A few days ago a friend of mine, Starla Hutchton, brought to my attention a woman online who had been asking for sites to pirate digital books from. I was appalled but didn't think much of it at the time. It sucks but aside from agreeing that these people are dirt, there wasn't much I could do. I will admit that I thought this woman was especially an idiot as she's a photographer and I'm pretty certain that she would be up in arms if I called her up, arranged a photo shoot, and then said I wasn't going to pay her but still want the pictures since I like her work.
Today, I found out that this blew up online. Authors got involved commenting, she made fun of the authors and started banning people. The whole story is told pretty well right here, so I'll let you read it and make your own decisions. What flummoxed me though was the amount of people who agreed that pirating is right.
I'll admit that when I was younger and I was making quarters above minimum wage that I torrented stuff. Nearly everyone did when Napster first came out. I never felt entitled to that music, but it didn't seem any worse at the time than waiting for that song to come on the radio and recording it from there. Since then I've gone to some pains to buy the music I listen to, I pay for a Crunchyroll subscription for my anime & buy series when I can, and I make a point of buying all my books.
So why do I do it? Well, first off, it makes me feel good. Knowing that I am supporting my artists and the things I love makes me feel like I'm making a difference; like I'm letting the author know how much I appreciate their work. Usually I accompany that purchase with an email telling the author why I love their work, since as a writer myself, I've found that being told that somebody loves my work or has suggested my stories to someone else makes my day. But more than that, I do it because they deserve it. Writers and other creative people deserve to make money on the things they create.
I will add a caveat here. Lending someone a copy of your books to give them a taste of a specific authors work is something that I totally agree with. In my experience it leads to more sales for the author. I've turned at least a number of people into fans of SM Stirling's Emberverse series by doing so and all went out and not only bought that book, but they usually continue to buy the rest of the series as well.
However, somebody once said that people don't appreciate something they've received for free. And from what I can tell that is true. Whether its a tarot card reading, a book you've written, a picture you've drawn, a song you've made... whatever it is, you deserve something for your time. If its your first attempt that might be as simple as a compliment. But as you work on your craft, you'll get better and better at it, your skill will increase, and you deserve to begin getting paid for your work.
You don't see CEO's saying that they work at 7-11 on the weekends to pay for their love of working for their corporation, or lawyers saying that they work at Wal-Mart 9-5 because they just can't give up defending people in court. Even priests, generally expected to be the epitome of nobility, are expected to make enough to pay for their expenses through tithing at their parish.So why are people who work in creative pursuits expected to be even more noble and give away what they do for free?