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Old 02-09-2012, 06:00 AM   #1
darryl
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A Short History of Book Piracy

I found some interesting reading in a document entitled Coda - A Short History of Book Piracy. I have not looked at the authors or their efficacy, though on the surface at least it appears to be bona fide reputable research. You can download a pdf via the following link:

http://piracy.ssrc.org/wp-content/up...Coda-Books.pdf

It is from a larger report entitled Media Piracy in Emerging Economies, which is also available for download (though I have not yet done so). The following links to an index of the full report with download links.

http://piracy.ssrc.org/the-report/

A summary from that site refers to the efforts of the copyright lobby to strengthen laws before stating:

"The report argues that these efforts have largely failed, and that the problem of piracy is better conceived as a failure of affordable access to media in legal markets."


My own view is that this is no doubt very true in many countries. Geographic restrictions in the past enabled, amongst other things, different pricing in different markets, and many governments, such as Australia's, assisted against the interests of its own people with parallel import legislation. Before ebooks became common it was usually much cheaper for Australian consumers to import books bought retail from the United States rather than buy locally. Local bookstores were not very happy even when Amazon was selling only paper books.

Of course, now we have essentially one worldwide market, despite the no doubt doomed efforts to cling to and enforce geographic restrictions. Without effective geographic restrictions this essentially means an ebook must be priced essentially the same globally.

The Coda makes some very interesting points about the origins and purpose of copyright, and the reaction of those favoured by it whenever the status quo is threatened, which to no ones surprise is lobbying for new and draconian laws to preserve such status quo. It also looks at the likely role of publishers and the possible form a new market may take when the current upheavals are ultimately settled. And the current strong stance of the US in favour of copyright was of course not always the case, as many of the old English and other European publishers can attest to.

Some thought provoking material as well as a lesson in hypocrisy and self-interest.
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Old 02-09-2012, 06:29 AM   #2
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If someone is interested in the long history:

The University of Chicago Press published (and offered as a free book some times ago) this book:

Adrian Johns: Piracy. The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates

http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/...bo8273977.html
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Old 02-09-2012, 07:29 AM   #3
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The first time I noticed ebook piracy on the internet was in the late 90s, when Harlan Ellison started rattling on about people stealing his out of print books.
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Old 02-09-2012, 08:52 AM   #4
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Not specifically about books - but more on "piracy" in general - I strongly recommend two books by William Patry (one of today's experts on copyright). I found both of these quite enlightening about the history of all this (this battle goes back much longer than I'd thought) and the meaning & implications of what's going on now:

Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars - William Patry
How to Fix Copyright - William Patry

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Old 02-09-2012, 09:44 AM   #5
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I've downloaded the report and it makes for some interesting reading. I suspect this injection of facts will do little for the piracy debate on this board, but it's definitely interesting.
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Old 02-09-2012, 11:21 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mpeg2 View Post
Not specifically about books - but more on "piracy" in general - I strongly recommend two books by William Patry (one of today's experts on copyright). I found both of these quite enlightening about the history of all this (this battle goes back much longer than I'd thought) and the meaning & implications of what's going on now:

Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars - William Patry
How to Fix Copyright - William Patry

Ric
Those are pretty good reads, although a mass shift of perception, towards the idea that you can never own an idea/text/art is probably needed if copyright is ever to be fixed.

Most people only lightly touch on the idea of attribution but it is at the core of this argument.
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Old 02-09-2012, 05:36 PM   #7
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The important thing about copyright, to my mind, is that it represents, in an ideal world, a method of the artist/creator recieving recompense for his work/creation.
Nowadays, the copyright "battle" seems to centre more on the publisher, who now represents, in most cases, the power behind the finances of the market, with prime buyers (retailers of all kinds) next.
The dream of doing away with copyright presents us with the big question of how the creator - writer in our specific case - gets his living - or pittance in most cases.
This would seem, by and large, to be solved in the music world to a large degree - because it had to be.

I often feel the writer is left out of a lot of the anti-copyright thinking, and I don't recall an alternative being suggested.

Last edited by carpetmojo; 02-10-2012 at 05:54 AM.
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Old 02-10-2012, 01:21 AM   #8
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Thanks to those who have taken the time to download and post. It is an interesting but not an easy area, and no one seems to have any magic solutions. We can only be sure that the existing system is not working, and the measures proposed by some to make it work are draconian and even dangerous.
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Old 02-10-2012, 06:08 AM   #9
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The publisher is the enterpreneur who takes the initial financial risk, and so naturally they are going to get a bit hot under the collar. It may cost anything from ten thousand up to a million dollars for pre-production, production, delivery and publicity for a new novel on paper. Naturally the publisher isn't in the business as a charity - they're looking or a profit. For every book not sold - let's say a 40 dollar hardback - the publisher loses profit, and the author loses royalties.

If ten thousand copies are ripped off then the publisher is down 400,000 gross, and the author is down 40,000.

And if you are a self-publishing and take your own financial risks, that is a huge bite out for your income.

I know it's a real bitch kitty. Instant duplication of a digital book is not the same as photocopying a dead tree book. It's a whole new world. Experience has shown - eg computer software - that anything digital can and will be stolen wholsesale.

