000 books and over 100,000 members.


    An exception in the U.S. copyright law ? The Chafee Amendment (see below) — makes Bookshare possible under the law in the United States, as long as the copyrighted digital books are only available to people with bona fide disabilities.”

  4. I am an author of books for children/teens/young adults. I have discovered enough illegal downloads of my own work to pay off my house and secure my future–had everyone who downloaded them chipped a dollar. I don’t resent the downloads. I have a complex double-edged reaction to the wide distribution of any art that can’t fit here and that I have written about elsewhere.

    No one can predict where this is going, but people need stories. And unlike the musicians, authors don’t have the option of live tours. Or maybe we do.

  5. RZ Halleson says:

    Please tell me the difference between pirating e-books and selling used books for which the author and publisher also get no remuneration. I have seen no discussion about this so far.

  6. RZ, used paper books are legal to sell according the “Doctrine of First Sale.” This doctrine says that in the case of books you are reselling the paper, ink, and binding, NOT the contents. An electronic book IS the contents so it cannot be sold “used.”

    For the specifics on this, I suggest my article on “Ebooks and The First Sale Doctrine” as well as my article on a reader’s guide to copyright. Go to my blog http://mbyerly.blogspot.com and click on the copyright label.

  7. Dear RZ,
    Marilynn is exactly right. A used book, or a library book, has been paid for. It can only be read by one person at a time. If enough people read it, it falls apart and has to be replaced, moreover, some people may enjoy it so much that they buy their own copy.

    In order to sell or share an ebook, copies (which were not paid for) have to be created. It is possible for hundreds of people to read copies of the same one ebook that someone purchased and uploaded to Underground MN (which is no longer sharing ebooks, so I don’t suppose anyone will mind my mentioning it).

  8. jap says:

    Really are there many people who buy pirated e-books? Plain stupid to do so.

    If you want to write about piracy world, I suggest you focus on free downloads. Not a lot of people in paid pirate downloads IMHO.

  9. Hello, Jap!

    Welcome to the discussion. I wouldn’t call any reader willing to pay for e-books “Plain stupid.”

    According to a reputable survey only 28% of e-reader owners admit to visiting pirate sites. http://www.versoadvertising.com/beasurvey/

    That suggests that at least 72% of e-reader owners know that visiting pirate sites is wrong (so either they don’t do it, or they don’t admit to doing it.)

    Everyone loves a bargain, and the reason that what Richard is doing is so relevant is that pirates who sell e-books are either extremely clever, or ignorant. They give every appearance of being legitimate.

    Look at the disclaimers on EBay auctions of more than 10 CDs of ebooks! The vendors swear up and down that they own the copyright, and that they have a GNU license, or ReSell Rights, or that Charlaine Harris/John Grisham/Janet Evanovich etc’s works are in “in the public domain”.

    You wouldn’t call EBay a pirate site, would you? I think I saw a collection very much like this one being sold on EBay last year.

    No thanks to Amazon’s affiliate program, and to Baen, and to several prominent authors’ highly successful promo campaigns, it is almost impossible for the average book lover to know which books are bootlegged, and who is a legitimate vendor.

    Prices are all over the place. Is it reasonable to suppose that one might legally purchase a collection of 36 books by my friend Brenna Lyons for a mere $6.50 ?

    Maybe it’s too good to be true, but Brenna does write a lot of short stories, and she does give away a lot on her own website, and she donates stories to charities. An honest reader could believe that Brenna is cool with this bargain.

    This is a discussion that we should have.

  10. Renee Field says:

    Great article. I consider myself an artist. I write books, create stories and hopefully people enjoy them. I would never steal a painting from a gallery or walk out of a restaurant after eating a meal…for writers pirated e-sites are just that. My books are on tons of pirated sites…what this means is that making a living as a writer is hard. I wish I could say I get a huge advance (nope) or that my writing will make me millions. The harsh reality for many e-pub authors is it won’t. My money gets funnelled into my kids activities…that’s it. If I see a royalty statment over $100/month, which I often don’t, I do my major happy dance. Please think of this when you go to pirated sites….it’s plain and simple stealing.

  11. Brenna Lyons says:

    Another thing I’d add to the part of the discussion about the difference between “sharing” ebooks and sharing paper books is the following…

    To share a paper book, you hand the physical copy to someone. You no longer HAVE the paper copy, and there is still only one paper copy in existence when this happens. When you “share” ebooks, you are creating illegal copies of the file to do so. Even emailing an ebook creates (at least for the short term) six or more copies of the book. That’s the way email works, folks…the original, the one in the sent file in the email server, the one that is held by the sending ISP for a while, the one in the inbox on the other end, the one saved for a while by the receiving ISP, and the one ultimately saved to the C drive of the receiving person and then to other devices. By copyright law, making unauthorized copies and distributing them is illegal. It would be the same thing as someone taking a paper book and either scanning it in to make the copies or making paper copies on a copier and then distributing them, whether or not they take money for the act. THAT is when you pass into the illegal. Copies and the distribution thereof.

