You may have noticed that I have some links to short stories and essays in the right hand column. I put them up at Scribd, as it seemed a good way to keep bits of writing I wanted to share in one place. If the links aren’t there, keep reading and you’ll find out why.
The other day I had coffee with two novelists, and the discussion turned to plagarism and copyright. The name Scribd came up, and I learned, to my horror, that Scribd is one of the most egregious sinners when it comes to distributing copyrighted material for free (this practice is often called ‘pirating’). Just today I had the time to have a look, and I didn’t have to go far. I found whole books available for download, books that are still in copyright. Jennifer Crusie, Christina Dodd, Lisa Kleypas, John Sandford, Lee Child … the list goes on and on.
This means that you can wander over to Scribd and download whole novels that you otherwise would have to pay for. The bottom line: it cuts the author (the publisher, the agent, the typesetters, the editors…) out of the loop. It is, in fact, stealing.
If Scribd had a way to flag such abuses so that they’d be taken down immediately that would go a long way, but as it is, there’s no way to do that. The author him/herself has to fill out a long form, which will be sent back for correction multiple times if you don’t get every detail right. After this long process, the document will be taken down.
This is just not good enough.
Most authors — something like 95 percent of all published authors — do not earn enough from royalties to live. They supplement their income with day jobs, because they need to pay the rent and put food on the table. It’s a constant struggle and harder every day to get anything into print. Publishers live and die by sales figures, and every single sale counts.
This whole thing reminds me of an exchange I had some years ago with an acquaintance. These are very, very wealthy people with investments in real estate and the stock market, but they built their business from the ground up, and they earned their money. Then one day they came back after a long trip to Asia, and offered me software. Windows, Photoshop, all kinds of very expensive software, and announced with glee that they had bought all of it at about ten percent of what they’d pay in the States. That is, the software was pirated. Here’s the funny part: these people own a lot of stock in Microsoft. They were taking money out of their own pockets. Either they didn’t realize this, or the thrill of getting something for almost-free was too much to resist. I was shocked, I have to admit, and they could see it on my face. We didn’t see much of them socially after that.
So while the Scribd pirates don’t have a direct impact on me, I am still taking down everything I have posted there. I will make them available through this website, though it may take a couple weeks to get organized. If you happen to use Scribd and you feel about this issue as I do, you might write a note sometime to the management, who seems very lackadaisical about this problem.
I’m just sayin.