Playing a pirate can be fun. Being a pirate is stealing.

Pirating is Stealing

The interwebs have been vibrating with arguments over a website that has pirated many books. Let me be clear. Any site, person, organization which did not pay for copyrighted materials has stolen that property. Pirating books is stealing.

There have been flurries of arguments. Some have insisted that all ghostwriters are pirates (ridiculous). Others have argued that anyone who publishes a book a month must be a pirate (not necessarily.)

No Excuses

I once posted on a social media site. I warned about an organization that had instituted a new policy. Their new policy allowed them to post copyrighted material without permission.

My post went to a group of readers and video/movie watchers. The derision invoked by this post amazed me. One commenter said that I’d found the wrong group. No. I did not. If my post warned those who cared, it was enough. If my post educated some who did not understand. That was enough.

There are people who understand that pirating is stealing. Some people choose to excuse stealing. Though I suspect that those who excuse stealing books would protest long and loud if a thief had stolen their car or money or furniture.

What is Not Piracy

Giving away a physical copy of a book you purchased to a single other person is not pirating. Sharing a physical copy of a book you purchased with multiple friends over time, is not pirating.

Giving away an ebook that you purchased isn’t usually pirating either, but it could be. The line here is grayer. Bought from Amazon or other online retailers an ebook is not yours, it’s licensed to you. That license specifies what you can and cannot do. Have you read the license? Or did you click the accept button without reading and move on?

Selling a physical book you own is not stealing. It is a physical property that is being re-sold. Like furniture or clothes that you bought and paid for can be re-sold.

Masked thief with crowbar. Bottom line pirating books is stealing.

Pirating is Stealing

Books, artwork, music, or intellectual property are the fruit of a creator’s work. Creators often spend an enormous amount of time learning their craft, practicing, and creating products. Pirates take something that does not belong to them and give it away. How is that stealing? Again, let’s talk about furniture. What if he came to your home and steals your sofa. If he gives it away does that make it not stolen? Of course not.

Anyone who sells or gives away books or music or art that they DID NOT RECEIVE AS A GIFT, BUY, OR CREATE is stealing. Doesn’t matter if it’s one or a million books. It does not matter if the pirate makes money off of the item or not. Stolen property is stolen.

Many people believe that if something is posted on the internet it must be free. This is the crux of the problem. Someone created every post and picture on the internet. Some people choose to create to earn wages. Other people may choose to create something and give it away. (See Creative Commons.) Before you re-post an image or a post, be certain you understand the difference.

Copyright Laws

There are many people who believe copyright laws are crazy. The Constitution of the United States of America gives Congress the power to enact laws establishing a system of copyright. Congress enacted the first federal copyright law in May 1790. The current US copyright law is here.

The law provides creators with a limited monopoly. This was and is an incentive to authors, artists, and scientists to create original works. Once a work has exceeded that limit, the work slips into public domain.

Public Domain

Works that are in “Public domain” are creative materials not protected by intellectual property laws. Read this post for a better explanation. Property laws include copyright, trademark, or patent laws.

The public owns these works. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission. To own that piece of work, the user must create something different from the original. This, again, is a gray area. Be certain you speak to a copyright attorney before you try to profit from this kind of use.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a network meant to standardize a way creators could give permissions to share and use creative works. The creator chooses what limitations, if any, to put on how the creative work may be used. Read the license for that work carefully. There are six different licenses. Each license carries a disclaimer, “The license may not give you all of the permissions necessary for your intended use. For example, other rights such as publicity, privacy, or moral rights may limit how you use the material.” In most cases, the original work remains the property of the creator.

Creative Commons is a good thing. But again, I support it only so long as the original creator chooses to put the work out there and chooses what licenses apply.

In My Opinion

If you believe the copyright laws are crazy, you must a.) work for free, b.) be misinformed about how much money the average writer makes in her lifetime, c.) be a narcissist wanting free stuff without regard to who it hurts, or d.) must be a pirate.

Uninformed or misinformed? I hope my post added to your understanding.

Work for free? More power to you. As the sole income source in my household, I cannot work for free.

If you subscribe to the ‘where there’s a will there’s a way–so get used to it’ theory? Some people have a will to rape, murder, extort, blackmail, and steal your car. Would you like “get used to it?” Of course not. Theft of intellectual property is real. Don’t like being called a thief. Don’t steal.

Narcissist? Go play by yourself, that’s what you’re best at.

Pirate? I will stand against you and what you represent. You are a criminal.

Last Words

Did the people ‘hating on’ my post upset me? Not in the least. Their interactions gave that post more airtime. 🙂

The personal attacks must have upset me, right? No. I don’t like personal attacks, but frankly, I don’t care. The people whose opinions I care about are not the authors of such attacks.

My intent here and in the past was both to warn and to educate. We can respectfully disagree with one another about whether the duration of copyright is just or not. We can attempt a reasonable discussion of what is and isn’t pirating. But I will not tolerate attitudes that justify stealing. Pirating is stealing. That’s my bottom line.

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