The Moral Panic of Piracy

Aug 10, 2012 | Opinions

danger symbolAlright, if you haven’t heard the full story yet, is a small ebook lending site that has been forced offline. It was a very straightforward business model – they let users register, and users listed which ebooks they had that could be lent out to other users once. Then people traded books. It was a bit like a person-to-person lending – you know, like with paper books – that could only be done once. LendInk did not keep copies of the books themselves. It couldn’t.

LendInk was still taken offline by hundreds of lawsuit threats.

Normally I hear this kind of story and assume the worst; that some big media company has taken notice of an up and coming site, and proceeded to lay the smack down in a poor attempt to protect their copyrights. I was wrong in this case. The authors did it, and they did it because someone told someone else that LendInk was a pirate site.

All I can say about this is that I am disappointed. And angry, yes, on behalf of LendInk’s owner, who seems like a nice enough small businessman, but mostly disappointed.

Moral Panic

This is what it is, in a nutshell; a blown-out-of-proportion panic over something so ridiculous that it beggars belief. This is a site that did the same thing as many other sites, that did something completely legit and was trying to make a business from it, and the author response was to run around like the damn sky was falling and then crow about it when the site was taken down! Did none of these people do any kind of reading?!

I probably have a slightly different perspective on this as a long-time computer gamer, in fact. When you’re involved in a medium that’s blamed every other week for all kinds of social ills, you tend to tread a little more carefully and read a little closer when faced with this kind of panic, because you know what it’s like to have all that undeserved anger thrown your way. It’s absolutely undeserved in this case, and the very minimum these authors need to do is APOLOGISE and retract every complaint. Short of that, they deserve every inch of the backlash they’re getting. They brought it on themselves.

It seems that Helen White and Amanda Stork were the main instigators of this insanity, but the blame falls on every name on that list. I will never buy their work, and I hope that, by reposting the list below, their names are known far and wide for this rather than their work.

On the Marketing Connection

I’ve said before that fighting piracy is a fool’s game, and never has it been more obvious than here. Consider, for a moment, what these authors did. Assume that LendInk really was an unrepentant pirate site. They expended a lot of effort, raised a lot of bad feeling, and took… one site offline. Pirates now have only a few thousand options for getting their media for free, instead of a few thousand and one. What have they really accomplished here, then?

This assumes that the site is unrepentant, and obviously pirating their work. What if, like with many sites, there’s a grey area? What if the site is small-time and it’s the users who are uploading the books, which the site is willing to take down as they get requests? Would the authors still have gone after it – and, if so, do they honestly think they’d have gotten nothing but support and sympathy by victimizing a small site owner who makes no profit?

The point, really, is that you had better get your facts in order and make damn sure that you hold the moral high ground before you start sending lawsuit threats. And you never, EVER act in an unreasonable or unprofessional manner. Never display the righteous fury, no matter how much you feel it, because if it all goes south (like it has here) the ones who were screaming the loudest will get the most negative attention.

You need perspective. You need to be rational. If your books are being pirated and you’re not okay with that, then you go through the proper channels in a polite manner. Repeat this, as many times as necessary: the world will not end if some people get your book for free.

The Author List of Shame (Originally compiled by Erik Gjertsen)

  • Robin Helm
  • OG Tomes
  • Buck Stienke
  • Ken Farmer
  • Dawn Sinclair
  • Joyce Godwin Grubbs
  • Tony Riches
  • Rebecca Treadway
  • Lisa Kz
  • Mari Passananti
  • Melody Peugh
  • Stephen Dafoe
  • Karen Kennedy Samoranos
  • Gerry Huntman
  • Rhea Rhodan
  • Kai Starr (Kaichi Satake)
  • Anne Barnhill
  • Vicki Batman
  • James F. Ross
  • Scarlet Hunter
  • Alisha Paige
  • Merris Hawk
  • Cathie Dunn
  • Roscoe James
  • Trish Marie Dawson
  • Mark Patton
  • Sandra Peddle
  • Bill Wilbur
  • Rachel Lyndhurst
  • Melinda Hammond
  • David Naughton-Shires
  • Electa Scott Graham
  • Kate McCormick
  • Seumas Gallacher
  • Juliet Cardin
  • Benita Brown
  • Julie Parker
  • Jenny Woodall
  • Pam Mangol Bitner
  • Liz Ringrose
  • Anne Polhill Walton
  • Lesley Cookman
  • M.m. Bennetts
  • Prue Batten
  • Chrystalla Thoma
  • Karl Jones
  • Anna Jacobs
  • Deborah Gafford
  • Nely Cab
  • Tessa Berkley
  • Nan O’Berry
  • Sharon Cathcart
  • Lauren Gilbert
  • Naty Matos
  • Tory Michaels
  • Cerian Williams Hebert
  • Karen Cino
  • LaVerne Clark
  • Erin Dameron-Hill
  • Kissa Starling
  • Emily Harvale
  • Rosalind Smith-Nazilli
  • Paula Martin
  • Melanie Pearce
  • Jeanette Baird Vaughan
  • Trace Rybarczyk Broyles
  • Trevor Belshaw
  • Pam Howes
  • Deb Harris
  • Gayl Taylor
  • Nanette Del Valle Bradford
  • Ella James
  • Raven McAllan
  • Linda Gillard
  • Virginia McKevitt
  • Morticia Knight
  • Judith Arnopp Novelist
  • Heather Nelson
  • Ruth Watson-Morris
  • Rebecca Rynecki
  • Victoria Pearson Writer
  • Maxi Shelton
  • David J Howe