    Worse, say person A wants to “do it right.” Person A may legitimately believe he/she has eradicated all copies of the book. And yes, a benefit of ebooks is making backup copies of the book for your own use, thereby staving off wear and tear (one of the reasons libraries and USBs don’t really bother authors is that the books will eventually fall apart and need replaced!). Now, back to the subject…

    Person A deletes the one on the C drive, the copy on the PDA or handheld (ASSUMING here, and we can’t, that he/she doesn’t have an online library at Amazon or Fictionwise or another retailer that will always hold that ebook and cannot completely relinquish ownership because of that and ASSUMING, and we can’t, that there aren’t other copies of the book trapped in backups of the C drive files), the copy in the sent file, and knows the one on the ISP will eventually time out and die. Now, someone out there will further say that person A is in the clear and has been responsible.

    Maybe… Did person A explain to person B (who knows nothing about digital media and the law) what the law says? Probably not. Person B, who trusts person A and knows person A would NEVER do something illegal, will then believe it’s okay for her to send the same book to a friend…or two…or share with all her friends. Isn’t this great? Know how many passes it takes of one passing to two friends and so on (with a 25% attrition rate built in to the matrix) to pass 10,000 pirated copies? 13. Only 13. That’s not even counting pirate sites where the book is shared with thousands at a pop.


  12. Brenna Lyons says:

    Oh, Rowena, you nailed it. There’s an old saying. “If someone offers to sell you a diamond ring for ten cents, chances are, you’re getting a diamond ring not worth a dime.”

    If someone tells you they are selling you ebooks that are not out of copyright (clue…the author is still alive and writing? they are NOT out of copyright) and the seller is not the publisher, the author herself, or one of the sanctioned distribution channels, you are receiving infringed goods. In cases of receiving stolen or infringed upon goods, the courts look at where you purchased it. If you’re purchasing from a reliable source, you are not in the clear but not held to the same punishments as if you purchased from somewhere you should have been suspicious of. Think of buying name brand shoes to resell at a valid distribution channel vs. buying them on a street corner.

    If someone tells you they are selling you resale rights, they are lying to you, and YOU are then placed in a position to be sued, right along with them. In fact, the lawyers I know would demand both of you be take down on the same infringement suit, even if you try to claim you didn’t know better.

    It’s common sense, folks. Take responsibility for thinking for yourself, please. Very few creators are going to give anyone but the publisher and the distribution channels resale rights. I don’t mean resale of a physical object, which is covered under first sale doctrine. I mean signing over the copyright protected rights of sale on intellectual property. It’s NOT going to happen. In fact, the contracts authors have with their publishers would preclude it happening, in most cases.

    And for the record, my free reads are given free. I give blanket permission in each book that I give for free to pass it as far and wide as you wish to, but NEVER to try to make money on it, or I will slam you down personally. If you ever see someone selling one of my free reads, you KNOW that is not sanctioned by me, because it’s cheating my readers out of a gift I personally offer them. It’s a simple creative commons license I use. When I take down shares from big pirate sites, not those selling books but those giving them away, I DO NOT ever take down my free reads. They are doing their jobs, no matter where they are posted. If someone is illegally selling my books, OF COURSE, I take down everything of mine I see.


  13. jap says:

    Hi, Rowena! Nice to read you again.

    Of course paying for ebooks is not stupid, I was talking about paying for pirated ones. However you have a point, unlawful sellers trying to fool the buyer. May be it is interesting for you to know that most non-for-profit pirates do hate such sellers.

    28% of e-reader owners admit to visiting pirate sites. Which sites? Free downloads or paid ones? My guest is they are visiting free ones, it is not so easy to fool people and they know they are going to a pirate site. You have a point for 72% of people, but I think I have a point for 28%, and this is a good chunk of the market.

    Amazon and Baen give away part of the ebooks to sell more ebooks. Also Amazon gives away for limited time some ebooks to sell more copies of these very same books. May be non-for-profit piracy is a good promotion tool? Public libraries always have been a far good one.

  14. Yes, Jap,

    I did notice your fine distinction, and most of my response concerned people who pay for pirated ones.

    Thank you for pointing out that most non-for-profit pirates hate sellers of pirated works.

    What is your opinion of pirates who make money off pirated books without asking for money from downloaders. The ones who set up websites and are paid by AdBrite, Yahoo, Google to display corporate advertising?

    How about pirates who make money from commissions on the amount of traffic they bring to hosting sites?

