Let Me Steal Your Book!

Publication – is the auction of the Mind of Man.  ~Emily Dickinson


By:Stacey Purcell

I would like to tell you a story.

Once upon a time there was an author who wrote a novel. This novel took two years to create, many dollars spent polishing their work, sleep lost worrying about their story, and hundreds of hours taken from their families and friends. This creative endeavor came at a high price.

The author persevered and finished. Hooray, a novel is born. Now what?

Now they spend months, maybe years, sending it out to agents and editors. More money, more worry, more time away from their “life”. Perhaps it works and they score an agent/ editor. Perhaps they decide to publish it themselves. Whichever road they take will require more of everything including ulcer potential. (And they say writing isn’t glamorous!)

One way or another, the book is published and available for sale. Their hard work will now pay off.

Not so quick. The book goes on sale at 10am. By 10:30 it’s offered for free at a variety of web sites and the author won’t ever see a dime. And they lived happily ever after…..


Unfortunately, instead of being a fictional piece of writing, this is more like a documentary. Music, photography, art, scientific discovery, books (and the list goes on) have all been stolen from their creators. I believe this not only hurts the creator, it hurts the economy and damages the driving force of what makes most countries thrive. Nations are built and maintained by the innovators, the creators of the next new thing to make our lives better- whether it is a new source of entertainment, a breakthrough in medicine or a streamlining of a business.

“Intellectual property is one of America’s chief job creators and competitive advantages in the global marketplace, yet Inventors, authors, and entrepreneurs have been forced to stand by and watch as their works are stolen by foreign infringers beyond the reach of current U.S. laws.” Rep. Goodlatte

If the reward for that hard work is stripped away, the innovations will slowly fade away as well. We compromise our health as a nation.

There are two Acts before our governing bodies that are designed to help protect the theft of intellectual property. SOPA and PIPA (Stop Online Piracy Act and Pro-IP Act/ Protect IP Act) Both are designed to do more than the current “safe harbor” system that is in place. If a creator finds that a web site is offering their material without their permission, they must submit a notice telling them to take down the material and then the site is given a certain amount of time to take it down. SOPA would override the “safe harbor” system and “allow a judge to immediately block access to sites that are found guilty of hosting copyrighted material.”

SOPA is a bill that expands law enforcers and copyright holders ability to fight online piracy. Actions, through this, could include barring advertising networks and payment companies, like Pay Pal, from doing business with the site in question. They can also require Internet service providers to block access to these sites.( At the moment, the most we can hope for is that a web site in another country will positively respond to our request to take down our books. Law suits would be completely futile.)

As with any other major change, it is difficult. Vehement, passionate arguments can be made for both sides. Companies like Google, Yahoo, AOL, Twitter, FaceBook, Zynga, Mozilla, eBay, and LinkedIn posted an open letter to the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives outlining their arguments stating that SOPA would stifle creativity and innovation on the internet that has created many jobs. It also said that it would be a threat to our cyber-security. (Not sure I understand that one.) Yahoo has also reportedly dropped its membership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over their support of this bill.

Naysayers state that it will threaten online freedom of speech, threaten users uploading content, have a negative impact on websites that host user content, it’s a general threat to web-related businesses, it’s a threat to internal networks, and threatens open source software. They agree that something has to be done about this piracy but think that the wording is too vague and is open to misuse.

So who’s right? I don’t know. I can only share what I think- I believe the spirit of SOPA is something that is desperately needed. Right now, the creator has to hunt down rogue sites, craft a letter and hope for the best. I know of an author who took it a step further and also contacted all the advertisers and host of the web site stating she would make it public knowledge that they supported online piracy by placing their businesses on said site. It seemed to work for her. So now we not only have to try and write books, juggle our private lives, and learn how to be marketers, we have to be internet sleuths and strategic blackmailers.

The spirit is right, but what about the wording. So much of it is in “legalease”, it’s difficult for a lay person like me to tell. I don’t want a community like they have in China where everything is censored or blocked. Would SOPA allow that to happen? Well, when they figure it out and put it in plain English- I’ll let you know.



If you are interested in this issue, this is a nice place to start.



14 Responses to Let Me Steal Your Book!

  1. As an author I fight theft on a daily basis with pirated copies of my work. To make matters worse there are now people out there taking other authors books and or free fiction and publishing it as their own..I keep thinking is this for real..

    The gov goes after music and movie pirates but it seems like the fiction world does not matter..


  2. Well, here’s hoping this new bill will help us fight the good fight!! I was encouraged because Rep. Goodlatte specifically used the word- author.


  3. jeff7salter says:

    Savannah makes an excellent point. I remember — of my nearly 30 yrs in public libraries — that we had to have a license for film or video that we’d SHOW to a small group of kids. I didn’t say make copies or sell copies. Just to SHOW to kids in a children’s program time. Yet, we dutifully observed those laws.
    But the FBI or whoever doesn’t care a whit about somebody stealing an entire body of written work, re-selling, making profit, or even claiming they wrote it themselves.
    It’s like Bizarro world.


  4. I also remember having to do that with filmstrips!
    My in laws are photo-journalists and at one point they discovered AOL decided they didn’t need to pay them for multiple-multiple uses of their images. They discovered it by accident while cruising their site. In the end, they had to sue AOL which took thousands of dollars and endless amounts of time that took away from their business. They won, but it still wasn’t enough to replace all the lost revenue. What chance does the little guy have when the big boys will always have deeper pockets and people who are solely dedicated to law suits??


