Friday, November 15, 2013

Soapbox Saturday: Pirating Books

The long and short of this post will basically be this. Pirating, BAD. Don't do.

If you really want, you can stop reading now. You've gotten the message. It's a simple message, right? Don't illegally steal stuff. Don't bilk the creative people out of the money they're owed. You'd think we'd all understand that by now, wouldn't we?

Alas and alack and awoe, it seems the answer is no. (Rhyming makes my incandescent rage more managable.)


Last night, Twitter exploded when it came to light that Twitter user @tuebl runs and operates a website that offers free downloads of novels without the authors' or the publishers' permissions. Needless to say, the authors were furious, I was furious, bloggers were furious. Crapbucket @tuebl is the scum of the earth and refused to acknowledge he was doing anything incorrect. His logic was asinine and his legal knowledge negligible. No, fool, providing free downloads of books without permission is not legal. You are exploiting a logistic loophole in the system so you can continue this practice. "Because apparently DMCA says it's okay" is not a valid argument.

He called out me and other authors for not understanding the law or how completely in line with it his site was, and followers of his got quite nasty with us, claiming we were "telling people how and where to get their books". Whaaaaaatever.


(Also: duh, of course I'm telling you where to get your books. I'm not infringing on your right as a free citizen of the earth by making you obey the laws of society. This is not Big Brother swooping in and denying you your Right to Bear Books. Just get them from legitimate places. I tell people not to steal, and they act like I kicked a puppy. Yeesh.)

I'm not here to recap the Twitter shitstorm in its entirely. Other estimable bloggers will do a much better job of that (I'll provide links when I find them). No, I'm here to box some soaps. Soap some boxes. Or whatever.

I find the creepiest gifs.

Here's the thing: that vomitous sack of feces wouldn't be able to run this (highly illegal, despite his claims to the contrary) site if people didn't want to illegally download books. So please, please, please, DON'T EVER READ OR DOWNLOAD A BOOK FOR FREE. Unless the website is CLEARLY associated with a publisher or is a site like Amazon, the Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, or the like, DO NOT DO IT. Pleeeeeeease.

I don't want to tell you how many times I go on Tumblr, peruse the tag for one of my favorite book series, and see an illegal download link. It crushes my soul, so I can't even imagine how the author feels when they come across that post. Oh wait, I don't have to imagine it. A couple months ago, Susan Dennard, author of Something Strange and Deadly and A Darkness Strange and Lovely, spoke out on Tumblr about people pirating her books. Here are a few choice excerpts from her deliciously sarcastic put-down:

I saw someone complain that the illegal version of my book was taking too long to download, and I wanted to take a moment to apologize to this person. So here we go…
Dear Person Pirating my Book,
I am sorry you can’t have your instant gratification. That book that I spent 3 years of my life working on full-time is now taking you a whopping ten minutes to download illegally. I mean, jeez. Talk about injustice.
I honestly can’t wrap my head around the fact that you’re waiting so many  minutes when I only spent 9 to 5 of every day since 2009 typing at my keyboard...
But most of my time was spent writing (weekends included). So comparing all that time I spent on my book to your 10 minutes is just inconceivable for me (and I do think that word means what I think it means)...
And you know what else, my dear, dear pirate-friend? I am so sorry you have to wait 10 minutes because that book (which, by the way, pays for my food, my mortgage, my heating bill, my health insurance, and everything else that sustains me in life) is really good. I mean, honestly, I’m really proud of it, and I think that once your copy finishes illegally downloading, you’ll really enjoy what you read.
I do want to point out, though, that you wouldn’t have to wait on my book if you bought it for your kindle or ipad or computer. Why, you’d have the file in mere seconds! And, because you would’ve BOUGHT the book, then I would get paid. And the cool thing about me getting paid is that I can afford my bills and then continue to write more books...
But if you don’t want to pay for my books, that’s cool. I get it. You probably steal other people’s paychecks too. Or maybe you just walk into book stores and take the book right off the shelf (‘cos clearly you’re a no-fear badass like that). Either way, I guess the whole free-factor means you’ll have to wait a few more minutes on this illegal download, and I’m just so sorry about that.
I hope you can forgive me.
Getting an illegal download of the book is the equivalent of stealing a book off the shelf at a bookstore. You. Are. Stealing.

