When You Steal a Book From an Author

Aug. 11th, 2017 12:26 am
[syndicated profile] naturalwonder_feed

Posted by lupa

So yet another admin of a Facebook group has decided that copyright doesn’t apply to them; a particular group has over 2000 pdfs of pagan books, including a LOT that are still under copyright. I mean, for pity’s sake, some of them even have “no-drm” in the file name, denoting that someone originally knew that book had digital rights management software attached to it, which means DON’T STEAL IT. My publisher for my books that are affects is already dealing with the DMCA takedowns, so I am here being unhappy that in 2017 this sort of thing is still happening.

Let me tell you something: when I write a book, I put literally hundreds of hours of my time into writing, editing and research, and that’s before the manuscript even goes to the publisher. If I’m self-publishing, I put in even more time with re-editing, proofreading, layout and interior design, book cover layout and design, file preparation, marketing and promotion and, of course, direct sales. The Tarot of Bones deck and book? Easily has a four-digit number of hours attached to it, and still counting since I am the sole distributor and marketer for it.

And unless I’m fortunate enough to get an advance from a publisher or have a successful crowdfunding campaign for a self-published project, I’m doing all this up-front work unpaid. Once I do get paid, tallying up the royalties and the income against the expenses? I’m not even making minimum wage. We authors have to play the long game, hoping that our books stay in print long enough to keep selling enough copies to maybe break even. I don’t know of a single pagan author who makes a living solely on book sales. Everyone has either a side hustle or a day job–or both.

Just because you legitimately bought a copy of the book doesn’t entitle you to ignore copyright. People who pirate have this idea that sharing ebooks is exactly the same as loaning a hardcopy version to a friend, or making photocopies of a few pages and giving them to a handful of students. Wake-up call, chum: sharing ebooks is not the same as passing a paperback around your coven. It can take months for that one paperback to work its way around thirteen people (longer if one of them “just needs a little more time, honestly!”) An ebook posted in a Facebook group, on the other hand, is going to hundreds, if not thousands, of people who can access it instantly.

It’s also not the same as getting a book from a library. Your average library book is only going to get checked out a dozen or so times a year, maybe a little more or less. Again, this is nowhere near the same as sending the PDF to thousands of people at once. Nor is that PDF the same as someone buying a secondhand copy at a thrift store; again, it can only go so far, so quickly. Sure, maybe a few of those people who read the pirated PDF might buy a new copy of the book, but the vast majority won’t. I’ve had my books pirated before, and if those people were all buying paperbacks from me I’d have a hell of a lot more money.

If I wanted people to be able to have access to a work that I put hundreds of hours of effort into free of charge, I would have released it into the wild myself, not chosen to enter it into an arrangement where I get an agreed-upon amount of compensation for it. So when some entitled individual decides that they have the right to ignore copyright and post entire PDFs online without my and/or the publisher’s permission, you know what that person is saying?

They’re saying that copyright doesn’t apply to them. They’re saying they are above the law. Sorry, but there is no way to legally justify sharing the ENTIRE book without permission. Fair use applies to a few hundred words, that’s it. “Educational use” is only within certain educational establishments, and again is piece and part, not the whole damned thing. Sharing a bunch of PDFs to random strangers on Facebook? Sorry, your educational defense doesn’t work.

They’re saying that I don’t deserve to decide how I will disseminate the book that I put hundreds of hours of work into. They’re saying “Fuck you, I don’t care what you want, and I don’t care how much work you put into this, because what I want is more important.” They ignore my choice to go through a publisher or to self-publish or to otherwise decide how to share what I’ve created.