    How about the subscription sites, where “members” can pay a subscription for the “right” to download as many “free” ebooks as they can find?

    Giving away part of a book is something we all do. Most of us have a chapter or three on our websites etc because we want readers to have a fair idea what they might be buying before they spend any money.

  15. Jap,

    I don’t suppose you are following a public discussion on Underground MN about e-book piracy, but from the comments that a good percentage of the pirates make, they don’t seem to understand that what they are doing is illegal and could get them into a lot of trouble individually.


    Oh. Talking of piracy, Joe Konrath seems to be raking in money through his e-book sales, but he is a highly entertaining author and a promo genius. He got a great deal of publicity from his “Pirate This” campaign, but I was surprised to notice that the book he invited pirates to take and share…. isn’t on some of the major sites.

  16. I just wanted to say thanks to those who were able to stop this particular pirate and all those helping to point out that what they’re doing is theft – not to mention a great way to transmit viruses.

  17. We copyright advocates continually discuss what should be done about piracy.

    A very obvious solution would be an end to anonymity (or the illusion of anonymity) on the internet, or at least on EBay and PayPal and their like.

    Another action that I’d favor is a central clearing house to which to copy all DMCA complaints (which I’d fund from the ill-gotten gains received as fees for the sale of stolen intellectual property by the honest NYSE and NASDAQ companies, and which obviously ought to be restored to the copyright owners).

    That clearing house would then publicize the record of every file sharing/hosting/ad placing site for:

    how many DMCAs they receive,
    how many DMCAs relate to the same customer of that site, how long it took to remove the infringing material,
    and whether or not the site followed its own TOS as regards banning repeat infringers.

    Piracy exists because the people with the power to curtail it turn a blind eye if they can. Turning a blind eye should not be profitable.

  18. jap says:


    There are 2 kinds of pirate websites:

    1- The webmasters are uploading the pirated works and they are seeking for profit (ads or whatever). This is not ok for me.

    2- The website is a forum, or a torrent site, or alike, where non-for-profit users publish links (or torrents). Many of its users are uploading the works they link, but not for profit. The website may be making money from ads. This is ok for me.

    If the uploader is just sharing (not for profit), this is ok. If he wants to upload your work to get money, he should talk with you first.

    Underground MN users are looking for a new ebook forum. They will find it soon. End of story.

    Piracy exists because nobody can stop it. As soon as you (the content industry) understand it, you will start doing what is good for you: focus on selling. That’s why Joe Konrath is increasing his income, he is learning to sell in Internet.

  19. Hi, Jap.

    You might be right in an ironic sense when you say “End of story.” (Pun intended?)

    I’m glad that we agree about #1.

    As for #2, for me, the torrents are not okay. (You guessed!)

    “Sharing” on public internet sites, or even free (or paid) membership sites, is not okay.

    For me, Joe Konrath’s example (much as I personally like the guy and the way he writes) is irrelevant to this debate.

    It may be all about selling for most of my colleagues and for the industry. For the Cassandras and Don Quixotes among us, it’s about the principle.

    It’s about fighting “The Thin End Of The Wedge”.

    Piracy changes behavior in an anarchic way. Often retroactively.

    Say 10% of the population like e-books, and 28% of that 10% prefer to take in-copyright e-books without paying for them.

    So to please 28% of 10% –is that .36% of the reading population?– Amazon and Barnes&Noble and others no doubt, make a business decision to undermine copyright law and unilaterally decide that they will allow limited sharing of the e-books they are licensed to sell.

    “Because the customers want it.”

    So, because “sharing” is perceived to be popular, authors find that their royalty contracts with their publishers are amended without negotiation to “Buy One, Get Up To Ten Free” deals.

    And that’s apparently legal.

    What happens if authors don’t protest? The popular assumption is that they don’t mind.

    That can lead to changes in the law, and a further erosion of copyright and the protections of intellectual property law for creators.

    For instance TTS on e-readers has just been declared legal, even if audio rights were not negotiated or granted.

    Another assumption is that authors will be silenced if pirates make threats (such as those made on Underground) that they will never buy a book by any author who dares to protest when her copyright is infringed.

    Some of us want laws that are clear and fair and apply equally to all, and we believe that the only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them… even if one would rather be doing something else.

  20. jap says:


    Okay, let’s forget selling. Principles are principles after all. Let’s take a view what Swedish Pirate Party (2 seats in European Parliament) is asking for. They say copyright must be limited to for-profit cases, and copyright term must be just 5 years since first publication. They are just the consequence of content industry blindness.

    If you want to keep copyright in safe harbour, you need people perceive copyright as a useful thing. If it is not useful for selling, and it is not useful for readers, what is copyright useful for?

    My guess is you prefer Ivanhoe over Don Quixote.