I know I'm most like preaching to the choir with this, but it's a subject I felt like addressing anyway. Do you like books? Enough that you're willing to break the law to obtain them? Great! You are passionate! Guess what, though? If you do break the law to obtain your books, the sales of your favorite authors suffer, and then guess what? They don't get to write anymore.


Not being able to afford a book is a sucky experience. But you know what? Libraries exist. LEGITIMATE sites like, which only features books whose copyrights expired long ago exist. Ebooks can be quite cheap. Your friends' book collections are even cheaper. Used bookstores can be cheap. There are chain book lending sites like Book Mooch. Bloggers often have (very generous) giveaways for books and swag. There are other ways to get books. If you have exhausted all those options and still don't have access to the books? Then, I'm sorry, you'll have to wait. You really will. But there are so many other books in the world that you do have access to.

If you have access to a library, but are pirating illegally, you are hurting libraries. Your library will disappear, and then the people who relied on it for books or for livelihood will suffer.

You are NOT supporting publishing and authors and books in general if you download illegally. You are not a great reader. You are not a bibliophile. You are stealing from the dozens of people who have books as their job. I'm not saying you're a bad person, but I want you to know that the books you love will cease to be if/when the illegal impact sales. (DO NOT give me that drivel about "blah blah free copies increase sales blah". NOT YOUR CALL TO  MAKE. Let the publishers and marketing department decide if that's true.)

After posting my advance review of Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas, I got several messages on Tumblr asking me to post the entire book online because "it would make a lot of people very happy."

You know who wouldn't be happy? Sarah J. Maas. Her agent. Her editor. All the folks at Bloomsbury. Celaena, who'd cut your face and my face and the face of whoever was next to me, just for good measure. And you. Because you stole from your favorite author. You made it less likely that there will be another book.

Here is a really brilliant article that is about the Free Culture movement and illegal downloads of music. Different medium, yes, but similar ideas.

Pirating, BAD. DON'T DO.

I'm watching you. All of you.


  1. It's really appalling how many people don't realize that piracy is wrong. It should be common sense that posting a whole book without permission that isn't in the public domain is illegal. The fact that he's blatantly mocking authors who ask him to take down the pirated work makes my blood boil. I am all about public access, but that's why there are libraries. Artists/authors need to be compensated. If there's no compensation what's the point of them writing and creating? Hence, the reason why copyright law exists.

    1. PRECISELY this. Underscored, underlined, YES.

  2. Not saying that I'm 100% okay with pirating books, but I just want to point out that there are people who can't afford to buy books, even at $3 on Amazon...are they supposed to request it from the library system every time they have an inclination to reread the same book? Also writing isn't about the paycheck, similar to teaching. I write in the hope that someone finds it uplifting, life-changing, or otherwise. Writing is not about the bottom dollar, it never was to begin with because at it's essence, it's art.

    1. Well... yes. I know it's awful not to be able to afford something, but stealing it is so very much not the solution. That's why libraries exist.

      Saying that writing isn't about the paycheck is... well, somewhat true and extremely idealistic. Yes, writers don't write because it will make them rich. They write because they want to share their stories and bring them to life. But it IS their livelihood. It's their art, and they're selling it, and they're not giving permission for it to be distributed without their say-so or without benefiting them. Publishing is an industry--a bottom dollar one. If their books don't sell, they can't continue to write. Just because it's art doesn't mean it's free to steal.

    2. Believe me, I know about the writing industry. I graduated with a writing degree and I'm currently looking for employ within the publishing industry. It's so impossibly rare that someone can make a living off book writing that it's laughable. Sorry to be the cynic, but getting rich or even well-off from writing or any kind of art will not be possible for years to come, if ever. A real writer writes because it's part of their essence and the story must be told. Again, not condoning pirating by any means but "stealing" art as a way of world distribution has existed for hundreds if not thousands of years, the internet only made it easier.

