Shocking revelation: Piracy hurts individuals!

By J. DeVoy

In a stunning revelation sure to be devastating to freetards everywhere, not everyone who creates copyrightable work is Lars Ulrich or some ponytailed douchebag driving a BMW 7-series while demanding that the RIAA sue more people so his fat, dumb and entitled daughter can have a pony.  The common plea from the anti-enforcement community can be summarized as: “How can you sue PEOPLE?!”

Well, it’s easy – people commit piracy.  We don’t let thieves and rapists off the hook because they’re people.  And while copying files is not analogous to either of those crimes, it is still an unlawful act, and one committed by individuals.  In fact, there is no one better to sue, and more deserving of a lawsuit, than the individual infringer.

Here’s an example why.  Athol Kay wrote a book about how to save and improve your marriage.  He’s been writing a blog for at least a few years now, and consolidated all of his knowledge into an impressive tome about how to keep your wife thin, happy, and sexual.  Pretty important stuff if you ask me, or even if you just don’t want to be one of the nearly half of married men who get financially pwned by divorce.  He sold a PDF copy for a modest sum of money – $10 – that let him keep a decent chunk of change for himself.

Kay knew that piracy of his book was inevitable.  He possibly even bought into the meme that free content generated sales.  He thought it would balance out because people would pay the $10 in recognition of his work in compiling a sizable and massively important book.  He was wrong.

40,000 illegal downloads later, Kay is out about $300,000 in royalties that he would have earned if people had purchased his book legally.  He did everything the freetards told him to – he optimized his model for portability and low cost, efficient sales.  He still got screwed by the basement dwelling turds who think everything should be free because the creator has not exhausted every last possible option in protecting his intellectual property.

To be fair, I would not have advised Kay to distribute a PDF copy of his book.  But he made a business decision with his eyes open.  He did not recognize, however, the extent of piracy for such a niche book.  Kay also recognizes that not every one of those 40,000 downloads would have translated into a sale.

Now I know that if people actually had to pay for the book, 40,000 extra people wouldn’t have purchased it, but if even 10% of them did, that’s still a fair chunk of change and to be completely blunt… I deserve it. (source.)

Indeed he does, and the Constitution itself even says so, as it empowers congress:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries. U.S. Const., Art. I, Section 8, cl. 8

Not everyone who benefits from copyright laws is some fat cat raking in millions of dollars.  In fact, few are.  Most are just regular guys who had an idea, poured their heart and soul into creating it, and hope to get a return on investment for being smart and motivated enough to see their vision through to completion.  I’m sure Kay is flattered that so many people want his book.  But warm fuzzies don’t put food on the table – money does.  If creators cannot get it on the front end with sales, they’ll recoup it on the back end with litigation.

UPDATE 10/21 – As Mike Masnick and others point out, including Kay, his initial figures were way off due to illusory downloads stated in order to generate interest in the files.  His estimates were off, as were the stated lost profits.  Sorry, I was busy.

9 Responses to Shocking revelation: Piracy hurts individuals!

  1. Hiya, it turns out I’m a victim of my own lack of skill at ilegal downloading. Turns out that those 40,000 copies are essentially BS websites and I’m not wildly copied and downloadable.

    So yes indeed there’s going to be some unknown ilegal copying of my book, it’s not quite 40,000. Even so, even 2,000 copies forwarded on to friends and family would be a difference to me personally.

    It’s not even the money that I truly want either – I wnat the cash to throw at the next book and keep spreading the word. Very frustrating some days is all.

    I do appreciate the concern and link love. So yeah I am getting punked, but it’s “punked” rather that “OMGWTFPUNKED!”

  2. Harry Mauron says:

    Isn’t the most important question how many of the 2,000 or 40,000 would have paid for a non-pirated version?

    The conclusory jump to “well SOME of them would have” doesn’t convince.

  3. Gene Malkin says:

    Well said sir. I doubt the author will update his post. Thanks for the honesty.

  4. [...] DeVoy – “The Cynic’s Guide to Living in Las Vegas“, “Shocking Revelation: Piracy Hurts Individuals!”Vox Day – “The Magic Negro, Part II: Republican Edition“, “The [...]

  5. adualism says:

    Piracy crushes many small authors who hope to make an honest living.

    It isn’t that you expect those 400,000 to buy it, but because piracy is so available, others don’t.

    Imagine spending two years of your life, and the debt you’d incur doing so, to create something only to watch people rip it off.

  6. Anne Ominous says:

    It’s pretty funny that the author of this article would presume to expound on the evil effects of copyright infringement via downloading, when he doesn’t even know the difference between that and “piracy”!!!

    Piracy is a legal definition: piracy is the act of copying copyrighted works — usually in bulk — and distributing them for profit. In other words, selling somebody else’s book or music illegally FOR PROFIT, without paying royalties.

