This week writers have been blogging about piracy, and I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring. I’m late to this party, and other authors have covered the topic pretty thoroughly. Chuck Wendig made a balanced argument, in his typically unbalanced tone, about the difference between using piracy as a discovery tool and using it to devalue the written word. My writer friend Jamie Wyman discussed how publishers need to make money, and how low sales prevent authors from selling any more books in the future.
I agree with all of these remarks, but others have said them already and probably better than I can. So I want to talk about something else that bothers me: what underlies piracy.
There is a pervasive mood in our society that says content creators don’t deserve to get paid. Singer Amanda Palmer encountered it when someone told her she was selfish to charge for a concert appearance. My artist friend Nicole McCord ran into it when she was asked – by more than one person – to do paintings for free. It’s as if people are saying, “I work at a lousy dead-end job, I struggle to make ends meet, and I’ve scraped together a couple hundred dollars to buy a shiny new gadget to entertain me and give me a moment’s relief from my miserable life. Now you’re telling me I have to spend more for content to put on this shiny new gadget? If I can’t make money doing something I love, content creators shouldn’t, either.”
I don’t like to speak in sweeping generalities. This is a stereotype, and I’m not accusing any Torrent user of matching it. But watch out for this thinking. It’s going around, and it’s a killer. It seeps into your thinking, it’s soul-sucking, and its effects go even beyond depriving writers of royalties and possibly damaging their careers.