A Way To End Ebook Piracy?

bigstock-Young-Pirate-Crying-6206101I recently had my most-recent non-fiction book pop up on an illegal file sharing site.  Within a week, it had gotten 500 downloads. Needless to say, I was p*ssed off.

The site (which I won’t mention here) is openly scoff-law because they’re hosted in China. On the site, they’re “if you ask really nicely, maybe we’ll take it down but we don’t have to.”  In other words, they’re typical “information wants to be free” jackasses who are making ad dollars by stealing content.

I was able to force them to take down the link by using a personal contact in China to have a Chinese lawyer send them a cease and desist letter in Chinese. I also got an abject apology from the guys who run the site, which the lawyer thought was appropriate.

However, I can already see that keeping ebooks from being downloaded for free is going to be like playing whack-a-mole.

In any case, it’s clear to me that online piracy of ebooks is destined to grow geometrically as the ebook segment continues to outpace the growth of hard copy publishing.  The increased penetration of PDF-capable readers are only going to make this problem worse, of course.

IMHO, ebook publishing can either follow the path of the music business or the computer gaming business.

As is well-documented, the music business remained in denial, followed by sharp decreases in revenue and profit, the net effect of which was to clobber the mid-range.  The big artists still do well on mp3 sales but the smaller artists limp along, making far less than a decade ago.  And the situation is getting worse with sites like Spotify (which pays artists next to nothing) and the advent of sites that sell “used” licenses for legally-purchased mp3 files.

The computer gaming business, however, has not be impact nearly as much, because they’ve moved to different business models, such as requiring gamers to always access at least some web-based content (Blizzard’s Diablo 3, for instance, will not run even single player with a web connection) and (here’s the important part) through micro-payments for additional content.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

What if ebooks were packaged not as files but as displayable content managed by an app with micropayments for the right to view the content?  The reader NEVER gets an actual (i.e. piratable) file because the content is simply downloaded whenever as the reader attempts to access it.  The content would remain stored on servers belonging to the author (or the publisher.).

The usage scenario would look like this: the reader downloads a free app.  The app has access to the first chapters/sections of many different books.  When a reader “gets into” a book, subsequent chapters are available through micropayments.  The app never downloads a file, but just keeps track of what areas of the server (i.e. chapters) to which the reader has access.

Because the actual amount of data that’s being downloaded at any point is so small, this would work even through a slow cell phone connection.  In addition, the author could (this is a bit weird) actually make changes and improvements on the fly, add background material and alternate endings based on reader suggestions/comments, and update the “ads” at the end for subsequently written books.

A similar model is already being used for travel guides where the content changes frequently, but this is more like the microcontent that’s now a big part of the computer game business.

Anyway, I’m interested what the bloggers and readers on this site think of the idea.  I’ve mentally pounded on the idea for the past few weeks and I think it’s pretty solid.

Let me know what you think.

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29 Comments

  1. On PCs, Alt+Prtscrn copies a frame shot. So if it can be seen on a pc it can be copied. You're tilting at windmills Don Quixote if you think you can keep hackers from pirating anything. Instead you have to make them not want to or to make the public not want to view their sites.

    Spend some time and resources coming up with a way to do that.

    1. Yes, and you can buy a copier and copy a copyrighted book by hand. However, the result is not generally marketable nor does it constitute a threat to the ability to charge money for the original.

  2. I think that it is a poor idea. And Geoffrey don't attack me as you did everybody else, I'm just expressing my opinion. You did ask for opinions after all.

    I think that it is interesting that Diablo 3 was mentioned positively, since it was a spectacular failure. The servers did not work on day 1, and many many players were furious that they could not play their game. They could not play it even if they only wanted to play single player. Problems happen with servers all of the time.

    But even if servers were amazing, I still would like to go to the beach and read. Being tethered to a wifi hotspot is a terrible restriction.

