E-publishing, Part 3: E-looters 101

The moral simpletons who copy other people's intellectual property don't appreciate that anything they'd want to copy is the result of someone's hard work. Jerks.

F. Paul Wilson, Contributor

February 7, 2012

5 Min Read

F. Paul Wilson

As told by Repairman Jack...

So now, with his international publishing empire, Wilson thinks he's F. Paul Hearst or the like. But he's not so smart. When he was publishing his Kindle editions he refused to add DRM. For those of you who don't know--I assume there must be some of you--that stands for Digital Rights Management, which means copy protection. I argued for DRM, but Wilson was adamantly opposed.

His reasoning: Anyone who bought his ebooks should be able to read them on any platform they wish. If you download it to your Kindle, you should be free to use a program like Calibre to switch the format to one compatible with your iPhone. Sounds fair, right? But it makes it way too easy for the looters.

You can call them pirates, if you wish. They like that. Kind of romantic and cool, like Jack Sparrow. But in reality they're looters, pure and simple. What else do you call someone who comes across another person's unprotected property, snatches it up, and takes it home?

Wilson wasn't naive about the looters, but he thought he could make an end run around them by keeping his ebook price point low at $2.99. You see, a traditional publisher (a.k.a. dead-tree publisher) pays an author a royalty ranging anywhere from 6% to 10% of the cover price of a paperback. At 8%, a $7.99 paperback nets the author 64. At Amazon's 70% royalty, a $2.99 ebook yields a little over $2. The reader saves a few bucks and the author triples the royalty per copy. Ever hear a more obvious win-win?

But as for stopping the looters: Wrong again, Paulie. They'd already stolen the novels about me from MacMillan and were bundling them in a single zip-file for download. Almost immediately they began swiping Wilson's self-published ebooks.

A twisted part of me loves to watch the moral and ethical contortions the looters go through to justify their actions. My favorite is: "How can you accuse us of stealing when we're only copying? You still have yours." They even formed a looter advocacy group called questioncopyright.org whose motto is: "Copying is not theft." Yeah, you wish, buddy. They went as far as to create this moronic video. (Chew a couple of Tums before you watch.)

This has helped me understand the looters. I thought they were sociopaths or merely morally bankrupt. Well, they're that, but the video makes it clear that they suffer from an incapacity for critical thinking; these lines from the song (written by someone named Nina Paley) make the case:

If I steal your bicycle, you'll have to take the bus.
But if I just copy it, there's one for each of us.

Copy a bicycle? You mean like, scan it? Or download it? If you copy my bike, you'll have to work. And even before you copy the bike, you'll have to learn how to weld and how to use tools. And then (get the smelling salts ready) you'll have to buy the metal tubing and tires and gears and spend time assembling them, maybe even thinking about how to arrange the gears. You might have to sweat, you might get your hands dirty.

And you know what? In the end, you will have created something where there was nothing before. It won't be a copy, it will be yours. Then maybe all the clones with all their stolen discs and books at the end of the video won't look so cute.

Sharing ideas with everyone
That's why copying is fuuuuuuun!

Yeah. Tons o' fun when what's being copied would not exist without someone else's intellectual sweat and is the source of that someone's livelihood.

Some looters use the library model: libraries buy one copy and give it to many readers. They claim they're simply doing the same. Think again. Libraries get the book back after each reading. And libraries pay for every copy on their shelves.

Who is this Repairman Jack guy? Click here to read the rest of his work.

Is it okay to go into a sculptor's studio, make casts of his creations, then sell them in your gallery? Of course not. But somehow it's okay to go steal an author's work and duplicate it ad infinitum. The rationale seems to be if it's not a physical object, it can't be owned. But that digital object did not spring de novo from the Internet. It is the result of a lot of physical (typing) and intellectual (thinking) effort by a human being.

The looters even pose as writers. A bonehead named David Shields "wants writers to ignore the laws regarding appropriation and create new forms for the 21st century." He said this on the Colbert Report. You've got to see it to believe it.

The gall of this clown. But Colbert was the perfect interviewer. One of his comments was a thing of beauty: "Could I create new forms for the 21st century by ignoring property rights and obliterating my neighbor's front door? Because you know what would look good in my house? Your things." That pretty much sums it up.

If only simple theft were the limit of the looters' greed. Not satisfied with merely stealing the work, they've been duplicating it and reselling it, becoming Wilson's de facto publisher.

But I'm running out of room, and I'm only getting started.

Next time: E-publishing, Part 4: E-looters and the leech mindset.

Repairman Jack is the alter ego of F. PAUL WILSON, an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than 40 novels and many more short stories. His work, spanning horror, adventure, medical thrillers, science fiction, young adult, and virtually everything between, has been translated into 24 languages. Currently he is best known as creator of the urban mercenary Repairman Jack.
http://www.repairmanjack.com / Twitter: @fpaulwilson / Facebook: facebook.com/fpaul.wilson

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