As someone who is working on independently publishing an e-book, piracy is a concern to me. So, I had to take a step back and reflect on where I stand on that issue. Also, as someone who has been torrenting the crap out of the Internet for ages, I kind of need to come clean. But first, you need to watch this video, because everything I could say on this matter has already been said by Neil Gaiman:
Like Mr Gaiman says, when somebody downloads your stuff off the Internet:
It’s not a lost sale. Nobody who would have bought your book is not buying it because they can find it for free.
I’m poor (I’m a writer, dammit). I can’t afford to buy a season of my favorite show on DVD. It’s too expensive. From there, I can choose two roads: either I don’t watch that show at all or I download it illegally. Well, guess what? Financially, it makes no difference to the guys who made it. I would never have bought it anyway; I can’t afford to.
Digital copies are not like real-world items. If I steal an apple from the store (or worse, an iMac from the Apple Store), I deprive the seller of something that can only be replaced at a cost to him. Not only is it a lost sale, it’s also a financial loss. Digital material is nothing like that.
Digital copies are worthless in themselves. They can be replicated an infinite number of times. Picture a supply-and-demand diagram in your mind: infinite supply means zero monetary value. When you buy digital items, you’re not paying for the monetary value of that particular item. You’re a posteriori subsidizing the production of the original material from which the copy was made. It’s like making a donation, nothing more.
Similarly, when you download the copy without paying, you’re just withholding your donation. There can be several reasons for that: either you can’t afford to donate; or you don’t want to, because you don’t like the artist or his production that much; or you want to try it out first. It doesn’t matter: you weren’t going to donate anyway, so it’s not a loss, and you didn’t deprive anyone of anything.
If you’re not convinced that piracy is free advertisement, read this article. People who download music illegally are ten times more likely to buy music than the righteous people who don’t. Why is that? Probably because pirates like music ten times more. Piracy is not just free advertisement, it’s also a love letter from people around the world. Why can’t the industry acknowledge that? So-called illegal downloads are a good thing! It’s time to stop trying to stop Napster, seriously.
As an indie writer/publisher about to launch my first e-book, I can tell you one thing: the day I find out there’s a Spacejet torrent flying around the Internet will be the happiest day of my life. It won’t be a lost sale. It will be a fucking love letter.
tl;dr: Piracy is free advertisement.