    I don't think that you understand how micro-transactions work in video games. They are to sell you perks that enhance the gameplay experience but are not necessary. Your implementation of paying for access everytime you start is completely different.

    I also have a problem with the idea that you pay everytime you access it. So someone that reads a page or two when they have the chance will pay more than the serious reader that reads a book in one sitting? Why penalize readers for how they read?

    If you mean instead, why not serialize the novel? Well that worked very well in the 19th century and John Scalzi is trying it again. We'll have to wait and see if that works.

    You don't want to do that with a non-fiction book though, one needs to be able to flip back and forth to read, reread and think about different sections and passages as well as look up specific things.

    You would like to see an increase in DRM, but the reality is that the publishing industry is moving in the opposite direction. Rowling offered her books DRM free, and Tor has followed suit. As long as their continues to be no significant dent in revenue, other publishing companies will probably follow suit in time.

    No matter how bulletproof and clever one thinks a DRM scheme is, the pirates are already three steps ahead of you. You can't win. The more inconvenient you make it for what would be paying customers, the more they will turn towards piracy. It's not just about wanting free things (though that is a large part of it).

    And no, being critical of your post does not make me a pirate. I pay for the novels I read.

    1. First, I assume that people don't pirate content unless they explicitly state otherwise.

      I'm not entirely certain Blizzard considers Diablo III a "spectacular failure" since it's the fastest selling PC game of all time and one of the best-selling PC video games of all time.

      In fact, Diablo III is proof that 1) if the content is good enough, consumers may b*tch and moan, but will buy anyway, and 2) that DRM can indeed protect copyrighted content from being widely pirated.

      It is simply not true that pirates can out-think every protection scheme. In addition, there are other "weak spots" in the piracy "system" where pressure could be put to bear in order to make piracy virtually disappear.

      For example, governments might decide, by treaty, that profiting from pirated copies (i.e. by selling advertising on sites that offer pirated copy, or selling the pirated copies in media format) is to be considered international grand theft, with uniform penalties of mandatory prison time, fines comparable the money stolen, and confiscation of all computer equipment involved in the theft.

      Bingo! 99% of the pirate copies of everything become unavailable and jerks like Kim Dotcom end up where they belong, penniless and in prison, rather than in mansions with hookers.

      Putting that dream scenario aside, I think you're overstating the amount of inconvenience that would be involved in the scheme I'm proposing.

      As for access on the beach, if you're within reach of a cell signal, this would work because we're not talking about a great deal of data. There are very few places on earth where you can't get a cell signal of some kind and within a few years every plane will have wireless connectivity. So the "not being able to read it because no network" objection is rapidly becoming irrelevant.

      The caching could be implemented so that it's invisible to the reader and even to the reader's advantage.

      For example, suppose buy the ebook for $10, which becomes a potential charge to your iTune account. If you read 1 page and think "this is dreck" and delete the book, you actually get charged $.001 (a tenth of a cent) of the potential $10. If you read 1/2 of the book and get irritated because, say, Princess Moonbeam was killed and you decide not to read the rest, you get charged $5. If you read chapters 1-7, skip 8, and read 9-10, you pay $9. You only pay the full $10 if you access the entire book.

      I have at least a dozen half-read ebooks in my iDevices for which I paid full price. It would actually be MORE convenient for me if I had only been charged a partial amount.

      If a book has "extra background on Princess Moonbeam" or "artist's rendition of Prince Starlight in a speedo" or "video of author talking about his weird ideas," those could be assessed as explicit microcharges, which would be charged only if you read the entire book (thereby eating up the original $10) but simply tacked onto the $5 that you paid when you decided not to finish the book.

      The idea is not complicated or user-unfriendly. It's more like pre-paid calling cards. For example, it could also be offered as "blocks" of say 100,000 pages (of any book in the system) for $100. Pay once, read free for the rest of the year.

      Finally, as for my "attacking" people, I unleashed the full force of my sarcasm and irritation on one person who was stupid enough to leave a comment on an author's blog stating that 1) he was a content thief (but didn't consider himself one) and 2) that he was doing something salutory and helpful by stealing content.

