Writers: It’s The INVISIBLE Piracy That Will Kill You

Listen, having your book show up on filesharing sites or BitTorrent is really the very least of your worries. Truly. At least people know it’s your creation, that you did it, and they have to turn to you for more.

As more writers free themselves of the parasitic grip of traditional publishers, they will be vulnerable to the worst piracy of all: multilingual plagiarism.

Patricia Melo’s excellent novel In Praise of Lies opened my eyes to this possibility:

‘I’m not a writer,’ I said. ‘The Sun Alone is The Talented Mr Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith.’

I took Melissa to the bookcase and showed her all the books I had copied, or tried to copy, while I was working at Minnesota Publishing. The Stranger, by Camus; ‘The Black Cat’, by Edgar Allan Poe; Double Indemnity, by James Cain; ‘The Man in the Passage’, by Chesterton; Crime and Punishment, by Dostoevsky; The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie; Bufo & Spallanzani, by Rubem Fonseca; ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’, by Poe; The Human Beast, by Zola.

A Train to Death isn’t yours?’ she asked.

‘It’s Double Indemnity,’ I replied, ‘by James Cain. The one you’re holding in your hand.’

She leafed through it. ‘You copied all this? You didn’t make up those crimes? I thought you were a specialist in such things.’ — page 83

You as an independent writer put your work up for sale on a site or store.

Someone bi-lingual in another country gets it. That person decides to do either a straight translation or an “adaptation.” And then likewise sells it — maybe even to a local traditional publisher.

In your worst nightmare, that edition becomes a huge best-seller. And you will never know that. How can you? It doesn’t have your name on it and you can’t read that language. You will never see that stolen money. And even if you find out about it, do you know a good lawyer in Albania or Slovakia or even Germany? And can you afford them? And can you afford to fly over there multiple times as your suit progresses slowly through a court system that doesn’t give a damn? It especially won’t give a damn because you’re just one lonely troublemaker. You’re not a behemoth conglomerate who has done business there for decades and knows the right palms to grease or favors to call in or has an old school chum there who is now the American Ambassador.

In the nightmare of all of your nightmares, the English-language rights are picked up and suddenly people are talking about how you ripped off a best-seller that you originally wrote.

How can you fight that?

You think the Chamberlains of the Authors Guild will help you? They haven’t even considered this.

You think the National Writers Union will help? Are you even a member?

Congress will help? Congress just yesterday gave corporations — fictional entities — more rights than you have as a single real-life human being! (More rights because those entities have more money.)

We writers are screwed.

4 Responses to Writers: It’s The INVISIBLE Piracy That Will Kill You

  1. I saw the “Simon” Necronomicon or the Necromonicon Spellbook, one or other, being sold as an ebook by someone in India. I know “Simon” very slightly and it clearly was nothing to do with him.

    Somebody just copied the book and started selling it. I couldn’t believe it because it goes against everything. But there we are.

  2. ianf says:

    So the History is turning full circle. It’s a little known fact that, in the 250 or so years between the invention of movable type and mechanical printing by Gutenberg and the enactment of first copyright laws of 1709-1710 [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statute_of_Anne ], laws that took approximately 100 more years to become universally viable, the act of publishing anything was very much like that which you allege is coming. A self-proclaimed author reached an agreement with a printer (=owner of an actual printing press) to put out an edition, AND WAS PAID UP FRONT. If the book (or, more likely, a pamphlet, the belles-lettres having yet to be invented) sold well enough, the printer would put out more editions, often changing the content to suit, and cutting out the author altogether.

    Copyright laws were meant to defend authors from rogue publishers, not to provide a corrall for them both in which to herd the readers (as is the case now). So I personally welcome the development that you imply, and not because I have “a thing” against authors’ rights, but because the sooner the current house of corrupt cards lies in ruins, and authors realise that their ability to put words on paper isn’t a license to print money, the better for us (consumers) all. Authors and creators need to get paid, and paid well, for their work, but… practically hereditary exploitation rights in all perpetuity???? [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Term_Extension_Act ] Apage satanas; a pox on all your publishing houses.

    • mikecane says:

      The egregious extension of Copyright was primarily due to *corporate lobbying,* specifically the Walt Disney Company seeking to keep Mickey Mouse out of the public domain. As far as most writers are concerned, that little rat bastard should be thrown onto the street to fend for himself. No writer likes the current Copyright duration.

  3. […] are talking about how you ripped off a best-seller that you originally wrote.Link to the rest at The eBook TestClick to Tweet/Email/Share This Post wpa2a.script_load(); Ebooks, International, PiracyNo Comments […]

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