piracyClaire Ryan of The Raynfall Agency posted a pretty good article today on piracy; it includes the agency’s thoughts about what authors need to know, along with some practical tips for avoiding piracy of their works.

Ryan didn’t cover anything new, but she did discuss the basics. I agree with most of what she wrote, but I think she weakened her argument right at the end.

Removing DRM and making books available in all territories? That’s excellent advice. Readers are far less likely to pirate if they can get your books in the format they like. And if the book is free of DRM, readers can buy where they want, and they can read on any/all current and future devices. Good stuff there.

Many authors, however, will disagree with the sections of the article that suggest piracy isn’t something to worry about, because it doesn’t actually lead to huge sales hits. While I basically agree with that premise, I would’ve preferred that assertion to have been backed up with some statistics—or at least author anecdotes. If I hadn’t been watching this issue for years, I’m not sure I would have bought that argument.

Where I think authors will stop reading in disgust is at the end, when Ryan tackles piracy in terms of “theft.” She state definitely that book piracy isn’t theft—and she’s absolutely correct, in an intellectual sense. From Wikipedia:

“interference with copyright does not easily equate with theft, conversion, or fraud. The Copyright Act even employs a separate term of art to define one who misappropriates a copyright: ‘[…] an infringer of the copyright.'” The court said that in the case of copyright infringement, the province guaranteed to the copyright holder by copyright law—certain exclusive rights—is invaded, but no control, physical or otherwise, is taken over the copyright, nor is the copyright holder wholly deprived of using the copyrighted work or exercising the exclusive rights held.”

So no, piracy isn’t theft, according to the strict definition of the term. But I know authors regard it as such when they envision sales they didn’t get going up in a torrent bonfire.

You see, there’s no calm and unemotional way to talk about piracy. It generates strong emotions on both sides. It is a useful discussion, and obviously it needs to be addressed over and over again, since we authors tend to get understandably touchy about the subject. (It is a perceived threat to our livelihood, after all.)

Which will almost surely make the Raynfall Agency’s last point particularly difficult to swallow for many authors:

“Whether it’s bad is debatable, and whether it’s good is hard to quantify, but fighting against it is probably not worth your time. The best strategy, if indeed it’s possible to have a strategy at all with regard to piracy, is to ignore it.”

Kind of a tough way to end the article, especially when they started out so well, with practical strategies for reducing book piracy.

See how tough an issue it is? Even well-written articles miss the point in the end.