      When authors and professional writer treat that viewpoint as acceptible, they're helping to create the conditions under which piracy becomes considered either a trivial crime or (worse) something that's actually a positive good (as in that "information wants to be free" horse manure.)

      I'm at a state in my life and career as a writer where I lack the patience to put up with that kind of nonsense.

      So here's what I think: piracy is petty theft, pirates are cheapsakes, pirate bay site owners are leeches, and politicians who daren't enact strict anti-piracy laws because they're afraid of hackers are spineless worms.

      1. Geoffrey, because I was remiss in doing so already, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to work up a considered plan and proposal, even if it seems we all disagree with it.

        On the topic of civility, note I am not a moderator here, so feel free to discard my advice and henceforth label me a prude or fool (no doubt guilty of the latter). Also note that I am not trying to specifically single you out, we could all probably do a better job at being friendly. However, do consider this, there will be people with seemingly polar opinions on matters of ethics which might appear black and white, and they will feel as strongly about being right as you feel about them being wrong. They will make arguments that seem so false, that one has to use some self-control before responding. There are, in fact, some topics in the political and religious realms that are so incendiary, I don't even want to mention them here. And when people get to discussing those topics they often engage in using labels which have a judgmental tone (thief, murderer, racist, etc…), but which seem perfectly valid labels if you are certain you are on the right side of the issue. When both sides engage in this sort of discourse, the discussion becomes unproductive or even counterproductive. That does not mean that discussions of heated topics can't be civil and potentially beneficial. Consider that family and friends may be on polar sides of a hot-button topic, but refrain from more hurtful language. Granted, not everyone is able to exercise the self-restraint necessary to hold back, but we, as individuals, can make the choice to treat other's opinions with respect even if we know beyond all doubt that the other person is wrong and in possession of a one-way ticket to prison or hell or whatever.

        1. Your point would be well taken if we were dealing with matters of opinion, like religion and politics. If you notice, when it comes to the merits of the idea, I've been quite dispassionate (e.g. responding to the statement that Diablo III was a failure by pointing out the fact that it was actually a huge success.)

          However, when we're talking about the copying and distribution of copyrighted material, there are no "two sides to the story." Such activity IS illegal (fact) and constitutes the involuntary transfer of monetary value from one person to another (fact). This is a textbook definition of theft, and the person who commits such an act is a thief. Applying the term to somebody who commits that act is not even an insult; it's simply an observation.

          The absurd notion that copyright theft isn't theft is not an opinion to be respected. On the contrary, it's either a misconception that deserves ridicule (if the holder of the notion refuses to be corrected) or a falsehood that deserves scorn.

          Believe me, if I wanted to be insulting, I could come up with something much more colorful than this tepid stuff.

          1. I am decidedly of the opinion that your underlying position on copyright is correct. However, what is illegal is inherently a question of politics. What is illegal one year may not be illegal the next. I know people who are fervently of the political opinion that there should be no such thing as property rights of any sort. I disagree with them, strongly, but I remain respectful in debating the issue. If they were to steal from me claiming that property rights were nonsense, I might prosecute as is my right under the law. But also note that during the court proceedings the judge would require that I remain civil toward the defendant. Repeated failure to observe civility, say by calling him a thief or stupid, would earn me a contempt of court citation with a fine or maybe imprisonment. It doesn't matter if my words were true. I’ll grant you that in general, our society does not often seem to be very civil. But just as I feel it is right to respect copyright, I feel it is also right to be civil.

            But now I think I am becoming a nag and causing us to veer off topic – sorry. You can have the last word. I enjoyed your piece anyway and look forward to more of your stimulating blogs in the future.

  3. Speaking as an ebook writer as well as reader, I think that there are simply too many problems with your proposal, starting with the obvious – it limits what the user can do with the product more than anyone would consider acceptable. I read my ebook material on the plane – I couldn't with your idea. The internet connection here sucks – I wouldn't be able to read purchased material. The bookseller goes bust or blames me for something – I lose the books.