    3. Just because something had existed for hundreds of years doesn't mean it's right. And no one is claiming the average writer will get rich from their writing. I think you're missing the point. A vendor selling their paintings on the street won't get rich, but does that make it right for you to go up and take one of their paintings without permission?

      But people DO make a living off their books. It may not be their only source of income, but it IS a source. When you pirate their books, you deny them income. it doesn't matter whether it's a lot of money or a little. It's still THEIRS.

      There is no "real writer". Everybody writes for their own reasons. If an author wants to distribute their books for free, that's wonderful. If they want to sell them to a publishing house and make a profit off their word, that's also wonderful. Stealing shouldn't be in quotes. Just because it's digital media doesn't mean it's not representative of the hard work of authors, agents, editors, marketing executives and assistants, cover designers, printers, and booksellers. It's still a commodity, and obtaining it through illegal means is stealing.

    4. If you want to see the world in black and white, that's up to you. All I'm saying is that people have reasonable motives for pirating and while they aren't completely moral, they do have logic behind them.

  3. I had the extreme benefit of watching this Twitter-storm going down in real time, and I just would like to say that I thought you handled yourself, and the situation, very well. I can't even fathom the idea that a single person could take a single word of that guy's blathering as truth... I mean, I love ice cream, but I'm not going to run up to an ice cream counter and scoop myself a waffle cone when someone's not looking, right? It's simple ethics; we learned it in Kindergarten, people. You can't just take things because you want them.

    (And a brief aside to the person commenting above me - Writing is definitely tied to money. I think the very existence of the billion-dollar industry of publishing proves that straight up... there are authors who self-publish, for free, but when there's a dollar sign attached to a movable good, then it is unlawful to ignore that necessary transaction. It's not just the writers, but the marketing team, the agents, the editors, the graphic designers who make the damn covers...)

    Anyways, I'm on your side, Gillian.

    1. Thank you, Savannah :)

      Spot on analogy. For some reason, people think that art is exempt from this kind of common sense. Why? It's still created by someone. The creator deserves their due. Stealing is NEVER OKAY. It's not complicated!

      (Perfect aside is perfect.)


  4. Wow. People actually DO this? I have a serious book addiction problem, but the "worst" I do is support my local used-book chains. A lot.
    How can you do this and think it's okay, let alone illegal? *insert rage gif here*

  5. This happened when I was asleep but holy shit. The fact that that scum was so convinced of his own right and even said Destefano was "bitching" when she merely told him the truth is just argh. You know, I don't say this often, but that person shouldn't be allowed on the internet.

    I know many see books as luxury or entertainment products and thus don't see the ramifications pirating can have for the author. It's funny because I do the complete opposite. I have multiple editions of some books because I just want to have all the covers. I have Days of Blood and Starlight three times because of that reason. Is this extravagant and decadent? Maybe. However, I love Laini Taylor's writing so much that she can have all my money. It's very obvious to me that I'm supporting this author with the excessive number of books I buy, so I don't see how people don't make the same connection when the reverse is the case.

    Susan Dennard is amazing. That is all. She can have my money too.

  6. Ugh, yes. People bragging in particular about getting illegal books makes me stabby. Like, not only do you participate in this heinous stealing, but you BRAG about it? The fact that people actually asked YOU to upload an ARC makes me all sort of ragey. I mean, the transaction between asking someone to post an early copy and obtaining one via an upload site is the same act, but like. . . okay, going to a pirate site is like going to some back-alley black market(except not a market, because illegal & free). Asking YOU, personally, to pirate is like me going up to someone who just came out of an upscale store and asking if I can have all their stuff just because I want it. Just ugh in general.

  7. I have a lot of feelings about this, but commenting on phone is hard so I will just say that I love you and this post and I would like to kick everyone who uses that site in the shins. I'm pretty glad I was not online when this all went down. The little I saw made me stabby.

  8. I have a lot of feelings about this, but commenting on phone is hard so I will just say that I love you and this post and I would like to kick everyone who uses that site in the shins. I'm pretty glad I was not online when this all went down. The little I saw made me stabby.

