Would You Work 3000 Hours for Nothing? This Pirated Artist Did

Tim O’Reilly famously said, “Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.”  That’s very witty, but anyone who’s had their property hijacked by pirates will fail to see the humor. Take Colleen Doran, a cartoonist and illustrator with hundreds of major credits. She would gladly opt for obscurity if it meant getting compensated for the 3000 hours of work stolen from her.

“Like many artists,” she blogs in The Hill.com, “I’ve seen my sales figures chipped away as the print market shrinks due, in no small part, to rampant online piracy. I tried to count the number of pirate sites that had my work available for free download, but when I hit 145, I was too depressed to go on.”

Doran’s poignant story is all too familiar to a surging list of authors, artists and musicians. She spent two years – she calculates 3000 hours –  researching and drawing a graphic novel for DC Comics/Vertigo. “The minute this book is available, someone will take one copy and within 24 hours, that book will be available for free to anyone around the world who wants to read it. 3,000 hours of my life down the rabbit hole, with the frightening possibility that without a solid return on this investment, there will be no more major investments in future work.”

Though her ire is directed at pirates, she has some choice words for file-sharers and other enablers. “Distribution is the only concern. Readers care about the gadget that gives them the goods, and have no connection to the goods at all, or who made them. But without desirable content, there’s nothing to distribute.”

She saves her best shot for those who promulgate a culture of entitlement: “Pirates and impecunious fans inform me that pirating my work is great publicity, for piracy isn’t nearly as dangerous to an artist as obscurity.”

It’s easy to mouth witty platitudes about the benefits of piracy when your pocket has never been picked – or you can easily afford a team of high-priced bulldogs to take perpetrators down. But for Colleen Doran and countless other copyright owners who have been ripped off, O’Reilly’s quip leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

Read The “real” victims of online piracy by Colleen Doran.

And for a complete archive of posts about piracy, visit our Pirate Central feature.

Richard Curtis

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7 Responses to Would You Work 3000 Hours for Nothing? This Pirated Artist Did

  1. Nate says:

    “She would gladly opt for obscurity if it meant getting compensated for the 3000 hours of work stolen from her.”

    So you’re saying she got no recompense at all? Did she also lose the copyright? Both had to have happened for your claim to be plausible.

    • @ Nate – She may have been compensated but if sales of book are severely reduced by pirated editions the publisher will be less inclined to publish her future work or to pay her as much.
      RC

  2. jap says:

    Any writer prefers to be Dan Brown rather than John Doe, not only for fame but also for money. The day Dan Brown earns less money than John Doe you will have a point.

  3. Lis says:

    Here’s the thing, make your work available digitally and I will gladly pay you money for it, but if you don’t? I’m going to steal it because I don’t want to have to carry around a book… If I’m feeling altruistic, I may buy the book and also steal the digital copy, but in this day and age, I want my media how I want it and if you’re not going to make that an option I will…

  4. “She would gladly opt for obscurity if it meant getting compensated for the 3000 hours of work stolen from her.”

    I didn’t read that in her article, and I fail to see how obscurity would give her that compensation. How can you sell your books if you or the books are obscured?

    “3,000 hours of my life down the rabbit hole.”

    As if nobody buys the book. If that is the case then there is something wrong with it as the majority of customers are still honest and would buy a book rather than download an illegal copy. And all the downloads: she talks about people downloading because so many books are conveniently packaged up in collections. But how many of these downloaders downloaded it because they specifically wanted that book?

    I think her analysis sucks.

  5. Rogan says:

    If a writer has only a selective but willing readership any pirating (a crappy description that romanticizes theft in my view) they are going to lose far more than a Dan Brown or the like is going to lose. They can’t absorb the loss – especially if they are in a niche market.

    If you take something from the owner of that thing without their consent, you are a thief. If you take only some of the value of that thing leaving the owner whatever is left – you are still a thief. If you make that owner less likely to be able to sell their goods in the future because you have made them less viable – you are a thief.

    Being a thief who can get away with it, just because the media/whatever makes it easy doesn’t make you ‘cool’ or ‘smart’ – just a thief.

    The thing is, I’ve never yet met a thief, and I have met several by the way, who was simply philosophical about others stealing from HIM.

  6. Rowena Cherry says:

    The entitlement mentality with regard to e-readers and e-books is certainly interesting.

    The attitude, “I purchased a Kindle, therefore, I’ve paid part of the industry and am entitled to free e-books,” would never translate to “I purchased a car, therefore, I’ve paid part of the industry and am entitled to free gas,” would it?

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