    At best, your idea is a very limited lending library. I might consider it if I wanted to consult something, but not for anything I wanted permanently – and you would have to lower the costs considerably.

    When you buy anything, you have complete control over it – you can read a book in the bath or burn it, if you want. Your plan would involve me effectively renting the book … and not even being allowed as much freedom as I would have with a library book.

    Ebook piracy is a nuisance, but this solution is worse.

    Chris

  4. I read this elsewhere on the site, "…keep the site focused, professional and family friendly"

    I think that would cover both civility and language.

    And for the record, I am a creativist, and flat out refuse to believe that we evolved from ad hominems.

  5. Most depressing post I've seen here.

    The way to end piracy is to make it more painful for legit readers? WTF?

    1) Stop fighting piracy, no matter the law. No matter the restriction, someone, somewhere is always going to break it. Some people just like that kind of thing.

    2) Hurting your real customers in an effort to stop those who ARE NOT your customers just hurts you. Hi you can have this book if you submit to an anal probe. Fuck that, I'll just pirate it, less painful.

    3) If you really want to succeed, find new ways to connect with fans, and make profit. See Amanda Palmer's Kickstarter project.

    You have to trust in your fans, and the people who support you, and stop focusing on those who don't. Because they never will. And all you're doing is pushing your fans into no longer supporting you, because you treated them like criminals.

    1. From a practical perspective you may be right. Even so, I think it's important to point out that downloading an unauthorized copy of a work hurts the author. Unfortunately, there are plenty of mentally and morally-challenged people who think otherwise.

      1. As a highly pirated author, one would think that I'm opposed to it…and I am. But I've also learned to come to grips with the fact that there are things you can control, and those you cannot. I'm in the "obscurity" is the bigger problem than "piracy" camp. In many ways the fact that you created something that people want to pirate says something about the quality of your work.

        Piracy doesn't in fact hurt the author, but it does provide a benefit to the pirate. They get "something for nothing" and as a person who values my own work, and the work of others, I don't condone such an arrangement. The best thing you can do is think of it as word-of-mouth advertising and do your best to write something so good that even a pirate will end up buying your book because they enjoyed it so much.

  6. It won't work. Nothing will. Sure video game companies have made it 'more difficult' but hardly impossible and pirates are more than willing to take the extra few steps. The truth is that books, in .txt and .pdf format have been available for longer than .mp3s have. When you make it "more difficult" to pirate items what usually happens is you irritate and inconvenience those who are trying to play by the rules while having no impact at all on piracy.

    The only solution that I've come up with that would work is to create a system that allows creators to be paid when someone downloads a product, even if it is downloaded from the Pirate Bay. It's actually pretty easy. First you create an online copyright office and supply a unique ID tag to each file, then you add a fee (say $10 / month) to individuals internet bills. You monitor downloads with an eye to those ID tags and then pay creators based on the downloads of their material.

    It is not a perfect system, some people will download far more than $10 and some far less. It also wouldn't allow creators to set prices, they would just get a portion of the pool based on the popularity of their work but in terms of internet culture there would be no reason for individuals not to participate. The Pirate Bay, for example, could make available the "official" file so that the artist gets paid. The Pirate Bay could still sell ads but there would be no way for them to access the internet fees.

    A bit off topic but all of this is a temporary situation anyway – over the next few decades 3D printing and other technologies are going to dramatically change the world, the way economies work and the way it does business. That is a whole other matter though.

    1. Canada had something similar for decades. We have a blank media tax which is levied on all blank CDs, DVDs, the now obsolete cassette tape. At one point, the government was going to levy this tax on hard drives and iPods, until they saw reason. The proceeds of this tax is supposed to go to music artists to compensate them for piracy. Unfortunately, the government trusts the CRIAA to disburse these funds. You may not have heard, but the CRIAA was sued for $12 billion dollars by a large group of musicians for the CRIAA's failure to pay royalties owed them, including their share of the blank media tax.

