Posted by & filed under Pirates & Politics. 8 comments

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.

8 Responses to “Pirates AND Writers, not Pirates VS Writers: Why you’re not on the other side”

  1. Travis McCrea

    For the record TUEBL is actually anti-raking in gold, it not only takes a loss every month, but also due to paypal freezing my account I have my own personal finances frozen from doing anything on the internet.

    That poses an issue 😛

    • aeliusblythe

      Wow. I didn’t realize your own personal finances were affected, too. That’s pretty bad. Paypal is terrible. Is there anything people can do to help? Are you setting up alternatives for donations etc?

  2. live60

    You try to make this illegal activity a free speech issue when it is clearly not. It’s a theft issue,which has had severe consequences since the first WRITTEN HISTORIES. I’m very glad to hear that accounts are being frozen. No, writers and pirates will never be on the same page. Literature rises above the tactics of boys in the hood and keeps copyrighted material profitable for the creator in order to encourage more people to venture into the water. Those sporting the Jolly Roger will continue to be put under water.


    • aeliusblythe

      I’m so sorry that you feel that way. I assure you that the new generation of writers is–or will be–prepared for the changes that are sweeping the industry. It it not a happy thing to see the downfall of the resisting incumbents, but choosing to fight they will have to fall. It’s becoming our world.

      Copying is not theft. It never has been. Not legally. Not morally. Not semantically. Stealing is taking, not duplicating.

  3. ComicWatcher

    The world population has to stop giving credit and validity to those arguments that “piracy” is a crime.
    Current USER exchange is validation that their business model is broken and invalid.

    Another thing all together is the argument that some organized gang uses Intellectual Property to forge items and make money off them.
    That is immoral, and should be a crime.

    Going back to basics, every piece of culture (Music, movies, comics, literature) is made FOR PEOPLE TO ENJOY IT AND PARTAKE.
    How do yo make money out of it, is your business problem.
    But your right to make money SHOULD NEVER INFRINGE in the right of the people to share it an appreciate it.

    WHY? Because you are using something that is public and free (THE WORLD’S cultural landscape) and trying to make money off it. If you can do that, god bless you. But if you can’t, it is your own fault.

    You can ascribe something to be a work of art, or a commercial item, but it can’t be both. You can try to do commerce with a work of art (even though it is a bit immoral) but you can’t
    A) Penalize people for sharing it/accessing it/ using it
    B) Take over a public medium such as the Internet (composed by a series of protocols that have no owner) and IMPOSE YOUR BROKEN BUSINESS MODEL
    C) Obstruct the expansion of cultural values and samples in any way, shape or form.

    If you have been making lots of money thanks to the musical monopoly, and their monopolistic tactics, know that you had a good run, but what you did is immoral.
    If you were making money by following the dictates of a big publisher, know that you had a good run, but the model was broken to start with. It benefited you and the company, but it was not the right way to go.

    You can be a business or you can be a cultural entity, but one has to have precedent and prevalence over the other.

    This doesn’t mean that writers and musicians should do things for free. It means that if people want to make a living, they have to find ways to monetize in what they do without infringing in the normal mechanics of how culture expands and spreads.

    • aeliusblythe

      “You can be a business or you can be a cultural entity, but one has to have precedent and prevalence over the other.”

      Yes, absolutely. (And to be honest, if business is the #1 priority, there are better and more secure businesses to go into than the arts!)

      “This doesn’t mean that writers and musicians should do things for free. It means that if people want to make a living, they have to find ways to monetize in what they do without infringing in the normal mechanics of how culture expands and spreads.”

      Yup. One person’s rights (a creator’s) doesn’t come before everyone else who has ever seen their work or who ever will see their work. Exactly. It’s difficult to explain that CopyRIGHT is actually a reduction of most people’s rights.

  4. live60

    Copyright keeps pirates at bay whether they want to admit it or not. If you’re a pirate, proceed at your own risk. And yes, I the creator can stop you from monetizing my work. And trust me, you do fear what will happen to you if you cross the line I’ve drawn in the sand. The Internet provides a free space for a lot of people to spout bravado, but beyond that computer screen you have no power.


    • aeliusblythe

      Monetizing maybe, but not sharing. How’s that been working out lately?

      Whether I fear the consequences or not doesn’t matter. Copyright is restrictive. Copyright is censorship. Copyright is a weapon against culture. And I will do what’s right to fight it regardless of whether I fear it or not.

      And sorry, but how dare you talk to me about fearing the consequences. I’m online writing about freedom of speech, censorship, the CCP, harmonious societies, and practically breaking the law FROM CHINA. Do you really think that fear has anything to do with my actions or views?

      I recommend you read Falkvinge’s statement, “And When Even the Death Penalty Doesn’t Deter Copying – What then?”

      And then come back and tell me that fear has anything at all to do with it.



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