Book Piracy – A Story to Think About.
Recently, German publishers teamed up to file a lawsuit against the newspapers Der Tagesspiegel and Die Zeit for printing the name of a e-book piracy website. In addition, a file sharing system called Usenet is being sued by several publishers for allowing users to upload hundreds of illegal e-books.
So far, the main method of combating e-book piracy has been done through digital rights management. This basically changes the text of e-books, so that each version is unique. Anyone attempting to pirate a copy could then be traced by simply looking up who owns which version (Bogle 2013). However, as e-book piracy is still prevalent, it is a case of publisher technology v user technology – users continue to crack the system while publishers continue to develop it.
But what about people who can’t afford books?
In countries such as Quilca, educational materials are the ‘big sellers’ (Vigo 2013). Piracy is a necessary way of life on University campuses. This is because often in countries such as this, books can cost more than what the average person makes in a day and geographic isolation also makes it hard to obtain certain titles/editions (Vigo 2013).
The argument against book piracy is that publishers and authors are losing money which will inhibit more information from being created. It is estimated that writers and publishers lose $3 billion a year as a result of piracy (Scott 2013). However, generally losses as a result of piracy are estimates which do not confirm that piracy significantly impacts sales at all (Hayes 2006).
Is it really fair to restrict access on the basis of cost or geography?
The fact is that the price of education, books and entertainment overall can be an expensive commodity for some people. While some arguments may wage on about the morality of piracy, what about the morality of access to knowledge?
Now I am aware that reading the latest pirated Harry Potter book may not be considered true knowledge by some people but for others, such as myself, any sort of information or creative thought contributes to the social consciousness and provides immeasurable self-worth to the individual.
Whether it’s a poor child in Peru pretending to pack their bags off to Hogwarts or a student, absorbing information for their next test – pirated books provide people from all walks of life with the opportunity to extend their cognitive abilities as well as their creative personas.
At the end of the day, the Internet is enabling people to create practically unlimited materials. Publishing houses may claim that creative content will be impacted by piracy, but realistically, the Internet serves as a hub for creative thinking and sharing. It is creative content.
This has enabled the free flow distribution of materials and texts at a much more economical level for some people. Though the pages may be jagged, misprinted or falling apart – people in these countries are grateful for the ability to access a treasured commodity (Vigo 2013).
I am not arguing that all piracy is right and that there should be no filters on the sharing of information. I simply cannot agree with economic barriers isolating people from accessing the creative spread of knowledge. Book piracy defeats certain unreasonable economic obstacles. It is the pursuit of knowledge and understanding that justifies book piracy in places where costs hinder the creative and educational flow of content.
After all, it was Joseph Brodsky who once said that, “There are worse crimes than burning books…
One of them is not reading them.”
Bogle, A. 2013, ‘New DRM will change the words of your ebook’, 19th June, Melville House, accessed 13th September 2013, <http://www.mhpbooks.com/new-drm-will-change-the-words-of-your-ebook/ >.
Hayes, 2006, ‘Piracy Stats Don’t Add Up’, 7 November, The Australian, p.33.
Hoffelder, N. 2013, ‘eBooks Reached 2.4% of the German Book Market in 2012’, 13th June, The Digital Reader, accessed 13th September 2013, < http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2013/06/13/ebooks-reached-2-4-of-the-german-book-market-in-2012/#.UjMUucbI2Sp >.
Scott, G. 2013, The Battle Against Internet Book Piracy: How Writers and Publishers Are Fighting Back and What You Can Do If a Victim, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Vigo, M 2013, ‘Amid an Epidemic of Book Piracy, Authors Say, ‘At Least They’re Reading’’, 28th August, NextCity.org, accessed 13th September, < http://nextcity.org/informalcity/entry/amid-an-epidemic-of-book-piracy-authors-shrug-and-say-at-least-theyre-reading>.
Niloy 2013 ‘Poor people selling [pirated copies of] Barack Obama’s books in…’, image, Flickr, accessed 14 September 2013, <http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3020/2999391135_cb570bfaa0_z.jpg>.
‘Pirated Books’ image, Flickr, accessed 14 September 2013 <http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4151/5062217362_1699d4ce8a_z.jpg>.