      While your idea is great in theory, and ideally it should work, but who is responsible for distributing the compensation to the artists? Can we gust organizations we already know to be corrupt?

      The 3D printing revolution will have the same impact on physical manufacturing as digital piracy is having today. The business model based on artificial scarcity is doomed.

      1. I certainly don't trust CRIAA ( or any other industry or trade group). That is what the unique ID is for. Presumably this would all be transparent. The number of downloads would be published somewhere, as would the size of the pool for that month so an author could, if they felt so inclined, punch in the numbers and double check that they were being honestly compensated.

      2. Oh and as for 3D printing – as I understand it anyway in the Star Trek universe the rise of replicators is, in part, what lead to the elimination of currency : What point is there in accumulating material goods if you can just push a few buttons and create anything you like?

        Sure, 3D printing is new and fairly crude right now but look at the progress that personal computers or mobile phones have made since 1980? There was an article earlier this week that said that scientists had already used 3D printers with embryonic stem cells and hoped to, very soon, be able to print organs and tissue for transplants – something that even the Star Trek folks never thought of.

        So yes, it could wipe out manufacturing, shipping, wholesale and retail – just as a warm up.

        1. Ya know, I've had the Star Trek discussion several times. I think the more apt analogy would be the use of a transporter to steal things. Does the fact that it would be possible for me to beam into Captain Picard's quarters, steal an original Picasso and beam back out make it "okay" to do so?

  7. This would be no different than DRM: a pain in the ass for the paying customers while doing nothing to deter piracy. The thing is, if the app has acces to content on the server, it can also download it. I`m guessing it would take no more than a few weeks until someone would hack this app, to make it possible to download the content from the server and share it. Furthermore, you need to be constantly connected to the Internet to read a damn book?! Also, imagine starting a new chapter and getting the message: 'This server seems to be down, please try again later'. If anything, this would encourage more people to pirate books.

    1. Well, most of today's servers farms are up pretty much up and running 365/24/7, to the extent that when a big site goes down for a couple of hours it's nationally-reported news. From a practical viewpoint, though, trying to control the unauthorized downloading may be impossible.

      Even so, as somebody who makes a living and supports a family by writing, I at least reserve the right to tell people who attempt to justify stealing my work that they're low-life thieves.

      When I think about issues like this, I think about Jack Vance. He spent his life writing some of the most entertaining books ever written. He is nearly 100 years old. He's blind and can't write any longer.

      Even so, as you read this, there's probably somebody downloading an unauthorized copy of "The Dying Earth" and telling himself "ooh, I would never read this if I had to PAY for it."

      That's bullsh*t and in his heart of hearts, the downloader knows it.

      How anybody can justify stealing from a blind old man completely astounds me.

  8. As mentioned, I haven’t spent a lot of time on this, but I still see a major difference. Extra game content is one thing, but do I really want to read a work in progress? Or, do I want to read what amounts to a Choose Your Own Adventure novel? Additionally, if I don’t have the whole work in hand when I am on chapter 14, how do I go back to refresh my memory of some event that happened in chapter 2? And as a writer, do I want to have to constantly revise older works in order to keep thieves from acquiring the final version? I am not one to steal digital content, never have, never will, so I must point out that it can get annoying to have to deal with hassles designed to stop thieves. One begins to suspect that the only people inconvenienced are the honest people.

    1. Well, I was more thinking of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" than "Choose Your Own Adventure." Or maybe building out a story with additional content related to existing content. Or maybe commentaries on what the writer was thinking at such and such a point. As for having to constantly revise older works to prevent piracy… that's probably easier than writing something new to replace the lost income.