  21. Hi, Jap.

    Gosh, I do hope that some other people join in. I’m beginning to feel rather rude for monopolizing Richard’s page here.

    Taking your last –rhetorical– question first, and quoting Allan Lynch “Copyright is a writer’s pension plan.”

    Writers are freelancers. There’s no company sponsored retirement plan, no matching contributions to a 401K. Not much of a safety net at all. If they don’t make a lot, they don’t put much into Social Security, and we all know the trouble Social Security is in.

    Pretty soon, American writers are going to be forced to buy health insurance privately, too. The costs of writing keep going up.

    It’s perhaps rather different in Sweden for Swedish writers. I don’t know. I’ve visited Sweden, and understand that the taxes are very high there.

    If copyright were limited to 5 years, that would be devastating to some of my acquaintances. Some publishers don’t pay anything for the first 2 years. What happens to authors unfortunate enough to sign up with a rogue or insolvent publisher?

    It wouldn’t be good for Richard’s ereads business model, either.

    Moreover, a lot of authors write series. When one writes a series, new readers discover the latest release, then go back and buy every book in the series, so a 5-yr old book might be the best earner of the lot.

    I don’t understand about limiting copyright to “for-profit cases”.

    What is the point of that?

    Is that going to mean that anyone who writes anything has to prove that they hope to make a profit at some point? Or does it mean that until an author actually shows a profit, she has no copyright at all?

    Content industry blindness. Oh, dear! The prices that publishers and retailers and taxation authorities set are usually beyond the control of an author, unless the author is self published.

    Do pirates pirate self-published works? Yes they do! That’s hardly a noble protest against the industry. Some authors offer their self-published ebooks for $2.00, and still pirates “share”.

    Copyright *might* be useful to readers, but I wouldn’t want to do away with it in order to prove a devastating instance of the law of unintended consequences.

    Copyright keeps Google and Amazon in check to some extent. If it weren’t for copyright laws, there wouldn’t be the Google Book Settlement, and Google would probably control access to every book in the world. Not exclusive access, maybe.

    Of course I prefer Ivanhoe. :-) I also liked King Canute.

  22. jap says:


    Okay, a pension plan. But the pension plan doesn’t work sans selling, so we are not talking about principles, but about money.

    Limiting copyright to for-profit cases means that sharing (not for profit) would be lawful.

    Price is an issue on any market, but it is not the main problem. Copyright is a monopoly right, but tecnology has broken this monopoly. You (the content industry) should learn to sell in a world sans monopoly, instead of wasting your time and energy trying to restore it. Konrath is getting a good pension plan, isn’t he?

    Do you want to fight for-profit pirates? Okay, you can do it successfully because you can follow the money. Do you want to fight non-for-profit pirates? A hopeless task, they can share so privately as they want.

    If a guy has copied 8,000 ebooks in a far cheap blank DVD, and he gives this DVD to a friend, how are you going to stop him? If he shares his hard disk with his friend through an encrypted Internet conection, how are you going to stop him? Even public p2p has demonstrated to be unstoppable.

  23. Jap,

    This is a gentlemanly duel, isn’t it? Copyright as pension plan was a generic answer to a generic question. My motives remain about principle.

    Thank you for sharing what for-profit cases means. It’s a pity that some laws are Zero Sum apart from specific exceptions and amendments.

    I believe that many authors would tolerate a sort of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell amendment, where the “sharing” was by direct email between real friends, and involved only one book at a time. But, public sharing with potentially thousands of strangers is totally unacceptable.

    Anyway, proving who is a real friend in this world is impracticable. Also, as long as the law is what it is, any author who undermines it, weakens it for everyone.

    Your example involves one guy, one DVD, and one friend (and 8,000 books). No sale. No auction site. Or, an encrypted, private transmission. Probably undetectable and private. I cannot say I approve. The 8,000 books aren’t mine, and I’m a stickler for the letter and spirit of the law.

    Talking of encrypting and transmitting a file of 8,000 books, that’s a lot of bandwidth, slowing traffic for other users. Maybe the internet highway *ought* to be a Toll Road!

    (I’m in favor of net neutrality, but I can see that if piracy reaches a point where the government feels that the losses to the economy are too great, net neutrality could be in danger.)

    Why don’t we (authors) have a right to the fruits of (our) labor, but you have a right to the fruits of yours?

  24. Anon says:

    My wife is an author, with several #1 NYT bestselling titles to her credit. She works far longer hours than most of her readers would ever guess. I gave up a very lucrative career a few years ago to help out, because this author gig involves a lot more than simply writing text, there’s countless hours involved in marketing, reader outreach, merchandising and associated tasks.