They’re saying they don’t think my work is worth what I say it’s worth. When you give away an ebook of my work for free to thousands of people without permission, you are ignoring the price that I or my publisher put on that work. Again, few people who read the free version will actually buy the book after because they’re already got what they want, and all of that is lost potential customers. Which also means…

They’re saying that they don’t care whether I can afford to keep writing or not. As I said, I don’t make that much money off my books, certainly not enough to pay all my bills. A good month is one in which sales might pay one or two bills, or buy me some groceries. I have to do a lot of other things to make sure I can stay afloat. And at this level, the loss in revenue from lost book sales due to pirating hurts. Any pagan business owner, whether author or artist or shop owner, can tell you that the margin between paying the bills and not is pretty damned slim, so whether it’s piracy or shoplifting, theft makes it harder to get through each month.

They’re saying they’re entitled to my work. If you don’t respect my ability to be compensated for my work, but you think you should have access to it no matter what, you’re being entitled as all fuck. You wouldn’t expect your mechanic or your accountant or yourself to work free of charge. But somehow authors and other creatives are expected to create for free, and when we complain about theft we’re told we’re the ones in the wrong.

The sad thing is, there are people who will still feel that they have every justification for pirating books, whether pagan or otherwise. They’ll come up with excuses as to why they should be the exception. And they’ll keep wallowing in their ignorance and entitlement.

So as a way to counter that just a little, here’s my little bread and butter speech:

Consider supporting this self-employed author and artist by buying my books, or checking out my Etsy shop, or purchasing the Tarot of Bones! You can also get exclusive content, art in the mail, and more by being my Patron on Patreon! Thank you 🙂

[syndicated profile] naturalwonder_feed

Posted by lupa

Note: This article was first posted over at my now-defunct Patheos blog. Due to contractual disagreements, which included them refusing to remove my posts from their site after repeated requests, I am moving some of my writing over here. Please link to this version of the article rather than the Patheos one. Thank you!

Ah, mid-August, how I love thee. It’s the height of summer here in the U.S., with barbecues and campouts and calling the air conditioning repair company because the HVAC is down again. My garden is overflowing with fresh produce and I have no idea how we’re going to eat all this kale, but I’m going to make it work. And all the kiddies are trying to squeeze the last remnants of summer vacation out before having to go back to school. Even the stores are getting in on the act, with shelves and displays full of backpacks and pencils and all that other stuff on the school supply list that just arrived in the mail.

Of course, the back to school displays have been up since the fifth of July. But soon enough (probably just after Labor Day) it’ll be time shopping for Halloween, or so the chain stores say. (Sure, it’s a little early to be talking about this, but I have to beat the stores to the punch!) You can expect endless lines of green-faced witches, styrofoam tombstones, little plastic cauldrons, and strings of Christmas-style lights with translucent smiling skulls and ghosts. Right on cue, the feeds on my social media profiles–Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter–will be full of squealing pagans all excited about “Look at all this Halloween stuff I got from Michael’s for just twenty bucks! They had a sale!” and “I got this cute gargoyle statue with red LED eyes at Wal-mart!” (In fact, I’ve already seen a few posts–apparently Michael’s already has their Halloween stuff out. Yikes.)

Most of the time I just hold my tongue and cringe. The very same pagans who have been reblogging and sharing calls to action about fracking in Canada and human rights abuses in Gaza are proudly displaying cheap, chintzy tchotchkes that are the products of environmental degradation and slave labor. It’s a peculiar sort of cognitive dissonance driven by materialism and rampant consumerism without reflection. It would be one thing if there were no alternative options, or if it were over something necessary to life like access to food or water, or even something educational like books. No, these cheap, mass-produced items (only slightly different from the ones offered last year) are purely luxuries, and not even luxuries in the traditional sense of actually being worth something.

Check out this festive oil spill!

And they come out of a well of toxicity. Those cute plastic window decals are derived from the petroleum industry, which severely damages the environment throughout the entire process of harvesting, processing, and using oil. Fossil fuels are also implicated in a whole host of human rights abuses. That cheap metal candle holder with the flying witch cut out? It was made from metals that were probably unsustainably mined, producing countless toxins and destroying nearby waterways and habitats.