      I'm not sure it would be all much less convenient; I guess it depends on how much is loaded into the cache at one time. The refresh your memory rereading would work perfectly, as long as you had connectivity, because your device would be able to redownload it as necessary. And we're talking about such a small amount of data, even a lousy cell signal would be more than sufficient.

      There is, of course, another option, which is to have governments enact and enforce strict laws against profiting from piracy. Don't go after the people who download copies, go after the companies that sell advertising or make other revenue based upon the availability of free content.

      When it comes to the theft of content, I like to quote my very favorite author, Jack Vance:

      "We…are highly sensitive to theft, which stabs at our very essence. To steal is to acquire goods by a simple, informal, and inexpensive process. To buy identical goods is tedious, irksome and costly. Is in any wonder that larceny is popular." (The Faceless Man)

      And as for the penalties for theft, I'll quote Vance again:

      "Property and life are not incommensurable, when property is measured in terms of human toil. Essentially property is life; it is that proportion of life which an individual has expended to gain the property. When a thief steals property, he steals life. Each act of pillage therefore becomes a small murder… I am tolerant of human weakness, and I would no react vigorously to the theft of a day. I would resent the theft of a week; I would kill the thief who stole a year of my life." (Ibid)

  9. Games that require a persistent Internet connection are a terrible idea. I refused to buy Diablo III for that very reason. Why should I be required to be online when I am playing in single player mode? What about those pole who have spotty or no Internet connection?

    Micro payments for content is a horrible idea as well. Why should I be forced to purchase additional content for a game I already own? Expansions or large amounts of content, sure, but to be able to play a game at full potential I am required to shell out more money? No thanks.

    For ebooks these ideas are not just bad, they are egregiously bad. When I buy a book, I expect it to be my property, not something that can be removed at the whim of Amazon. Always on Internet connection required to be able to read your book? No thanks. I read ebooks on my iPad, and if I don't have an Internet connection I cannot access content I have paid for. Count me out.

    Micro payments via yet another piece of software to read your book? No thanks. I want all of my content on a single device, accessible by a single application. You say that the software never actually downloads the whole book. So I don't actually own what I am paying for do I? And yet again it requires a persistent Internet connection to access my content. What happens I I travel to a foreign country or vacation somewhere with no network? Not only do I not have the content I have paid for, there is no way for me to get it.

    I can think of no better way to promote the piracy of your books than such requirements. The main motivating factors of piracy are restrictive measures such as region encoding, DRM, and overpricing. Once these measures are removed, the majority of piracy disappears. Music piracy was rampant in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Once the digital music sellers forced the music industry to lower prices, offer higher quality product, and remove DRM, digital music sales soared and music piracy crashed. The IP most pirated now is film, a medium that retains its restrictive measures.

    Piracy is never going to go away. Get used to it. Every independent study shows that the majority of those who pirate buy more media than those who don't pirate. These studies also show that piracy declines when the product is provided in a format that can be manipulated by its owners (such as being able to transfer to different devices) and when it is offered at a price buyers find reasonable, and when they feel that they own what they have purchased. Ebooks simply do not have the perceived value of physical books by their very nature. Selling one for the same price as a hardcover is not going to net you a bunch of sales. DRM, and the ability for a publisher to remove what you've bought from your device to not imply ownership.

    Like it or not, Amazon has convinced the ebook buyers that th average price for an ebook is under $10.00. You might get a few more dollars out of it for authors in particular demand, or very high quality publications, but not much more. Until the price of ebooks meets the perceived value, ebooks will continue to be pirated heavily. Measures like DRM, and those you have proposed above will only encourage piracy if only out of spite.

    People continually overestimate the effect of digital piracy on the market. The music industry is making more money now than the glory days of the CD. The movie industry continues to make billions of dollars despite their claim that piracy is killing Hollywood. The publishing industry is benefiting from the rise of ebooks and will only continue to do so, especially now that many major publishers are dropping DRM. I am sure that you are old enough to remember "home taping is killing music" and "the VCR is worse than the Boston Strangler". If you're not, look those up. The world has changed and the traditional business model of artificial scarcity is in its last days.

