A Prepublished Novel in the Process of Revisions and Rewrites

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sharing and Copying ebooks is WRONG!

Good Morning!

I found a very interesting post on a blog today and its something I'd like to discuss here. Piracy. It's a big problem with the vastness of the internet and for the most part, a bit misunderstood by most honest people. The criminals are well aware of what they are doing.

As most of you will agree, for many of us authors struggling for visibility and recognition in the tough world of publishing, the internet is our best venue to achieve that. But with visibility on the worldwide web comes sharks. People who dare to make a living off our blood, sweat, and tears! Our work!

As I said above, I've come across, actually, two fantastic blogs talking about this very thing I'd like to share with you. One is Hywela Lyn's August 16th article titled, "No, you may not copy, sell, or loan our work..." which refers back to the next blog, Sharon Maria Bidwell's July 10 article, "To the person who left me a comment…"

This is such an important subject that I felt compelled to jump on the bandwagon and speak out as well.

Sharon has voiced this issue so eloquently that, with her permission, I have copied an excerpt below:

"Look, copyright law on ebooks is simple. You cannot copy, distribute, resell or loan an ebook. Saying that, most of us wouldn’t object if we heard you’ve made yourself a back-up copy purely for your own personal use. We live in a wonderful age of technology but technology fails us from time to time. We hear you’re selling our work and we’ll come down on you like the proverbial ton of bricks. Writers and publishers are getting better at locating piracy sites and law enforcement is finally taking it seriously.

The most common question we hear is “If I can resell or loan a printed book, why can’t I as a reader resell or loan ebooks?” To be honest, even the reselling or lending of some printed books is a grey area. However, it tends to be overlooked because of several reasons.

Most people hate the idea of printed books being destroyed. If you’re finished with them and cannot pass them on in some way they are only good for recycling.
When a printed book is passed on, someone may find an author they like and start buying new books by that author on a regular basis. It’s sort of free-advertising and yes, one could argue this would apply to ebooks but there’s a major difference and reason why this doesn’t work so read on.
Many second-hand books are sold for charity purposes.
You are giving up your physical edition of the book and will no longer own it.
Point 4 is the major one. When you give, sell, or loan a printed book you give away the item you purchased. Even when loaning it, you risk not getting it back. You are not making a ‘physical copy’ of that book to pass it on.

When you pass an ebook on (and some people do this in innocence not piracy but they are still in the wrong) the reader tends to ‘keep’ their version and simply send the file on, thereby making a ‘copy’. I can assure you that this is just as illegal in printed works.

Imagine you took one of Stephen King’s novels, dissected it, scanned it in, printed it up either by POD (good luck — they would spot what you are doing in a flash), or via the printer at home, and tried to give it away, sell it, or hand to a friend. Should SK find out do you think he wouldn’t sue your arse off? Oh yes, he would!

The point is you are not allowed to make a ‘copy’ of any written work be it printed or electronic. You may (usually) print off an electronic book with the purpose of reading it in that form should you not wish to read on screen, but that printed form is subject to the same laws. You may not sell it, or pass it on. If you wish to pass on an ebook the only viable way to do this is buy an extra copy, and what’s so wrong with that? We all have people to buy presents for.

Oh…and to those who think they can file share their ebook library, has nothing I’ve stated sunk in? Besides, you are NOT a library and did you know that even if you were there is such a thing as the ‘public lending right’? This means that an author can, if they wish, claim a small payment every time a library lends one of their books. So next time you choose to file share, don’t be surprised should you receive a letter from the authors asking for an audit of the number of ‘loans’ and demanding payment from you!

You are not a publisher and the author has not signed a contract with you. You do not have the right to sell.

You are not an official state library. You do not have the right to loan (and let’s be honest — loan in electronic format means copy and give away).

You are not friends with thousands of strangers online that you simply ‘must’ lend your books to (and we’ve already established that you are not lending but copying) and authors and publishers will not turn their back on you ‘giving’ their work away.

I’m not speaking to those who are deliberately committing an act of piracy. They know they are breaking the law, damaging authors and the publishing industry, and they just don’t care. The most we can do is assure them that while there will always be crooks there will always be those willing to fight them. I’m speaking mainly to those that do this in innocence, not understanding that they are doing anything wrong. You claim to love us as writers. You claim to love our work. We do work — hard — at this. Most of us have day jobs, families, lives just like you. We have to find time to write on top of all that. We often forsake sleep. Many don’t make as much money as you think and even if we did, haven’t we ‘earned’ it? You love our characters, our worlds, our stories. You claim to love our work and even to love us. Why do something fundamentally harmful to someone or something you love?

Did you know there are pirate copies of the “I Do” anthology out there? A book I took part in for charity. The thought that people can be so low as to steal from charity has made some of us authors want to puke. If you’re doing this in innocence or not, rest assured, we’re very upset with you."