These materials are then turned into purely decorative items, usually by poorly paid and abused slave labor in China and elsewhere. In 2012, an Oregon woman bought a set of Halloween decorations from K-Mart. Inside it was a letter written by one of the workers, detailing the horrible conditions at the factory. It is almost certain that this year’s shiny new decorations from Michael’s and the like are made by similarly abused workers.

And what’s it take to get all these trinkets from China to the United States? Generally they’re sent by giant freight ships across the Pacific Ocean, ships which create a massive amount of pollution and devastate wildlife and marine plantsthe noise from these ships also interferes with whales’ ability to communicate with each other, particularly as the sound is often on the same frequency that the whales use.

How else can these big box chain stores sell you their tacky items at low, low prices except through abuses to the environment and our fellow human beings? When you get to pay $5.99 for a packet of paper plates with smiling black cats on them, or get a buy one get one free pair of resin skeleton candle holders, you’re not paying the full price for these things. Other living beings are your coupons, and future generations of humans and other living beings will be paying the price for your purchase for decades, if not centuries, to come.

The sad thing is, there are plenty of alternatives to the crap you’ll find on the big box shelves, and yet millions of people convince themselves they just have to have these useless, toxic items, to include people who claim they venerate nature and believe all people should be treated equally and humanely. It would be one thing if we were talking about something necessary to human existence, like food or water access, or if these were carefully hand-crafted pieces bought directly from the artist. But we’re compromising the environment and each other over things nobody actually needs, and which can be easily replaced by better options.

Want to break the cycle of damaging consumerism? Make your own decorations and costumes using recycled and reclaimed materials, and invite your friends and family to get in on it. Here’s one set of tutorials, and here’s another, and some more over here, and those are just three of the first links that popped up when I Googled “how to make Halloween decorations with recycled materials”. If you want to get really artsy about it, try sculpting your own scary skeletons and witches out of recycled paper mache instead of buying the resin ones from the chain stores.

If you don’t feel you’re artistic enough, consider going through Etsy* or other avenues to patronize artists who make holiday wares. You can ask them about where their materials come from, request custom work, and you’ll be giving money to an individual person, not a nameless corporation. Chances are whatever they make will be better constructed than the cheaply made offerings at the stores, and so will last much longer. It may be more of a financial investment in the beginning, but it pays off in the long run.

Remember, too, that Halloween (Samhain) was originally a harvest festival, and many pagans still celebrate it as such today. This means that edibles like squash, sugar pumpkins and apples all make great decorations. You may also be able to find corn stalks from local farmers, and fall leaves are always abundant wherever deciduous trees grow. Once Halloween is over, you can eat the vegetables and fruit, and compost the rest.

If you absolutely must decorate your home in poor-quality, mass-produced Halloween kitsch, consider checking out Goodwill and other thrift stores in your area. Plenty of people offload their old holiday decorations when they move or clean house, and every year I see aisles full of perfectly serviceable secondhand Halloween items available for cheap. A lot of it will end up thrown out because there’s just too much to go around, and too many people insist on heading to Target to buy brand new costumes and decor (most of which will probably end up tossed, or donated and then tossed, in a few years). If for whatever reason you’d be horrified if your friends knew you went thrift shopping *gasp*, you don’t have to tell them the truth of where that inflatable vampire came from. Just tell them you bought it at the Halloween Superstore a few years ago.

Halloween can still be full of fun decorations and playful costumes, and those of you so inclined can still make your home look like October year-round. But with a little care and consideration, we can make this year’s Halloween better for the entire planet, and take some power away from the truly scary monsters that we face in our world today.

* Please be aware that Etsy now allows mass-produced items. You may have to be a little careful in shopping there. Generally speaking, if it’s cheap, it’s probably mass produced.

Did you enjoy this read? Consider supporting this self-employed author and artist by buying my books, or checking out my Etsy shop, or purchasing the Tarot of Bones! You can also get exclusive content, art in the mail, and more by being my Patron on Patreon!

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Nonny Blackthorne

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