    Not ever pirated book is a lost sale. Chances are they wouldn't have bought it anyway. If the pirate likes what you've written, you have a better than even chance that they will buy a legitimate copy. There are several music bands whose work I would not have bought, let alone heard of, if they hadn't been pirated. And pirates are not all as common as the news media or he IP industries like to make out. Yes, it is easy, and easier than it used to be, but it is nowhere near as easy as clicking a button to buy a song for 99 cents.

    1. Apparently, you lack an understanding of the basic concept of property. "Why I buy a book, I expect it to be my property" illustrates your ignorance. When you buy a physical book, you own the paper, the ink, the cardboard and the glue. You do NOT own the contents because they are protected by copyright. The contents are own by somebody else–the copyright holder. If you make an unauthorized copy of those contents (other than under the "fair use" exception), you are stealing and you are a thief, plain and simple.

      If I own some content, it is MY decision how much I wish to charge for whatever rights I want to grant to somebody else. It's exactly like owning a piece of land. I may decide that I want to rent out my shack on that property for $1 million a second. That's MY decision. You get to decide whether or not you're going to pay. If you don't want to pay what I want to charge, you can go elsewhere.

      In exactly the same way, if I want to charge you $1 million per word for my 500,000 word trilogy, that's MY decision. If you don't like it, read something else. Let me make it simple for you. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO PAY WHAT A COPYRIGHT OWNER CHARGES FOR THE CONTENT THAT HE OWNS, GO READ SOMETHING ELSE THAT'S OFFERED FOR FREE.

      Your statement that DRM, encoding and overpricing create piracy is, frankly, idiotic. What causes piracy is a combination of 1) it's possible and 2) people who are too cheap to pay what's asked for the content they want to consume, 3) the reluctance of governments to enact and enforce anti-piracy laws.

      The subsequent buying habits of the consumers of pirated content (including you) is completley irrelevant. Whether something should be offered for free (in order to spark interest) is the decision of the copyright holder, not some jackass who sits in his basement and decides that something he wants is too expensive.

      Your statements about the music industry reveal a complete lack of understanding of what happened and how piracy has killed the ability of mid-range musicians to make money. By your own admission, you are a petty thief, no better than somebody who goes up to a struggling musician or author and picks a dollar out of her pocket.

      Get some morals, dude.

      1. Obviously you are overly sensitive and incapable of understanding anything I have written. Study after study supports my arguments. And those songs I "stole" convinced me to purchase that artist's entire catalogue directly from the artist's website, bypassing RIAA and other retailers resulting in hundreds of dollars in that mid-range musician's pocket.

        And you don't seem to be able to understand that a download is not:

        1) stealing. It simply isn't theft. The fact that you so vociferously claim it is does not make it so.

        2) a lost sale. It simply isn't. Just because someone downloads your book doesn't mean that they would have bought it, it doesn't even mean they will read it. Do you really think that you would have a better chance of selling your work in a bookstore (digital or physical) packed with thousands of other books? Do you think you should be paid for every book of yours that remains unread and unsold? If your work is worth buying, it will be bought, and the majority of people who pirate will do just that; after they see if it's worth spending money on.

        I remember exactly what happened with piracy's impact on the music industry because I was there. I have been involved with consumer rights, digital property issues and online piracy from pretty much the beginning all the way back when RIAA was suing kids for taping "Hungry Like the Wolf" off of the radio.

        And yes, when I purchase a book, physical or digital, I own it. Your copyright only gives you a monopoly on the intellectual property, not the format in which it is delivered to me. That copy, physical or otherwise is mine. You seem to think that you have some control or right over that copy. You do not. I am deprived of my property, for which you have already been fairly compensated, when I cannot access your hypothetical server. DRM does a similar thing. Why should I not be able to read a book I gave purchased on what ever device I choose? Would you demand that a physical book be read only in a particular chair but not on the beach? That is what your scheme is saying.

