Supporting Artists or How To Make Sure Creative Material Continues To Be Made or How To Avoid Being A Dick

I got to write an interesting letter today.1

I was perusing the
NSA self-declaration site that is Facebook when I came across a post about a website which was making copyrighted material (books) available as free digital downloads. Fellow author and Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers member Peggy let me know that Desolation: 21 Tales for Tails was among the books available for download.

I revised the aforementioned letter and sent it off to the company which maintains the website and their web-hosting company. In short, the way the law works is that if the material is removed or the web-hosting company disables the site, they can avoid prosecution for copyright infringement.

Look, I understand that people like to get things for free. Hell, I like free stuff as much as the next person. I also understand that we are currently in the midst of a debate regarding how material should be made available.
2 In the post Gnutella and Napster decades, file sharing has become a common practice. Songs, albums, movies, television programs, and yes even books can be had for free with a couple of clicks.

Granted, it has always been possible to share books. One of the great things about reading is sharing material you have read with other, like-minded readers.
3 If one wanted to turn a profit, one could always reprint them and sell them.4

There are some differences between this and what I experienced today. One important one is the acquisition of a copy of the book by purchasing it. I don’t want to make this all about money, but if you are selling photocopied copies of a novel, you have to buy the novel first.
5 Sites like these use existing flaws in other websites security to obtain copies of the digital material before making it available for the entire web.

Now this is simply piracy.

There is a line of thought which states that any download of creative material is beneficial, whether the creator receives compensation or not. The material is being read, listened to, watched, etc. If the person likes it enough, they may even go back and purchase a copy.

I can relate to this as a method of creating an audience, but only to the point where the release of the material is controlled by the content creator. A prime example of this is when authors make the first book in a series available for free or at a significantly discounted price to promote a new book in the series.

There is a certain segment of the population who feel that they are entitled to new material without paying for it. Fortunately for them, the internet is full of material which one can enjoy legally without spending a dime. There are website devoted to free fiction. YouTube is full of movies made by aspiring directors. There are entire sites devoted to made for the web shows.
7 In short, there is no reason to steal from others.

Because stealing is exactly what it is. Content creators, be they authors, musicians, photographers, artists, directors, or something else I am forgetting at the moment, spend a lot of time honing their craft. They learn the correct way to write, play, shoot, etc. They spend a great amount of time on each of their creations. It is only fair that they be compensated for their work.

Yes, there is a drive to create. Yes, many of us would continue to create whether we got paid for it or not. However, for those of us trying to make a living by creating something moving, downloading material for free takes food out of our mouths. The sad reality is that without payment, it may become impossible to continue to pursue our dreams.

If you enjoy an author, pay for the books. It’s really as simple as that.

Post Script: What made this especially galling in my particular case was the fact that
Desolation also raises money for the Last Day Dog Rescue organization so not only is this site taking money out of my pocket, it’s taking money away from canine rescue.

I made sure to note this not only in the Cease and Desist e-mail, but I also commented on the website’s download page.

1. OK, it was actually an e-mail and I didn’t so much write it as copy, paste, and then change the pertinent information. Thanks for pointing me towards the letter

2. In fact, I attended two panels on this topic at this year’s
Penguicon, one of which I had suggested.

3. I understand some people even loan their books out. Of course, they could come back with broken spines and folded pages. I shudder at the thought.

4. By rewriting them by hand, typing out mimeograph versions, using a photocopier, etc.

5. Unless you destroy a library copy for your nefarious scheme. There is a special Hell for people who defile library books.

6. Not the cool kind where you get to dress up with swords and stuff like Hook from
Once Upon A Time.

7. Many of which are better than 90% of the dreck that is broadcast on regular TV.