This is such an important subject that I'd love to hear your thoughts as authors and as readers. Do you or have you shared ebooks? Do you feel sharing an ebook is much like borrowing a book from a library or a friend is right after reading this blog?

One thing I do when I send out a prize of a free book download is always put a statement that the download may not be shared and if truth be known, I always wonder. There's really no sound way to protect ourselves other than aiming this information at the 'honest' people who really never thought about the repercussions of sharing our work. The people who never realized that they were doing wrong. Every time someone copies, shares, or allows another to read our work for 'free' is more dollars out of pockets.

All comments and points of view on this subject welcome.



  1. Hi Dayana,
    Well said, I couldn't have written a better article myself. Copying e-books to give to someone else is not only wrong, it is theft, pure and simple. You are stealing an author's livelihood. Most of us authors make very little money, so it is heart breaking to know that there are people out their mean enough to begrudge us the few dollars we do make.


  2. Good morning, Margaret. I can't take all the credit here as for the most part I am quoting Sharon but the subject hit a nerve, and I wanted to get the word out even futher on this subject. Maybe only to jar people who really don't realize what they are doing is wrong when they "loan" an ebook to a friend.

    Thank you for piping in.

  3. Excellent post and well said. I totally agree. I've forgotten to tell the people who've won one of my e-books not to 'lend' it. I also wanted to say that once I've used up the limited number of copies the Wild Rose Press allows an author to give away, I buy every single copy I award in the contests I run. If I'm buying copies of my own books before I give one away, the readers definitely should be!

  4. Strange how otherwise law-abiding people don't see the harm in depriving authors of their income. Seems there should be some way to electronically prevent more than one copy from being made, and hopefully in the future there will be.

  5. Hi Dayana,

    People who do this don't begin to understand the sweat and hours that go into writing a book. They don't think of the little bit that is paid to the author for each book. Would they think of reaching into our pocket and taking that money? Most of them--no they wouldn't. But in reality, that's exactly what they are doing if they give our books to others. I hope others read this and come to an understanding that it is wrong.


  6. Great information, Dayana, and thought-provoking as well. Some author loops actually list the pirate sites. You can report them.
    I don't send the ebook version out. In contests, I offer the print version and mail it. I remember Rhonda's post and my editor's warning not to utilize the ebook too much, and I took that very seriously.

    Technology has its quirks, its gray areas. This is one of them, as Margaret said, begrudging us well-deserved compensaion. There is no way to police this issue. We have to rely on a person's character and as you suggested, include a warning not to share when we send them the ebook copy. If someone has a better suggestion, I'd like to hear it.

    Thanks for posting this. I don't think it can be said too many times.

  7. Good Morning, Beth, Allison, Donna and Mickey. All good points. Thank you for you input. I don't think we can stress how very important this subject is.

    Mickey, that's great fodder about just sending out the print book for contests but what of those who don't have print versions?

    Beth, you are absolutely correct about purchasing copies of our own books once you've exhausted the copies extended us by the publisher. I agree one hundred percent.


  8. Ra, ra... As an e-pubbed author this makes complete sense. I've bought second hand paperbacks my entire life and now think differently about that. I do think that the only way we are going to stop this craze is to encript our books and keep them from being passed around. Awarness is the other thing to consider. Most people I talk to think all published authors are making buckets of money. Funny thing is... even if we were does that give others the right to take what we've earned?

    I have to laugh right now... the captcha on bottom of this screen right now spells out DENSE. Oh, man... talk about karma.

  9. Excellent post, Dayana! I think people need to be told--to understand that just because it's online, it's not free. And just because you can give away copies of an e-book in your computer files, doesn't make it legal.

    They're only hurting the authors they love reading, who in turn may have to give up writing, because they're not making any money on their work.

  10. In many venues, offces, social gatherings, among traveling companions, etc, I find Ebook sharing (swapping) is commonplace.

  11. Wonderful insight Dayana.
    Like Maggie says, most of us make very little. Why take what little we deserve. I always think about this when I hear people talking about pirating music. Someone loses every time. And there are people in jail for this very same crime!

  12. Hi Dayana

    Thanks so much for passing this on. I was out most of yesterday and wasn't able to spread the word about my blog post on this subject, but it's great to see you've taken up the gauntlet on behalf of E-writers. If we can spread this around the net, perhaps the genuine readers who realise how hard it is to even break even when one has to promote ones own books, will think twice before supporting the pirate sites. We can only hope that the crooks who are in it to steal from authors and con readers will eventually get their cum-uppance.

    I also purchase my own downloads if I get to my limit. I do have print books, but unfortunately, living in the UK, international postage costs more than the book itself! Great hint from Beth about requesting that the book isn't passed on, hadn't thought of that but I'll do it in future.

  13. This series is going on my to buy list:) If I won the lotto, I would pay off mortgage and bills and take family including mom on a vacation to someplace that has pink sand, blue water and blue skys.