    She tells a great story, but it takes quite a number of people (and many man-hours) to turn that into a marketable product. She, and I, and the other people who do that work are not willing to work for free, and why should we? In my previous job, had my boss come in and said that they really liked the work I was doing, but they no longer felt compelled to pay me for it, I’d have quit in a hot minute. Somehow, however, the folks who do “art” for a living, are supposed to be fine with that. Bologna, not happening.

    So, how should books (and other creative endeavors be funded). Basically, there’s three possibilities:
    1) Produce and distribute the product (book), and charge a small amount to all of the folks who consume it. This is how the market is currently structured. The financial reward is proportionate to the popularity/utility of the work produced.
    2) Collect a very large sum of money up front and then release the product free to everyone. Basically, the patronage model.
    3) The author can release the work for free, and hope that some small percentage of people toss them a dollar.

    The first model is the basis for modern commerce, but can’t work if the customers (readers) can take the product for free. This is what’s happening with piracy, and why authors are so upset.

    The patronage model only works if you have wealthy folks to fund it, and they probably want books about them, written to their specification. Crowd sourcing is a modern equivalent, but that places the burden of funding creation on a very few, while the majority get the product for nothing. Why contribute when you can get the story for free anyway? This model has never worked well.

    The last model, while it’s CURRENTLY working for Doctorow, Konrath and few others is basically the “busking” model. It only works for a very small subset of authors. Authors are no longer professionals who deserve a tuppence for their work, they’re street performers hoping that the occasional passer-by will take pity on them and toss a penny in the cup.

    We like being professionals, and we’re not likely to take up begging. So, if books are free to copy and distribute, eventually professional authors are going to hang up the keyboard and start doing something else. My wife finds it incredibly disheartening when she sees tens of thousands of copies of her books being downloaded for free. It’s not flattering, and it’s not “supporting the author” and it’s not “advertising” it’s taking her product without giving anything in return.

    So, we can’t stop piracy. They’re gleefully pillaging everything in sight and laughing at the honest customers who pay for the products. Until, of course, the authors quit writing, and everyone gets to make do with poorly-written fanfic. Some things are free for a reason!

  25. The effects of electronic piracy have been discussed endlessly in the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) forums. There is no consensus. Some show or purport to show that the net effect of piracy has been to publicize the writer and may result in sales that writer would otherwise not have. Others protest that for writers without a lot of output, giving away a copy of a book probably does not result in selling a copy of the same book; it’s the prolific writers who benefit.

    Some web sites like scribd are profit making concerns who depend in part on pirated works so they can draw a crowd; they sell advertisements to those who want to display to that crowd. This does little for the authors, of course. There was a big fight between SFWA and scribd on this, and Electronic Frontier Foundation took scribd’s part and sent threatening letters to SFWA; the result was that SFWA’s officer disbanded the SFWA copyright committee (of which I had been a member) with the promise of reconstructing it. That reconstruction has not happened after two years.

    My experience is that many readers, given a chance, will send money to authors whose works they have read, provided that it is easy to send the money and it is clear that the money goes to the actual author rather than to a large publisher. The number of people who actually go buy a legitimate copy of a book they have downloaded for free is negligible, but the number who will send the royalty the author might have earned on the book can be as high as 20% if it is made easy and simple to send the money.

    I have no idea where all this is going.

  26. Anon says:

    I respect you immensely; you are a consummate professional and a fabulous author. We followed the SFWA incident you mention very closely, and frankly lost some respect for SFWA over their decision to disband the copyright committee. We’re still members, but SFWA isn’t actually doing much for authors these days.

    Your last point struck a nerve with me. Not that you’re wrong, but there’s something that bothers me. We’ve had lots of pirates say that they feel justified in stealing books published by big houses because they’re just ripping of the artist anyway. Frankly, we love our publisher. Neither my wife nor I have the skill to package, produce and market a book effectively. Even if we DID have those skills, those are all things that time away from writing. Our publisher bears the financial risk and takes care of all of the tasks involved in turning a manuscript into a product, and markets that product. This lets us focus our time and energy on the things we’re good at. If we weren’t reasonably happy with the division of the profits, we wouldn’t sign the blessed contracts.

    It seems terribly presumptuous of the pirates to decide that we really need to produce, market and promote the books without a publisher, or suffer their wrath. Grrr!

  27. The “Brad” link is not my own website, but I think that Brad’s list is so fascinating and informative that anyone ought to be able to click through to it.


    Ten Copyright Myths. Brad is my new hero.

  28. If you dislike piracy, please support the COICA bill by signing a petition.


  29. Steve Boyett says:

    Arguing in defense of copyright law doesn’t change the fact that the notions of copyright on the books have been outmoded by technology to such a pervasive extent that it is creating massive economic change, restructuring of business models, and invention of new ones.