  5. debutauthors says:

    Seems to me intent is the key. Using the example of a speech, let’s say by a prominent individual at a luncheon, the speech is recorded by someone with the intent of placing it on YouTube where it can be accessed for free. I paid to attend the meal and speech. So did the other person. The speaker wants make his/her fee and go on to other cities to repeat. By placing it on YouTube, the speakers ideas have been stolen and livelihood endangered. Another example, I take someone’s ideas, written or otherwise, and claim them as my own with intent to sell. We have decided that is illegal. I think the first example is only a step removed. In journalism courses we studied the legal aspects or word use so I know precedents exist, but that is for our country’s legal system. The internet crosses boundaries and complicates this issue. I believe strong enforcement tools (and, bravo, for the author who took action) are key. We have a few tools in place, but they need more strength. Voices are loudest from those with most to lose.


  6. Hi Robin- Happy New Year!!!!
    That’s an interesting statement you made. I totally agree that we, the creators, need to have more tools with strength to protect ourselves! When you say the voices are loudest from those with the most to lose- both sides of the argument can state that they are the ones with the most to lose. This is a VERY passionate issue and I believe it will get ugly before it is resolved.


  7. debutauthors says:

    “Voices are loudest from those who have the most to lose”…Yep, I have the image of two people facing each other and shouting away with no one thinking and no one searching for solutions. This is sorta like Google publishing copyrighted works, being asked by the court to stop, and doing it another time. What is to be done? Unplug them?

    I like the idea of forcing the host to take these sites down and prohibiting PayPal from assisting the illegal purchase. I’m hopeful that may be of help; however, my friend, who is a professional hacker (it’s all legal and, believe me, we want him to be successful), is not so optimistic. He says, I’m too innocent and that these solutions assume a source of regulation that is an old way of handling problems that are borne of technology. Those who do this stealing, this violation of rights, are unafraid of painful punishment because they can re-assemble and continue to steal (oh, pooh on the pirate stuff, more later). They can continue to steal.

    I am still hopeful, though. Authors are very creative folk. We think out of the box and that is one of our strengths. Some authors understand the internet at a deep level. They can help those of us who don’t. A solution is out there. Possibly, it is not anything we have conceived as yet, but the hunt is on.

    On language… Perhaps one step we could take is to use the correct word–STEAL. Pirate has a different connotation especially for authors, a cinematic get away with it fantasy feel. Steal and other words such as ‘theft’ are hard-edge and imply harsh punishment. Let’s do ourselves a favor and stop the clever euphemism that allows us to think it will possibly go away. Give this issue it’s correct name. Let’s start a psychological turn. We need a worldwide united front. I believe that worldwide, ‘steal’ is accepted as bad. So call it what it is!


  8. Hear hear!!!! I totally agree with what you are saying- We need to call it exactly what it is which is stealing. If you do an illegal download, you are a thief just the same as a shoplifter. Language is a key element to all of this. Most people who do this sort of thing from music to books don’t see it as wrong, because the words to describe what they’ve done sounds so benign.


  9. jbrayweber says:

    It truly takes a great deal of time to hunt down these sites, write the letter, add all the links, and hope for the best. More time than I’m willing to take. Especially knowing that for every one I may be successful in removing another three pop up.

    What I have found interesting, though, is there must be a demand for there to be a supply. Many of these sites will allow piracy, but the person lifting the work must type titles/authors in by name. So unless someone is specifically looking for my book, they won’t necessarily see it. Am I making sense?

    At any rate, it is a severe problem. Both sides have valid arguments. In the end, because it is such a widespread, global problem, the government will only be able to offer so much protection. It is up to the author to determine and fight against piracy.


  10. This is true, but unless you have tools to use to fight against piracy then you truly are spinning your wheels. SOPA is designed to give teeth to your efforts.
    Also, once you know where the sites are to find free books- you can peruse their stable of authors so it’s only a matter of time before everyone put up on those sites will be found. Besides- you’ll be world famous before long!!!


  11. In a way, we’ve made things too easy for everyone. Lines are crossed, pushed and shoved, so that freedom of speech has become a bit of a slippery slope to how much attention can I get, and how far can I push things. I remember when there were guidelines to what was put out for public consumption, approvals had to be met. We have let some form of control and overseeing slip away from us! I suppose this is an example of that as well. I think maybe we’ve allowed everything to loosen so much that now we’re fighting battles we shouldn’t be fighting, and this is a huge one. This kind of piracy, or anytime we lift a song off the net for our ipods, is simply stealing, and it’s a huge commitment to try and catch a thief you can’t chase down the road on your own two feet.
    It’s bigger. Scarier. Darker alleyways. But it must be addressed. It simply must. I loved the idea of banding together, of also stepping up ourselves rather than hope someone will act on our behalf, but this is huge. Every time I think of the hours any artist puts into their work and the thought that it can be taken, stolen, makes me feel ill.
    I apologize for wandering a bit with this, but hopefully you sense a bit of fire in the belly over this one! : )


  12. Thanks for sharing the fire!
    It is a huge problem- over 89 million hits were made to illegal sites offering peoples’ hard work. That means there’s a lot of others that don’t seem to think it’s a problem. I’m guessing, but maybe they think they are getting away from not paying the big companies- what they don’t understand is that if the big companies don’t get paid then neither do the artists!
    It is a real problem and, I don’t know about you, but I have no interest in becoming an internet sleuth and trying to take down sites!


  13. I’m with you on this one. It’s a confusing morass. We need a system that works, and we need tough laws to protect artists whose work is being pilfered like trash. I shared this on Twitter and fight the fight every day.

    The Copyright Alliance is a good source for material, info, and help in fighting piracty. http://copyrightalliance.org


  14. Thanks for sharing this web site. I’ll go take a peek as soon as I’m done here. I believe we have right on our side yet the mountains and political power against this bill is astounding! I don’t understand how people rationalize the stealing of intellectual property??!!??


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