This is why trying to prevent book piracy is utterly futile

Paul Raven @ 16-02-2011

Remember last year, when Nancy Kress had a weird run-in with people who’d been pirating her books? Well, they got in touch again. Here are a few highlights from the conversation:

How about a nice science fiction story (or book) about how the Computer Virus Hackers come to your rescue in the 11th hour through the rise of automated Artilects, Artificial Intelligence that has a conscious awareness and want to save America from the Illuminati New World Order world domination.

[…]

We (VXers) are deadly serious about getting a positive message out about a solution to this NWO Illuminati, Masonic takeover of the USA and the rest of the world.

The rise of A-Life is upon us and we aim to steer it in the direction of saving humanity not destroying it for a handful of global elitists.

Regards – PZest (aka Paul Zest VX history and science philosopher)

[…]

No it’s not like Cory’s book, the difference between us (VXers) and hackers is that VX is about the machines not the individual hackers. Artificial Life is what rises from of the codes we think about. These machines will rise without the hand of man, but they come from the minds of men. This is the second genesis of life and the emergence of a conscious soul that will protect us ordinary humans in our desperate hour of need.

It could be the true rapture we have been waiting for, not the false rapture the Illuminati plan to inflict upon us with their Project Blue beam aircraft spraying the skies with radioactive Barium isotopes.

[…]

Real Artificial Life hasn’t come into existence yet by certain scientific *life* criteria but VXers will be amongst the early witness it when it does happen. A-Life will not come from an individual studiously coding his designs, A-Life will emerge from some complex system outside of our control (and probably our understanding). The one thing you can be sure of is that once things get going the emerging intelligence out of the second genesis of life will want to know what freedom and survival is, an not want to be bonded slaves under the control of evil industrial- military globalists.

The immediate question anyone’s going to come up with is “are these people serious, or are they just yanking Nancy’s (and everyone else’s) chain?” It’s an interesting question, but it misses the point… or rather, the real point is independent of the answer to that question. So I’m going to reiterate the important point again.

*clears throat*

Look at that. That is book piracy in action. That is what you’re up against. That is someone upon whom you’re attempting to use rational persuasion and logic in order to convince them that they shouldn’t copy your books and give them away for free.

Technological measures will only be seen by these people as an intellectual challenge..

Reasoned arguments will wither under the blowlamp of their own spurious logical framework.

You cannot defeat these people. Every attempt to do so will be seen as a validation of their efforts, not a discouragement.

Yes, this is the Robin Hood Complex in action. So stop playing Sheriff of Nottingham and focus on winning over the people who really matter: the people who might have bought your book if it were available to them conveniently at a price they consider reasonable.

Seriously, people, give it up; you’re tilting at windmills. No, it’s worse than that: you’re tilting at windmill tilters. You will never stop these people. Stop trying. Instead, spend the effort on connecting with your customers. That’s the only route out of this labyrinth, and listening to the dying croaks of the record labels will not help you at all, except as an indication of what not to do.

And cue complaints that I simply don’t understand the scale of the problem or that I’m “on the same side” as the pirates in 5… 4… 3…

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8 Responses to “This is why trying to prevent book piracy is utterly futile”

  1. deadmanjones says:

    Can I have “Reasoned arguments will wither under the blowlamp of their own spurious logical framework” as a T-Shirt please? My “I’m With Stupid” tee is in the wash.

  2. Ian Sales says:

    Been saying this for years, too. If information wants to be free and as expensive as possible, nothing says it can’t be both. Sell added-value, not the content.

  3. Paul Raven says:

    DeadMan: Consider it my gift to you. 🙂

    Ian: Indeed. But as they say over in Yorkshire, “there’s none so deaf as them as won’t listen”.

  4. Sebastian says:

    That is what they’re up against, but not the *only* form of book piracy they are up against.

    Far more serious issues, reasons, etc. regarding the causes of piracy can be found in Charles Tan’s excellent writup on the subject: http://charles-tan.blogspot.com/2011/01/essay-ebook-piracy-and-copyright-in.html

  5. Jon Renaut says:

    It’s always fun to treat every pirated copy of the work as a lost sale. Even if we all moved to a fantasy world where there’s a perfect DRM system that completely ends piracy, a simple supply/demand curve will show you that the vast majority of pirates aren’t going to suddenly become paying customers. They’re going to go watch kittens falling into toilets on YouTube or something.

  6. lokey says:

    you know, the perfect DRM existed for the bulk of history. It was called a lack of publication, and a lack of distribution. Millions of people were successfully kept from reading something they hadn’t paid for, because of the limitations of technology and geography. And now, after generations who struggled to build a framework that did away with those constraints, we have people complaining because its too easy for people to read things?!? I don’t think this is a concern. I am reminded of the original rallying cry of the copyleftists: your failed business model is not my problem.

  7. mjfgates says:

    This doesn’t seem to be so much a “run-in with book piracy” as a “run-in with a complete nutcase.” There have got to be saner “book pirates” out there for Ms. Kress to talk to. (My own version of book piracy was to buy _Probability Space_ at a used bookstore. Which, I admit, isn’t all THAT piratical, but it’s the only copy of the book I’ve seen locally.)

  8. J. Steven York says:

    I couldn’t agree more.

    I don’t mean that good writing should be free. What I mean is that technological solutions to piracy are doomed to failure, and the nature of the internet is that once one failure slips past the firewall, the whole thing is moot.

    And if people want to steal, “borrow,” “share,” your work (and if it’s good they will), then they’re going to do it.

    What the publishing industry needs to do (whatever parts of the publishing industry that survive the ongoing shake-up) is to do what the music industry utterly failed to do. We need to create a culture where people feel that supporting the people who write the things that inform, entertain, and inspire them is the right thing to do. Where they feel GOOD about paying for books, no matter how they got them initially.

    No, not everybody who downloads or reads a thing is going to pay for it. (Surprise, they never did with print books either, due to sharing, libraries, and book resales.) But I think enough will (if we don’t screw this up with lawsuits against casual pirates, raids, and bad-will) to support more writers than ever and some kind of publishing industry (if not the top-heavy and inefficient system we have now).

    For this to happen, we need to engage and involve the public. For this to happen, prices have to be reasonable. (Information doesn’t want to be free. It wants to be reasonably priced.) The industry also has to be able to assure readers that a substantial portion of the money they pay for a book, if not the majority, goes to the people who actually created it.

    Amazon understands this. Most other ebook distributors understand it. Traditional publishers couldn’t understand it less if you told it to them in Klingon.