    The technology is neither moral nor immoral, ethical nor unethical. It simply is. And no communications technology (or any other technology I can think of) has been developed that is not utilized, even if in unforeseen ways. The genie does not return to the bottle. Arguing right or wrong in the face of such pervasive capability is utterly moot. Consumer demand drives capitalism, and consumer demand is driving digital accessibility.

    Those who find ways to capitalize on such new models will flourish. Those who insist they are somehow entitled to a living on the outmoded ones will find themselves possessed of all the righteous indignation of typewriter ribbon manufacturers and hansom cab drivers.

    Adapt, evolve, or get the hell out of the way.

  30. Anon says:

    The problem is that the pirates have solved DISTRIBUTION, which is vastly different than creation. A business model, at some point, involves money. The pirates claim basically boils down to, “If we share your books with enough people, then maybe some honest folks will pay for it. Maybe you’ll even sell more.” The whole model depends on there being far better people than the pirates who will bear the costs and allow them to freeload. Of course, as taking without payment becomes more common, expect to see fewer and fewer chumps hitting the donate button.

    You may be right that the Genie will not return to the bottle, but if so, the creative industry is largely doomed. There may be enough people who will click on donate buttons to support a handful of authors even if everything were freely available, but I find it vanishingly improbable that the “busking” model will support even a hundredth of the creative efforts we currently enjoy.

  31. Baby Einstein says:

    Nice to see such a civil and articulate debate going on here! Good points all around.

    I used to be a total bibliophile – hated the idea of e-books, lamented what the industry likes to present as a declining reading public, loss of bookstores, etc. But then I became aware of pirating and torrent sites (plus enrolled in a Master’s program in Publishing), and my whole point of view changed.

    There are good pirates and bad pirates on this new ocean. The bad pirates want to steal work from artists, make thousands of cheap copies, and sell them at a reduced price, thus stealing any money that the artist would have made on the legitimate sale of the art. Like Jap says, this is not cool.

    Good pirates love the art, and often the artists, and they also love communication, creativity, social justice, networking, cooperation, fair trade, etc. They take pieces of art and make them available for free, not making any money off of it, gaining only a sense of satisfaction at participating in the revolution. It’s considered bad form on most torrent sites to download like crazy but never upload – the whole spirit of the thing is of a free and bustling exchange, a two-way street that’s very different from the author –> publisher –> consumer model we have going now.

    Anon says that pirates are “gleefully pillaging everything in sight and laughing at the honest customers who pay for the products. Until, of course, the authors quit writing, and everyone gets to make do with poorly-written fanfic. Some things are free for a reason!” This is a short-sighted and outdated mode of thought that is hopefully on the wane. You think authors will quit writing if they can’t make any money off of it?? That makes me wonder who your wife is. As a wise man once said, music didn’t start with the phonograph and end with The Pirate Bay. Humans want to create, we want to share, and the true artists among us – the poets, the rappers, the basement revolutionaries – will continue to create no matter what.

    Consumers are wising up. They’re becoming active, beginning to produce rather than passively consume. They’re learning to mistrust the middle men that stand between them and information with their hands out for some kind of finder’s fee. Consider this: when Radiohead released “In Rainbows” on a pay-what-you-will basis, I gave them ten bucks. When Girl Talk released “Feed the Animals” the same way, I sent them $15. When Lady Gaga’s studio demanded that I give them almost $30 for a flimsy disc of that mass-produced trash, I looked to some good pirates to seed it to me for free.

  32. Alberta says:

    I’d gladly hit a “Donate” button for many authors, and have done so already with the few who have given me that option. And not all pirates are “pillaging everything in sight” – I’m not. I pirate ebooks based on price alone, so right now the only things I download for free are those costing $13-19, and on up. I could so easily pirate every single ebook I wanted – they are easy to find (thanks, angry authors who pointed me to each pirate site I’ve used) and easy to download – but I don’t, because most of what I want to read is reasonably priced. It’s the same reason I don’t pirate movies or music – they are affordable. Of course I don’t represent all pirates, but I believe I am typical of most of the ones I know personally. Decent prices would stop us.

  33. Anon says:

    Obviously pirates believe that artists will continue to create even without financial reward. After all, to believe otherwise would force them to see themselves the bad guys. Instead, they cast themselves as swashbuckling heroes in a grand fight for some mythical freedom.

    And of course you’d like to know who my wife is, so that you and all the other little pirates could flog her works even more actively, or DDOS her website, or generally target us the way other authors who object the shenanigans have been harassed.

    The problem is, the pirate fantasy utopia doesn’t exist. I was making well over 100K at my former job. Currently, my wife and I are both working at least 40 hour weeks on the writing gig. Here’s the newsflash Einstein — if it doesn’t pay the bills we CAN’T put that kind of time into it.

