18 March 2009

Pirate issues

Yesterday, I found an eBay seller who is selling e-books. I won't get into the rant about how that's illegal, unless they are your own e-books...or you're the publisher or distributor and have contracted permission from the copyright owner to sell them. That goes without saying...or so I thought.

Now, what makes this one so very unique is that she's selling (among the true pirated copies of NY Times bestselling authors like Grisham) copies of FREE reads, offered by authors of Phaze. The idiot... (I will explain why I believe this person is an idiot shortly.) The idiot doesn't even have the excuse of believing it's okay to resell a used e-book, as you would a print book, because she's offering FIVE lots of the same ten books. How stupid do you have to be to actually believe you have the right to do that? It's probably not stupidity, of course. She's probably well aware of what she's doing, but...

Now, why is she stupid? Beyond the fact that she's pirating NY Times bestsellers on eBay... Beyond the fact that she claims that re-selling e-books is fine... Beyond the fact that she's selling multiple copies of the same books... Aw, come on. I expect that from any pirate.

When contacted with a C&D from the publisher, she demanded proof that the books were contracted works. Uh...check the covers and the copyright page, anyone? When presented with that, she claimed she "purchased" them from ARe (as if we don't know they are free reads?), so it was okay for someone to purchase them from her. eBay currently has a formal complaint in their inbox, and may they cancel her account for violations of law, the TOS...and rank stupidity. Stupidity should be painful.

But, back to the thrust of my blog post today. Someone raised the following question of me, and I felt it deserved an answer.

If it's a free read, wouldn't you want people passing it around? Why would you stop a pirate who's passing free books?

When I first found the pirate, I debated that question for about .5 seconds. This is what I came up with.

If they were giving it away for free, I wouldn't say word one. They could put it on BitTorrent, and I wouldn't care. Well, I would, but only because it sets a bad example, because people seeing it pass don't know it's a free read. Ideally, it would pass with a note that the author had given permission for it to pass, which is the best of all worlds. It's a free read, and I want it to pass as far and wide as I can manage. In fact, I would gladly give direct links to every free read I have available and encourage readers to pass them, with a note of my permission.

Why a problem then? Because the idiot is selling them! They are free reads. They are my gift to readers and potential readers. Selling them is taking advantage of the readers I adore, and I can't abide by that.

What I find immensely amusing about the whole thing is that pirates often say they are trying to help authors and readers by pirating books. Bunk, but... In this case, you have a self-serving pirate who is hurting other readers in pursuit of a few bucks. Pathetic.


Rowena Cherry said...


Thank you for this immensely entertaining, informative, and gracious account of a very trying situation.

I think I'll mosey over to EBay and see if I can figure out who this unscrupulous thief is!

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

BrennaLyons said...

Another question raised that I feel deserves an answer... But, don't you forfeit copyright by giving it away as a free read?

The answer, as I understand it, is "no." Let's start at the beginning and work out from there.

You own copyright on anything you create. You don't have to sell it to own it. For instance, if I played a piece of music in a free concert in the park (music I either composed and/or that I'd made a recording of personally ... committing it to a permanent form that is copyright protected that way...even if I further gave that recording away), and someone illegally recorded it and sold it...or used the free recording I'd offered in his book video, he is still infringing on my copyright by doing so. If I write this blog post, and someone takes the thing (in its entirety, without my permission) and reposts it elsewhere, I can have it taken down on the basis of infringement. Now...this may vary from country to country, but that's the way she works, according to the legal discussions I've seen on the matter. In the same way, you can record songs off the radio, but you can't sell the tape or CD you make for your personal use, though you don't pay to access it. The artists and music companies still expect to get paid for the sales of their copyright materials.

Where it MIGHT fail the logic test would be that I've given blanket permission to reproduce (in its current form, with no changes) and distribute. I have NOT given permission for anyone to sell that story. So, no one has the right to sell it...ever, without my permission to do so. If someone takes that story and includes it (without my permission) in an anthology of work, I have every right to sue them.

Two different matters. One involves simply pirating, and I don't care about someone pirating a free read. It serves my purposes. But, any commercial use of my work is certainly my concern and should be.

From the actual Copyright FAQS...

“Publication” is the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale OR other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display constitutes publication.

IOW, the Copyright Office does not set that something must SELL to be copyright protected. Distribution is enough...even distribution with the intent of further distribution.

Now, while they say that public performance alone is not enough to copyright a work (notice my earlier example of the free concert in the park), if the composition is your own work and/or you have made available for distribution an "official copy" of the performance, you are still protected by copyright.

Gerri Bowen said...

I don't think she's stupid so much as not wanting to admit you are right, Brenna.

Joan De La Haye said...

Hi Brenna, thanks for sharing this. It's amazing how low some people will go.

Joan De La Haye

Jude Mason said...


I not only got a laugh, but you wound me up again. This pirate was truly stupid, and I so agree with you when you said, stupidity should be painful. Nice post!


Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Pirates are driving me crazy. They make me sick. I think it's going to get worse before it gets better. This is the first I heard of the ebay thing.