        Yes, some people will download simply because they don't want to pay. Many more download because they have no easy access to the media they would legitimately buy, but cannot for any number of reasons. Including region encoding, rights disputes and market vagaries. A great many more download to see if they like the content before they spend their money on it. Get it into your head: pirates buy more music, movies and ebooks than non-pirates per capita.

        Buying habits are the whole point. The market, distribution and business model has changed and continues to do so. You are a buggy whip maker in the age of the automobile. Embrace it or become irrelevant.

        As for all the ad hominem attacks, implied and explicit, shove it. If this is the level of discourse we can expect from authors here, Steve's project is doomed.

        1. Just as you clearly do not understand the concept of copyright, you do not understand the concept of an "ad hominem" attack. That would be if I tried to argue against your viewpoint based upon who you are, such as: "you don't have a university degree therefore your opinion is invalid." There's not the slightest amount of "ad hominem" in my response to your comment.

          When you stated that you had downloaded an unauthorized copy of a copyrighted work, you self-identified yourself as an intellectual property thief, so I think it's a bit ingenuous to complain when I'm simply pointing out the factual term that's generally attached to somebody who steals something.

          While it's true you may own a copy of a copyrighted work, you do not have the right to make copies of it, regardless of whether it's in hardcopy or digital format. (That's why it's called a "copy-right," get it?) If you make a copy of a copyrighted work, you have broken the law. You may think that law is stupid or unreasonable or unenforceable, but that's irrelevant.

          As for your contention that "it's okay to make an authorized copy because I wouldn't have bought it anyway," that makes about as much sense as saying "it's okay to drive somebody else's car to get someplace because if I had to pay a rental fee, I would have stayed home."

          BTW, iTunes lets you download sample text so you can figure out whether you want to buy the book. I'm surprised you haven't noticed this, since it's a freakin' button ON EVERY BOOK DESCRIPTION PAGE.

          Also, just in case it slipped your notice, there are plenty of free books on the Internet that are either in the public domain, not copyrightable, or where the copyright holders have decided to offer their content for free.

          Just look around a bit; try Google. I'm sure you can find something to download and read doesn't entail stealing.

          Here's the thing. Whether or not a work should be offered for free is not your decision to make. Yes, you can sell or give away the printed copy you purchased, but that's not the same thing as making an unauthorized copy. If the copy is digital, your rights of resale may be further limited by whatever user contract you may have signed. These are the facts, whether you like them or not.

          The right to create a copy of a book belongs to the copyright holder–period–until such time as that book goes into public domain. If the copyright holder decides to sell limited rights (e.g. DRM) to their intellectual property, it's the copyright holder's decision. Not yours. If you don't like it, you can read something else.

          Or you can commit petty theft by downloading a free copy, which is apparently your "buying habit."

          As for the impact of free downloading on the music business, I suggest you read this:
          http://www.dailyfinance.com/2012/07/05/the-high-p

  10. I think there is something inherently different in video games. Their interactivity makes them more of a hassle to steal and makes it easier for creators to develop protection schemes. Stealing static material is so much easier. Will the text appear on a screen? If so, it would be easy enough to do a screen capture and run optical character recognition software on it. This is only one of many ways that thieves could get hold of the text for redistribution. Personally, I’m not too keen on making micro payments to keep reading a story. I’m happy just buying the hard copy, but maybe I’m just old. In any case, I know there are quite a few people who have been debating and exploring this issue and have put much more thought into it than I have. Not be too discouraging, but for my two cents, I don’t see this plan doing much to stop piracy.

    1. Yes, video games are more complex to pirate, but hardly difficult. That's why the game companies use this method to protect against it. And, of course, the method you're talking about to steal book content works exactly the same with a printed book. OCR does NOT create an accurate copy anyway. The main thing is to make it difficult to pirate the material. Also, this would allow the author to update and change the content over time, thereby making illegal copies obsolete.

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