  9. So a friend that I know (I'm closer with his wife, but he's close with my boyfriend, couple friends ya know??) pirates EVERYTHING, movies, books, fitness video workouts, all of it. It drives me fairly nuts and I've resorted to lending his wife and him every book I can think of that they might like just to try to cut down on the amount of pirating he does. He just is completely disconnected from the authors who write the books and doesn't understand how much damage he is doing I think...

  10. HOW IS THIS NOT A THING THAT PEOPLE UNDERSTAND?! It's Morality 101. Don't take other people's shit. If you need a more practically applied reason than the philosophical wrongness of it all: you steal stuff, people can't afford to keep making the stuff. Soon there is no more stuff for people to legitimately enjoy and nothing for pirates to steal. EVERYBODY LOSES.

    I saw a bit of what was going on while it was happening and thought @tuebl is a smeary little asshole hiding behind technicalities and loopholes. People like that make me want to get all face-punchy.

    To mylifeinbooks: I completely agree with your point about writing being art and doing it for the love of it. However, here is a brief list of some things that I love besides book: food, shelter, an internet connection and software that allows for me to continue doing what I love, all things I wouldn't be able to have if I weren't able to bring in a paycheck. I sympathize with people who are unable to afford books (been there, it's terrible, libraries are amazing castles of dreams and rainbows but the waiting lists for new releases and people not returning stuff can get frustrating) but immediate solutions that help yourself and screw the person that's creating the awesome thing you're helping yourself to aren't good solutions. If books are worth it to you as an art appreciator, get crafty, it's possible to amass a library on a very low budget if you put in the time and effort (trust me, I did it) and if you value the art, it should be a worthy quest to find ways to appreciate it without taking illegal shortcuts.

  11. Just . . . thank you. thank you Thank you THANK YOU! There are no real words for how PERFECT this post is.

  12. I applaud you! :D Great post!

    I work at a library and I just want to say that I seriously don't understand the point of pirating anything, especially a book. We have thousands of books and movies and cds that people can borrow for FREE. It costs nothing, zero freaking dollars. Sure you have to return the book when you are done (although a small few don't and they either have to pay for the book or can never use the library again) but you can check that book out again over and over and over again as many times as you want, once again, for FREE.

    1. Did I mention that libraries also have a very good selection of ebooks that you can download from home for FREE to borrow. That's right, so not having time to leave your house isn't even an excuse to pirate.

      GillyB, I hope you realize I am completely agreeing with you and that this rant is not at you. I just read what My Life In Books wrote in the comments and I got a little crazy. :D

  13. Reading @tuebl's tweets was O_O. I didn't really get involved but I saw some of that and just backed away from the internet. I mean, I get why people do the whole pirating thing, though I probably shouldn't admit that. I'm not saying it's right, but it makes a certain amount of sense. BUT the degree to which that dude was all like "yeah, I pirate and the law is totally on my side" made my head spin. Don't act like YOU'RE the moral one. I cannot even about that. It's like he opened up a video rental place using his Netflix account to get the movies for people or something.

    Oh yeah, I read Susan Dennard's response and it was pretty much the best. Way better than the standard rant. This is probably why I love her books so much. Also, complaining that the illegal download was too slow? For real?

    Lol, okay, well, I was going to say I felt bad for people in other countries who maybe don't have access to books at libraries and don't have money for books. But then I was like "hold the phone," because how do you read an illegally downloaded book without a computer? And if you can afford a computer, can you not order a book from TBD? I mean, I don't know, but I'm guessing a lot of the people doing this have their own computers and e-readers and stuff, so the lack of money issue doesn't really fly.

  14. YES THANK YOU FOR THIS. I have a friend who pirates books all the time and it angers me to know end (which she knows). I've asked her multiple times why she does it and she never has a good explanation. THERE ARE LIBRARIES FOR A REASON! I can't afford many books, but does that mean I'm going to run off and download one illegally? That doesn't even cross my mind. Why would it when there are buildings all around my city where I can borrow them for free? UGH I hate pirating.

  15. I definitely agree! Pirating = stealing to me, and unless you really didn't know what you were doing, I just don't feel like it's the right/just/proper thing to do at all. If you truly love to read, and want to support authors, then find a LEGITIMATE way to read the book. Good post Gillian!


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