As previously mentioned, my blogs are being unified during the cazybusyness of NaNoWriMo. Not every post is migrating here, just the ones I want to add to. This one’s the first of a series of rants on the conflict between pirates and writers and why we think there is one at all.
The music and film industries–quicker to digitize than book publishers–did an excellent job constructing the Pirates vs. Artists battlefield. They put the fear of pirates into the hearts of artists and played the white knights defending us from rogues. Real romantic. And now the publishing industry has taken up this mantle of chivalry. With the explosion of ebooks and of course ebook piracy, publishers have done a great job of adapting the music and film industry’s approach. Now, it’s Pirates vs. Writers.
But I don’t remember signing up for that battle.
Maybe I was too busy figuring out BitTorrent. Maybe I was too busy buying books. Maybe I was too busy reading. Maybe I was too busy writing. But now that I’ve looked up from the crumpled mass of paper on my desk, things are clearer than they were when all I heard was the noise of the battle in the background. I’ve seen the battlefield. And it’s not Pirates vs. Writers, just like it was never Pirates vs. Artists.
It’s pirates AND artists. Pirates AND writers. We’re on the same side.
Why? Pirates and writers–we are agents of culture. Our motivations are the same, our goals are the same. We aren’t fighting each other, we’re holding each other up.
Take a look in the writer’s camp . . .
A writer should write to be read.
I don’t mean that no one should ever write just for themselves. I don’t mean that no one should write to support themselves. And I don’t mean that everyone should write to the market. I mean that if you read the job description you would know that stories are art, and art is an integral part of culture. And culture is shared. If you don’t like the job, then maybe it’s time to start sending out resumes.
A writer should champion free speech.
The first amendment is the most important tool of the writer, for those who live within its reach. The job of artists to push the boundaries of what is acceptable. Our job is not to write around the censors. Our job is not to ask for permission. Our job is not to shut up when someone doesn’t like what we have to say. Our job is to tell stories, whether people like it or not. Our job is to imagine and observe, and say Look! Look, what I saw! Did you see that?
And what is important for us must be important for others. Free speech–including free exchange of ideas and culture–must be preserved. Art is our heritage. It is a snapshot of our culture. Artists grow culture. How could we deny that freedom to others? We cannot.
A writer should be brave.
Artists suffer. That’s no secret. They say things people don’t want to hear. They say things people want to hear but in ways they’re not ready for. But saying what people want to hear when they want to hear it is not the job of a writer–or of any artist. A writer has to have the balls to speak even when free speech is being denied to them.
If a writer waits for the law, then when they finally have written, the time for their story will have past.
Take a look in the pirate’s camp . . .
A pirate reads to read.
Book pirates are readers. Just like music pirates are music fans. And movie pirates are movie fans. People who share stories share stories because they love stories. Do some people do it for money? Sure. But non-commercial file-sharers don’t get any compensation for putting their asses on the line. And non-commercial sites like TUEBL and The Pirate Bay aren’t exactly raking in the gold. Pirates of all people are the ones who can read for the sake of reading. Not for the sake of what they can afford. Not for the sake of a publishing house that decides where and how to make books available. Strip away the cost. Strip away the permissions. What do you have? You have books. People reading books. Nothing else.
A pirate is a champion of free speech.
For some reason, some people feel like rights that people in democratic societies expect in daily life shouldn’t apply in online life. The right to come together, to share our words, our culture with each other without interference–if these were suspended offline, people would be rioting in the streets. And yet, the right to share information and cultural material online is denied on a regular basis. Talk about taking our freedoms for granted. Pirates facilitate first amendment rights online by fortifying the havens where people from all parts of the globe can come together and share our words.
A pirate is brave.
But despite these havens, people are suffering the loss of their rights. There have been arrests. There have been fines in the millions. There have even been prison sentences. Yet pirates still pirate. They don’t wait for it to be legal, they don’t wait for your approval. They don’t wait until you’re ready. They share words because they love them. Because this is their culture too and they want to share it. And despite the danger, they continue to do just that.
This Battlefield is a Mirror When I look at the copyright/piracy battlefield all I see is people spreading art, ideas, words, stories around the world. Not because they’re allowed to, but because they want to. “They” want to spread art. “They” want to spread culture. So do we.
We. Are. On. The. Same. Damn. Side.
And, yet, writers still feel like they’re on a battlefield facing a bunch of people with broadswords, peg-legs and eye patches.