Those Bastard Pirates – An editorial by Sheila English


The dictionary defines “pirating” as the use or reproduction of another’s work for profit without permission, usually in contravention of patent or copyright.

Pirating an author’s book is both unethical and illegal.  There’s no legitimate argument for pirating a book.  It is stealing.

Pirate with laptop pop art vector illustration


Piracy is not a victimless crime. Whatever story someone tells themselves so they can feel okay about stealing doesn’t make it right. It’s still stealing. And if you do it, you are indeed an unethical person; a thief.
How do you know if it’s pirating?
This is tough for some people.

For example, if you buy a book second hand at a yard sale you know the author won’t get a royalty for it and the publisher won’t know there was a sale. But, there is a calculated acknowledgment that physical books get shared and re-sold. And it’s not against the law to sell a book you lawfully purchased.

Think of your book purchase as a contract. You purchase an item knowing the copyright to it isn’t yours, but the book itself is. You are, in essence, leasing the story for the life of the book. If the book falls apart because you read it so often, you don’t get a replacement unless you buy another book. You’ve used it for the life of that book.

You may purchase the book, but you can’t make photocopies of it and sell it out of your garage. Most people realize this is illegal to do. You can’t copy it because the book is yours, but the story is not. See the difference?

When it comes to electronic books people tend to feel more free to steal them. Who is it hurting? It’s not like someone paid for the paper to print it on.

First, as an aside, it costs money to format a book and turn it into the variety of formats needed for the variety of e-readers out there. There are other associated costs. And I realize there are self-published authors who do it all themselves so perhaps it appears to be easy, but there are additional costs to traditionally published books that have to do with liability, legal issues, etc. that no one really thinks about. The point being, it’s not LESS of a crime to pirate the book just because you feel an ebook is easier to reproduce.

When you purchase an ebook, like a physical book, there’s a contract, or an agreement to it. If you don’t believe that take a look at the inside of the book where the copyright lives and it tells you that you can’t reproduce it. By buying it you agree to the terms within the book. Or, you can always use common sense and common courtesy as your guide as I like to think most of us do.
You have licensed the ebook and it belongs to you. Some licenses allow you to lend the book. But, you can’t reproduce it. That single download, that one ebook, is yours, but the story is not. See the difference? If you really want to give that book to someone so bad that it’s worth compromising ethics and stealing, give them your ereader. Why shouldn’t it cost YOU money instead of the publisher and author? Do you need to share that story so bad? Probably not. So, don’t reproduce it and give it away or sell it.

And, giving it away for free doesn’t make you less of a thief.
Your reason for doing it doesn’t make you less of a thief.
Now, let’s look at what happens when a book is pirated.

Consider that your purchase equals a vote.

When you legally purchase a book you have voted for that author or that story. However, you want to look at it.

The publisher or author sees the book has been voted on when money is received. We see the book is popular. We know people like it because they voted for it. That must mean people want more! So the publisher contracts with the author for more books, or a self-published author realizes that kind of story is what readers want so they write more.

When a book is pirated and stolen the votes don’t count. No one knows the story is loved because the votes aren’t where they should be. So why would a publisher ask an author to write more books if it appears not enough people like the story? The book could be the most beloved book of all time, but if the votes went to pirates and the publisher has no idea it’s popular, the author doesn’t get a contract and the reader doesn’t get a new book.

Maybe that’s okay with people? There are so many authors and so many books. If one stops writing, just read a different one. Think about that. You are destroying the career of someone who brought you joy. What kind of jerk are you?
Now, don’t get your panties in a twist over the use of the word “jerk”. How dare I?!! That’s so mean. “You don’t know my story!” “You don’t know me!” “Who are you to judge?” Yeah, I’ve heard it all before. Your story doesn’t change the fact that stealing is a crime. Steal some food and you could catch my sympathy. But a book? No. You’re a jerk if you steal a book. It’s someone’s livelihood and taking that away can affect an entire family. Your unwillingness to pay for entertainment isn’t worth that.

Piracy rubber stamp

A site selling ebooks that is not a known bookseller site should cause you to take caution. If they are selling a PDF, likely they are a pirate site. If you’re unsure, email the author. Those of you who are steadfast and patient, who take the time and energy to care and report these sites, you’re awesome! Instead of taking the easy way (cheap way) you stood for something. You stood for what’s right. You didn’t let yourself be seduced by quick, easy and cheap because you have ethics, morals, and principles. Report the bastards and celebrate yourself. You’re a hero.


This editorial is by Sheila English

The views and opinions are my own and don’t necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Reader’s Entertainment Magazine.