I can't think of an answer, and I don't think anyone else can either. If even the most rigorously defended software discs can be hacked free, if the Pentagon can be hacked with a cheap PC and a modem (and it has been), then there is no answer at all.

Welcome to Brave New World.
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Old 02-11-2012, 06:35 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pulpmeister View Post
If ten thousand copies are ripped off then the publisher is down 400,000 gross, and the author is down 40,000.
Thanks for your post. Whilst I see and appreciate the point you are making, the unstated assumption on which this relies is that every copy "ripped off" is a lost sale. I don't know just what percentage of total "ripped-off" copies equate to lost sales, and have not seen any decent research on the topic. Anecdotally, the percentage may well be quite small. Posts in various places suggest many reasons for piracy where it is doubtful that sales are lost, for instance, titles that:

1. Are downloaded in, say, a torrent of sometimes many thousand titles, few of which will ever be actually read and only a fraction if any would have been paid for.
2. Are unavailable as ebooks at the time they are acquired. (Some posters suggest that they will buy and pay when an ebook does come out or that they have already bought a paper version).
3. Represent a format-shift, from print to ebook, or from, say, mobi to epub.
4. Are downloaded by people who have absolutely no intention of paying for anything and would not purchase if they had to pay.

I make no comment on the moral or legal status of any of the above nor whether they have any efficacy or are simply rationalisations which people are using.

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Originally Posted by Pulpmeister View Post
Experience has shown - eg computer software - that anything digital can and will be stolen wholsesale.
The use of the word "stolen" in this context has been discussed extensively in other places. I personally don't believe its use is appropriate in this context, as it is a term more appropriate to tangible property, where the owner is deprived of the use of the item of property concerned. Legally the element of asportation required to establish larceny is missing, as is the required intention to permanently deprive the owner of the property concerned. The correct term is of course infringement of copyright, which is an accurate description, but does not carry the same strong connotations as theft.

And yes, it has proven almost impossible to prevent the copying of digital content. I have no doubt that there is a great deal of that copying done without the permission of or any reward to the creators of that content. But we don't know what percentage of any potential market is lost due to this. What is interesting to me is that despite the potential to obtain things for nothing, many, perhaps even the vast majority, do not. Certainly enough pay their way to retain viable industries. Studios still make movies, despite the fact copies are sometimes available online before the movie is officially released. Likewise, sales of music boom, though in at least one high profile case a prominent band was forced to release an album early because of digital copies. Sales of ebooks are booming, despite easy availability of pirate copies. ITunes goes from strength to strength, as does Amazon and Netflix, amongst others.

Piracy of digital content is a fact of life, and I cannot see it going away any time soon. Yet it appears many people will buy rather than pirate when it is made easy and convenient for them to do so, and an attractive, well priced product is presented.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pulpmeister View Post
I can't think of an answer, and I don't think anyone else can either. If even the most rigorously defended software discs can be hacked free, if the Pentagon can be hacked with a cheap PC and a modem (and it has been), then there is no answer at all.

Welcome to Brave New World.
I agree. I certainly can't think of an answer either. But I do know what the answer is not. It is not abandoning essential freedoms by passing draconian laws and taking draconian measures to protect the vested interests of the few.

In the meantime life still goes on, and the market if left to itself will ultimately find its own solution. I doubt the book, record or movie industries will die, though they certainly will change drastically.
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Old 02-11-2012, 10:33 AM   #11
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If a book bootlegged and sold, that is lost sales, because that is money that is going to the bootlegger instead of to the author. But a downloaded book doesn't equal a lost sale, you can't assume that the person who downloaded the book would have purchased it, or even that that they read it. Sure, some people would have purchased the book if they couldn't download it, but the actual impact on sales is very hard to calculate. You can't simply multiply the number of downloads times the sale price.
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Old 02-11-2012, 03:52 PM   #12
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Statistics for book sales 2010,
Makes me wonder how statistics for 2011 will shape up. They should be coming forth soon. Despite all the complaining about piracy it seems that sales are healthy.
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Old 02-12-2012, 02:50 AM   #13
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Quote:
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If a book bootlegged and sold, that is lost sales, because that is money that is going to the bootlegger instead of to the author. But a downloaded book doesn't equal a lost sale, you can't assume that the person who downloaded the book would have purchased it, or even that that they read it. Sure, some people would have purchased the book if they couldn't download it, but the actual impact on sales is very hard to calculate. You can't simply multiply the number of downloads times the sale price.
I agree that bootlegged books cost sales. However, I think a bootlegged sale may in many cases be a potential sale but at a lower price. There would be some purchases from the bootlegger where the buyer was going to buy in any event and just took advantage of the availability at a lower price, and some where the buyer was not prepared to pay one cent more. All that is clear in this case is that there is a market for the book at the lower price.

The situation becomes more complex when bootleggers use a subscription type model. It becomes almost impossible to guess what each subscriber may have purchased except for the bootlegger. I would suggest, however, that it would certainly not be a case that the subscriber would have paid full retail price for every book they downloaded.
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Old 02-14-2012, 02:59 AM   #14
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In the meantime life still goes on, and the market if left to itself will ultimately find its own solution. I doubt the book, record or movie industries will die, though they certainly will change drastically.
What is the market but the collective thinking of those involved??

The solution is the creation of a truly free market, sadly at the moment it only works for digital goods.
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