    Before your whip out any more of the “Free Culture” crap*, here’s a simple question. If free culture is so wonderful, why don’t the pirates simply take the books/music/software from the thousands of people begging to have people try their stuff for free? Eat your own dog food, so to speak?

    The bottom line is that the commercial quality stuff, for the most part, is of higher quality, and therefore more desirable. That’s why it’s heavily pirated even though there’s many people trying to give their stuff away.

    Look, my wife would probably write even if she didn’t make any money. But she wouldn’t write multiple full-length novels, and she wouldn’t spend hundred of hours editing. She’d also probably just keep them on her computer for her own amusement.

    *I actually support some of the free culture movement. I’ve released a fair bit of software under GNU and BSD licenses.

  34. Steve Boyett says:

    What a tragedy that creative arts might devolve down to those who practice them for no other reason than because they feel they have to. Let us hope this malady does not befall the civilization with the power to bestow ubiquity on the likes of Jackie Collins, lest some deluded Cervantes pen some uncompensated Don Quixote and begin the sack of the Roman glory that was 20th Century Publishing.

    No one is entitled to make a living under a model that is demonstrably outmoded. That people can is terrific — while that model lasts. But it is not a birthright.

    I’m sure when Titanic went down there were first-class passengers yelling, But I paid for a ticket! Maybe so, and maybe their ticket entitles them to a completed journey. I think it would be wiser and more practical to jump ship and find my own way home rather than clinging on all the way down and yelling it has the right to float and I have the right to be on it.

    Any writer who is afraid of amateurs, deserves to be. Any artist who fears leaving his livelihood to the discretion of a paying public, ought to be afraid. Do you have faith in your work or don’t you? Do you have faith in your audience or don’t you? The day is quickly coming when you may have to answer those questions without the imprimatur of a corporate publishing entity to act as legitimizing middleman to answer them for you.

    Meantime why don’t y’all just get together at some writers’ conclave and pound down your Scotches and commiserate by belting out “The Ballad of John Henry”.

  35. Steve Boyett says:

    If free culture is so wonderful, why don?t the pirates simply take the books/music/software from the thousands of people begging to have people try their stuff for free? Eat your own dog food, so to speak?
    Because then it isn’t pirating, is it? It’s people freely and legally downloading offered works — as happens in the millions across all media every day. Creative Commons being a grassroots copyright movement developed to address exactly these shortcomings in the creative industries and in copyright law. Or, am I misunderstanding you? Have you somehow managed to be above downloading freely offered works? Articles, pictures, videos, PDFs? How?s that dogfood taste, Anon? Tastes like content, dunnit?

    Or is your problem simply the access employable by people not granted the almost wholly arbitrary and commercial legitimacy of what you’re calling “professional” publication? Your argument of quality by virtue of having been financially acquired is a specious argument offered up far longer than the Internet has existed. For every semiliterate Danielle Steele act of deforestation there are any number of amazing novels not acquired, not because they are not good, but because they have been deemed as works that will not make money. Yet you have taken some pains to equate the unprecedented free access now available to these works (and alternative business models in place and developing) as an indicator of inferior quality and as dogfood. The attention given these mongrel bloodlines is annoying up there on Olympus, isn?t it?

    In a perverse way, you are defining a “quality, professional writer” as “someone who will not write if there is not a publshing industry.” I say thank god if they do not. For they have essentially defined the extent of their commitment to their work.

  36. Steve Boyett says:

    Quick note: Richard’s comments section won’t allow quote tags. The first paragraph of my previous post is a quote pulled from Anon’s last post. Sorry for any confusion.

  37. With the greatest respect, this “good pirate/bad pirate” argument misses the point that Richard was –in my opinion– making with the post.

    How many of you have clicked through the links are studied the full extent of what the vendor was doing?

    Do you know how this vendor amassed such a vast collection? Some of it was almost certainly bartered, and some of it was very probably donated by “good pirates” because the “bad pirate” put out requests.

    “Good pirates” enable “bad pirates”.

    Baby Einstein opines, “Good pirates love the art, and often the artists, and they also love communication, creativity, social justice, networking, cooperation, fair trade, etc. They take pieces of art and make them available for free, not making any money off of it, gaining only a sense of satisfaction at participating in the revolution.”

    Is “revolution” good? Maybe the British Industrial Revolution, and the Agricultural Revolution were good… not so much for the environment, nor for the child factory workers, nor for the farm animals.

    The French Revolution might have been splendid fun for the sans culottes….

    Baby Einstein’s revolution sound like a lot of looting and anarchy to me. There’s not a lot of “social justice” in revolution. It’s usually about the forced redistribution of private property.