    Downloading is simply the copying of someone else’s work, for personal use, without paying royalties. There is a vast difference: for one thing, one is a crime and the other is not. It is a civil matter.

    Further, there is still a huge amount of presumption here. I haven’t seen Kay’s book. For all I know, not 10%, but 0% would have purchased his book, if they had to pay $10 for it. That is a judgment call that neither I, or J. DeVoy, are qualified to make, unless Mr. DeVoy has, in fact read the book. Did you pay your $10 and read it, Mr. DeVoy? If you haven’t, then your assertion that the author would have made $40,000 or more is nothing more than talking out your ass.

    I find it telling that he did not state how many people actually bought the book. I am willing to bet it was relatively few, compared to the amount of copies that were downloaded. That says a lot to me. In particular, that his book was probably grossly overpriced, in the opinions of the readers.

    It may be that he would have made a lot more money if people could not have downloaded his product, but likely it is not, because most SUCCESSFUL books, even when downloaded by many infringers (not “pirates”), usually make a profit for the author.

    • So lets say I am walking by a restaurant. I wouldn’t pay $5 for a hamburger there. But, I see one sitting on the counter and I decide “meh, I’ll eat it for free.” I eat it, I leave. Not theft or parasitic, because I only would have used it for free?

      How about if I tap into my neighbor’s cable TV? I wouldn’t pay $100 a month for cable, but I’ll take it for free. Therefore, Comcast lost nothing, right?

      I walk by a movie theater, and I decide “there’s no way I would pay $7.50 to watch that movie.” But, I see that the back door of the place is ajar, and I decide to sneak in and take a seat. By your logic, I’ve done nothing wrong. The movie theater owner wouldn’t have gotten my $7.50 if I had to actually pay. So why should he get it now?

  7. Anne Ominous says:

    Not at all the same things. First off, the whole reason infringement is a different area of law than “theft” is because when you steal something, you deprive someone else of something tangible.

    Take your hamburger example: if you take that hamburger, you are depriving someone else of that hamburger. Regardless of why you took it, somebody loses something tangible.

    If you tap into the cable TV, you are depriving the cable company of the profit it WOULD HAVE had, if you had purchased the cable instead. Yes, that is true. However, what if you did not have the money for a cable subscription? Then, if you tap into the cable, are you depriving the cable company of anything tangible? No, you are not. (However, if you want to nitpick, at least in the US the laws for tapping a cable signal and copyright infringement are quite different.)

    As for the theater example, no that is not the same either, because you are deciding you don’t want to spend the money, it is not a matter of not having the money. Nevertheless, clearly that would not have resulted in a sale, either.

    But the problem here is that you seem to be assuming that just because I say it is not theft, that I think it is OKAY, simply because somebody could not afford the product. I did not say that. What I stated was that it would not translate into a sale, and therefore nobody has lost anything tangible. I did not say it was a fine thing to do.

    However, study after study after study over the last 11 years (one of them published just a month or two ago), have shown a couple of things very clearly:

    (1) People are willing to buy media if they feel the price is right. Not only do the studies consistently show that, but hard examples like the iTunes store and indy music sales via the internet prove it.

    (2) The people who do the most downloading are also the biggest consumers of PURCHASED media. They try before they buy, but they buy… if they feel the price is right. They go to the theater often. They buy books, CDs, and DVDs more often.

    (3) The biggest reason for decline in book and CD sales is that the price level is no longer in touch with consumers. People would rather buy a single song for $0.99 than a CD of 16 songs, 12 of which are crap, for $12. People often (but by no means always) would rather buy a .pdf file for $10 than a hard-bound book for $25.

    But, all that aside, let’s go back to my original point: I didn’t say it was okay to download media without paying royalties, but let’s be clear: it isn’t theft. Most times it is done there is no way to tell if there would have been a sale anyway, but studies indicate probably not. So while it might not be all angelically ethical, it isn’t robbery either.

    Nor, for that matter, is it “piracy”. It annoys me to no end when people throw around the word “piracy” when they obviously don’t even know what it means; instead they got it from some news story or blog, in which it was used improperly. Like this one.

    So, to summarize: no, it is not “okay”. Any given case of downloading might be depriving someone else of something… or it might not. There is no way for YOU to know. But even if it is a lost sale, it’s still not robbery because you have not taken anything from anybody, and the publisher or author may be out a bit of PROFIT that may have occurred if there had been a sale, but not the full purchase price.

    And lastly, the reason I expressed skepticism about the price of the publication that was the subject here (but made no accusations), is that studies HAVE shown that in general, people will pay if they consider the price to be fair.

  8. [...] of Kay when Marc Randazza pointed me to a blog post by his partner, J. DeVoy, claiming to be a perfect example of how individuals were hurt by infringement. Except… almost none of that was true. It was in response to Kay being fooled (like many [...]

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