Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Now that e-books are becoming more and more popular, writers face a new concern: e-piracy.

This evening, NPR's "All Things Considered" aired a story about DRM (digital rights management) technology, comparing what is going on now to what has happened in the world of music. A few years ago, websites like Napster allowed users to download music for free. Is the world of e-books doomed to follow in the same footsteps? Will pirated e-books become as easily available as bootlegged copies of "Paint it Black" by the Stones?

I have to wonder if these concerns are really valid. After all, free fiction is already available in abundance. Websites such as Afterburn SF and Aberrant Dreams already offer quality stories and poetry for free. Yard sales, used book sales, and church rummage sales are all sources for cheap fiction. Friends and relatives trade books like kids trade baseball cards. And libraries, the worst 'offenders', are a government-subsidized way for readers to read books for free.

For myself, I've bought books by authors after taking a book of theirs out of the library just like I've purchased CD's after listening to a formerly unknown artist's song on Slacker. Sometimes, getting something for free can lead to name recognition and more sales.

I'm not alone in thinking this way. In the NPR story, author Naomi Novik stated, "The biggest danger to most authors, to most storytellers, is not that somebody is going to steal your work and pass it along — it is that nobody is ever going to see your work." I have to agree.

In my opinion, the worst crime that one can commit is not to get something for nothing, but to claim an author's work as his own. That, my friends, is the true crime. One I hope none of us ever has to deal with.


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