A nice article in the New York Times today again highlighted the growing panic that was first kindled with the introduction of Amazon’s eminently portable e-book reader. Ursula K. Le Guin was amongst those literary stars to find her work online illegally, and she is quoted as saying “Why do they think they can violate my copyright and get away with it?”.
I reckon because, well, they know they can. Despite the Pirate Bay guilty verdict, and increasing legal measures to cap illegal downloads, they still happen – and happen in their millions. What’s to stop books following in the footsteps of films and movies by becoming just the next file to share with your friends? There are already plenty of sites where you can find pirated copies of e-books, although whether they are there by the contest of the site owners remains a point of contention.
Motoko Rich at the NYT suggests that if publishers jump on the bandwagon more quickly than their peers in the music industry, they might manage to nip novel piracy in the bud by offering an easy legal alternative. Which seems a sensible enough solution – if the traditional houses can move fast enough.
Lots of people jump to the defence of pirating activities by suggesting that they are a way for writers to gain exposure and for readers to access work they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. The thing that bugs me about this is the sheer number of writers out there – too great a choice is paralysing. And if anything by anyone can be uploaded to be downloaded free, from world famous authors to bedroom hopefuls, what happens to quality control?