Friday, September 4, 2015

The New York Times Has It Wrong: It is Plagiarism not Piracy!

In the past few weeks and months there have been many stories about people uploading books they did not write to Google Play Books and selling them.

But what is a Pirate? I have often spoken about piracy here, but what is it really? 
Merriam-webster defines a pirate as:
"Someone who attacks and steals from a ship at sea,
Someone who illegally copies a product or invention without permission,
A person or organization that illegally makes television or radio broadcasts"

So by that definition, yes the New York Times is, technically, correct. However I would like to suggest that the term "Plagiarism" fits better. There are different kinds of pirates. And sometimes it is hard to distinguish. One can become a 'pirate' (at least in some minds) by removing the encryption or protection from a eBook you legally purchased. Laws among different countries vary on this, some allow it, some do not.

Then there is the common understanding when it comes to piracy: downloading a book you did not purchase. One I am certainly against. But there are grey areas as well. For example if a book is out-of-print and you are not hurting the author/publisher then I do not, personally, see a problem. Some disagree but again if it is not worth it to the author/publisher to have it available then they really should not care if it is downloadable somewhere either. And on the flip side this might have a good consequence: the author staying in the mind of the public. And perhaps if there is enough demand, the author/publisher will rerelease the book (and if they do, always go buy a copy).

And finally there is the really really bad pirate. The one that this post is about. The lousy scum-of-the-universe type. This is the pirate that takes a ebook they have downloaded, uploads it to a retailer as though it was their own work, and collects the royalties. This is the worst kind and the hurts the author in many ways. Even if we don't mention the stealing of royalties that should be paid to the author, often the pirated books are not of reliable quality. Damaging the authors reputation. And in publishing, a reputation is the most valuable asset one can have.

Long before there were computers and technology, there has been plagiarism. Not only in literature but also art. Piracy usually means to steal and consume. Not steal and resell as though you created it. There are chop shops that steal and resell car parts, but they are not called car pirates. Everyone knows about downloading piracy but this new kind of uploading a work that you didn't write? Well that is just plagiarism plain and simple.

Don DeBon is the author of Italian Fever, Red Warp, and Soulmates.  Currently available on  Nook, iBook, Kindle, Smashwords, Oyster, Scribd, and Kobo

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