  14. Hi, Cat, Susan and Herb.

    Buckets of money, LOL Catherine:) But in the same token we need to protect the little we do earn.

    Yes, Susan and Herb, good points. Herb all the more reason to try to educate the people we can that copying and sharing our work is so very WRONG. I wish like someone said there was some way the file could be locked like they used to to with the VHS tapes. There was some sort of thing that prevented copying the movie. But unfortunately there isn't as yet.

    Hi, Mary and Hywela. Yes, Hywela, I just couldn't leave it alone. I think over time each one of us should continue to flog this horse, so to speak. It is a topic that will need constant addressing.

    Thank you all for adding your thoughts and rants.

    Please keep them coming.


  15. Excellent post--very well said. At a social event, a lady approached me to say that she'd bought one of my e-books and enjoyed it so much that she burned twenty-one disks from her original download so she could give them as gifts to friends. I was so flabbergasted that I didn't know how to reply. One part of me wanted to strangle this woman for pirating 21 copies of my book and denying me the rights to royalities. One very small part of me wanted to thank her for her enthusiasm. In the most tactfully and professional manner that I could muster, I explained to the woman about pirating. She was clearly embarrassed, but her red face didn't put money in my pocket.


  16. OMG Loretta, she made 21 copies!! I always buy my own copies if I give them as gift or prize. It's clearly stated in our contract. It's terribly upsetting to see our own books 'shared' by people when it could add to the sales. Great discussion, Dayana.

  17. Great info, Dayana!

  18. Wow! Loretta! I'd have had a heart attack. Geez, I make my own family buy my books. Cruel I know, but hey... And this further proves that the typical reader really has no clue that giving copies of our work away is WRONG.

    Thank you, Mona and Vonnie for stopping in. Please pass this information on to whoever you can.

  19. Hey D~
    Superb post. Dirty rotten scoundrels is what the lot of them are. Pick pockets and it's easier than getting said candy from a baby. It's sooo very wrong, disturbing and aggravatingto the core to think our work means nothing.
    I'm so freakin' anal about my work getting snatched that if I print any of my book to proof I burn it in the fireplace afterwards. Sorry to anyone recycling, but hey, scum floats upon us.
    Off my soap box now. Thank you!

    What's this I read about Bea getting a playmate????
    please scuse any and all typos. I lost my glasses!

  20. wonderful put,I hope this will open the eyes of many

  21. Hi Dayana - good post! I am a reader and have had a Kindle since March this year. I did have about 25 or so pdf books before that but didn't read them as difficult on my computer. Even though I do share or give away (or even trade at the used book store) the print books, I have not traded, exchanged or shared my eBooks. It clearly doesn't seem right. I write reviews for several sites and was surprised win the instructions on one said that the review books were to be destroyed after being read and reviewed. Now that doesn't seem right to me since getting the book is kind of the consideration for doing the review. But it wasn't a big deal to me unless I wanted the book as a "keeper."
    I think I have too much desire to encourage the authors to try to skim by sharing/stealing the eBooks.

  22. Hi Dayana,
    The comments have been terrific, and so true. Each and everyone of them have raised valid points. I forgot to mention that I also buy my own e-books from my publisher (not Fictionwise as they say a download can't be passed on),to present as prizes etc. Living in Australia awarding print book prizes is out of the question because of the postal costs which are astronomical.

  23. Wonderful post, Dayana. Certainly food for thought. In fact, it's pretty overwhelming. I'll welcome future technology that allows us to track our ebooks better!


  24. Great post, Dayana. And so important to keep repeating to readers who, in a busy world, may not think what they're doing is wrong. It's only one copy, right? One that gets forwarded and forwarded, and we authors lose out.
    I think publishers need to use better encryption to protect the PDFs from being copied somehow; some already do this but most just use regular PDFs.

  25. Thank you all so much for dropping by and piping in. As I just commented to Hywela, this is a subject I will certainly repeat here to keep the information fresh in peoples' minds. You can't say this enough. Not only does it hit us in the pockets but the publishing houses lose money as well. Without the pub houses we wouldn't be worrying about the issue because we wouldn't be published! So please consider the whole picture when you think about sharing an author's work.

    Wishing you all a great week!


  26. I'm glad you wrote about this subject. Few people think of themselves as receivers of stolen goods, when they buy pirated movies or download music they haven't paid for. As authors we must be sure to point out that we're the ones who lose out.
    Thanks, A. Y. Stratton,
    writing romantic suspense

  27. Well written article and it is such a shame that this happens.

  28. Hi Dayana. Sorry for the late arrival on this one but it is a great subject. I've had posts about how to copyright our work and keep it from being stollen several times in the past. I so agree with you on this sharing subject. But as readers sharing with each other, it probably is a matter of honor. As far as epublishers fixing their sites so author's work can't be cut and pasted is another subject and one that is a potential problem as well.

    Great post!