    Where is the “fair trade” in taking something that does not belong to you, and throwing it to the four winds without regard for the owner of that property?

  38. Chantalz says:

    I download ebooks free either from my library or from torrent sites. One option is legal and the other is not. The difference? I don’t get to keep the ebook if I borrow it. Pirating has changed my expectations in terms of accessibility and also how much I read. I have discovered authors whom I couldn’t have access to otherwise.

    The reasons I do so are many: availability of out of print material, foreign language books not readily available in Canada, speed of access, free is appealing (I won’t lie). I used to buy a book every 2 weeks since that’s all my budget could afford. When best sellers came out, I’d have to wait months to get a copy or be on a waitlist at the library since I couldn’t afford $30 for a book. Space was a HUGE issue since I had 12 bookcases and a gazillion storage boxes of books. I could not afford the ebook library I have if I didn’t download. Most of my ebooks are copies of books I’ve purchased throughout the years oddly enough.

    I do wish I could pay my favourite authors directly. I do not find my favourite authors in bookstores or due to promotion by publishing houses or book tours. I find them like most people nowadays – online, electronically, mostly thanks to Amazon’s listmania where others recommend books based on my tastes/past fave authors. I fail to believe that the current model with the publishing industry is the best suited to our times. When I find a new author – I want all of their past books too, something libraries and bookstores can’t provide. Ebook stores can’t even provide this – it’s annoying!

    I would pay, if the middleman were cut and availability was as good as the pirating community, but such is not the case. I want to reward my favourite authors, but I don’t want to reward the publishing industry. I see no value in their services. I believe my favourite authors are popular because they write well, not because of marketing or other ‘value added’ industry branding/promoting. If the industry were removed, could it not work? Money straight to the source.

    Anon above mentioned 3 models. Patronage funding is the most restrictive by far. Industry controlled isn’t too far removed from the 1st option. Open and accessible to all, with some way to force payment might work. I’m not sure how, but it just seems to be where we’re heading as a society – open source, access to all media/art/music/books for everyone without restrictions based on whether you can afford. It might limit the ability of some writers to make a living, and that really would be horrible, but there are benefits to having full accessibility as well.

    I read a book every 2 days now instead of every 2 weeks, and I discover more authors than I would have under the ‘old’ publishing/book store/buy consumption model.

    Honest, normal, upstanding citizens are pirating. People who go to church. People who make good money. People who are super rich or really sweet. It’s not a good vs bad thing and it’s not a right vs wrong thing. Books used to be something only the very rich could own. Reading was something only monks and then men could do centuries ago. Now, literacy is higher and book availability is expected. Still, the current model is too restrictive and not responsive enough to user expectations – so it will, by necessity, change, despite restrictive controls and industry lamentations.

    It’s a shame some writers will lose the ability to make a living, perhaps make less, or some might even thrive in a new distribution system, but I truly do believe that the benefits of having open & accessible data/books/art/music/information/knowedge outweighs any negative monetary impacts to a few. Those who wish to write will always do so for the love of writing. Information/knowledge can’t be contained.

  39. Portia says:

    Anon – your wife does so much work for the publishing industry. It’s not required. The theory is that fans will buy ridiculously overpriced hard cover books if authors are there to sign. They want authors to become stars, promote the cult of superstardom since obsession makes them money. I don’t want my authors to be stars, make millions or support a publishing industry that does nothing for me as a reader. I just want to read what other people write. Many of my friends now go on websites where unpublished authors can post their works. It’s great! There is so much to read. I am not spoonfed my books by someone else. Love it!

  40. Steve Boyett says:


    I laughed out loud at this. Anyone who writes books with some notion of stardom is seriously in the wrong business. Given the rollercoaster-to-waiting-in-line ratio of even a successful writing career, the only people writing out of some notion of notoriety are already famous in some other endeavor.

  41. Rowena Cherry says:

    The problem, and the solution, is that this pirate started on EBay. She was thrown off EBay, but EBay’s subsidiary PayPal kept right on collecting fees and allowing her to be their very good customer.

    PAYPAL identifies users by email address. If you have the email address, you have the IP. Multiple email addresses generally have the same IP.

    Someone ought to have sued PayPal at least for restitution of the fees taken on the illegal sale of bootlegged goods, at least from the time that EBay was forced by authors to recognize that this individual was a pirate.

  42. budee says:

    “Where is the ?fair trade? in taking something that does not belong to you, and throwing it to the four winds without regard for the owner of that property?”

    there is no ‘fair trade’. there are opportunists and opportunities. morality is subjective and life is what you can get away with. perhaps pragmatism is the answer. make the consumer an offer that they can’t refuse :)

  43. Are you considering content material exchange? I had couple of comparable blogs but I closed them. Revenue was reduced.

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