State Sponsored Piracy

Yesterday there was a bit of a dust up in UK social media on the subject of book piracy. As you doubtless know, all Wizard’s Tower books are DRM-free, and are available for sale all over the world. Aside from currency conversion charges, which are usually only a few cents, the books are easily available to everyone at the same price. I think this is the best way to encourage people to buy the books rather that get them for free from pirates, while accepting that piracy is inevitable, and understanding that some people genuinely can’t afford to pay the prices I charge.

Big publishers don’t see things the same way. At the recent Digital Book World conference someone said:

DRM and geolocating are crucial in pricing, so that lower priced books don’t bleed into the other markets

I don’t know who said that, but it was reported by someone from Flipside Publishing, so maybe Charles Tan knows. I find that sort of attitude very sad, but perhaps it is inevitable given commercial pressures.

As we know, big media companies are always lobbying government to strengthen copyright law and introduce ever more draconian anti-piracy laws. They believe that such things are in their commercial interests. From my point of view, on the other hand, implementing DRM and region restrictions would cost me more than they are ever likely to save, unless I did so by something like selling only through Amazon, which is unwise for other reasons.

The most interesting comments I saw in yesterday’s discussions came from the @Gollancz Twitter feed (presumably Simon Spanton). The tweets were as follows:

That a system as rapacious as capitalism would allow something as valuable as information to remain free is a forlorn hope.

Market forces will dictate that someone ends up having a financial interest in info. I want copyright owners to be in there.

This makes a lot of sense to me, and point was reinforced spectacularly today by Ursula K. Le Guin in this blog post via Book View Café. As you’ll see, at the same time as lobbying ferociously for better defenses for their own copyright work, big media companies are also lobbying for the right to steal work produced by smaller companies and individuals, on the grounds that it is too much trouble for them to find the copyright owner and pay for the rights. This is a particular issue for photographers who are regularly seeing their work stolen by major newspapers. Governments, as ever, are prone to roll over and ask for their tummies to be tickled when approached by a large multinational corporation. As a small business, and someone who writes online, I find this sort of thing just as worrying as torrent sites.