Tuesday, 8 January 2013

How to Stop or Report TUEBL?

 Edit: I just reached 10,000+ views on this website in under a year. Thanks so much everyone! 

I just downloaded Moon Reader Pro to my Google Nexus 7 and it wasn't long before I found a link to books marked TUEBL. This stands for The Ultimate E-Book Library, but I didn't know that at the time. Within a few seconds I managed to download: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight, and half a dozen other copyrighted titles. Heck, I wasn't even trying to find or pirate these books. After a dozen more seconds my initial amusement quickly faded. After all, I write books. What if this was my book up there being pirated for free? Anyway, I immediately deleted Moon Reader along with the books from my device. 

A quick internet search turned up a host of interesting things about this e-book pirating site. Basically, they figure what they're doing is making the internet 'free' and that it isn't criminal. They also claim to be Canadian which only makes me ashamed. Our copyright laws are just as stringent as those of the United States and if they're using this to hide or gain some kind of diplomatic immunity, I hope the Canadian Government quickly does the right thing.

Yes, I know it's ridiculously easy to pirate: movies, books, games, music, and what have you. Does this make it right? I don't know. I do know that if it was my book being pirated I wouldn't be happy. I ask you this: 1. If it was your book you'd spent 10 years writing and you were getting it ripped off, how would you feel? 2. I dare the people in charge of this site to write out, by hand with pen, every book they're trying to give away for free. If they still feel like giving them away for free after that, so be it.

Okay, maybe I'm being a little over-the-top here. It's a funny site. I guess I just found the blatant lack of apology by the site administrators doubly annoying.

Do I know a way to stop these guys apart from costly/time consuming legal action? No. However, if anyone has any comments on the issue, pro or con, I'd love to hear them.

...More About This on Another Site

30 comments:

  1. Hey David, Travis McCrea here -- owner of TUEBL,
    If your book get's uploaded to TUEBL and you did not upload it, we have made it incredibly simple for copyright holders to remove their books. We don't even require you email us anymore, you just go to the book page, click DMCA TAKEDOWN, put your name and email address, and submit it. Done. Bok removed.

    This system is more liberal than Youtube or Facebook in the effort to remove copyrighted material from TUEBL. So I object to your libellous claims of us being a "pirate" site.

    Do you want me to apologize that I operate a website which is statistically likely to help you sell more books? A website that raises money to buy physical books and send them to libraries in South America? I wont do it.

    We operate a service, some users use that service to upload copyrighted material just like every other major website on the internet. You use pinterest whose business model is basically tied up around people uploading copyrighted material to share.

    Please feel free to email us at info@tuebl.com

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    Replies
    1. Wow, quick reply! I'm very impressed.

      Hm, that's an interesting stance. I meant no libel or disrespect and I apologize for any offense I may have given. I recall you wrote somewhere that piracy is okay. I thoroughly researched my post before writing it up. Your take down policy seems like a good plan and very fair. However, on one post I recall you writing "...and even if we did take it down someone else would post it up in a day or too anyway, so ha..." or something very similar to that.

      If, indeed, the book was permanently taken off the system (by request of the author in person [I hate bots, too]) I would view that as far more reasonable. Is it possible I misread what you wrote earlier or you have changed your stance on the matter?

      I also agree with you that Youtube and Facebook have draconian take down policies. I think Youtube has essentially given up on stopping music piracy, but they craftily leave lower quality music to be pirated while linking too and selling 'higher quality' music on Itunes.

      You are 100% correct that I'm doing the same thing by using Pinterest. I suppose I'm just as guilty as anyone else when it comes to a small amount of piracy. I originally joined Pinterest simply to connect with the fans I had there who had pinned my book, Challenger RPG. I'm quite sure I've re-pinned someone else's copyrighted picture and/or used it on my site. I've also written up a page on my site for possible copyright infringement. If anyone has anything copyrighted on my site and they contact me to take it down, I will remove it (much as you said you would). However, I will do so 'permanently' and not 'until I or another feels like putting it back on again'.

      I used to personally contact anyone whose picture I used for permission to use it. However, this became very time consuming so I now just credit all images I use and offer to permanently take down any I may have used against the artist/author's wishes. Further, I do not sell any other artist's/authors pictures or works without their express permission. I have fully paid for (and pay royalties for) all the artwork I use in all my books. The books themselves are written fully by myself and those who I expressly contacted and obtained permission of to use their help and advice.

      I guess the internet causes each of us to draw our moral lines where it feels right. I don't particularly have a love of big business. I know massive companies overcharge for data, internet, movies, pictures, books, and all the rest. I also know that it's easily possible to pirate for free those same movies, internet, pictures, and books.

      I don't mean to imply that I'm perfect (or even right). These are simply my own opinions. In the past I've heisted internet, helped people share data for phones with their devices, and other 'illegal' acts. At the time, I didn't view these things as wrong because I couldn't see it hurt anyone but big business with no right to do it anyway. What does it matter if I help someone share their phone data when they already pay for it? Large and greedy businesses which overcharge for things which cost them almost nothing seriously ticks me off.

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    2. That said, I have a greater respect for the working man. The guy who puts in ten years of his life learning his craft and puts out a song. Yes, the record company is making 90% of the profit by overcharging us, but the remaining 10% goes to a guy who put in a lot of hard work and sweat to achieve something remarkable. I think that artist fully deserves his small percentage for his hard work. Considering how hard it is to achieve 'star' status I also believe that even the over-the-top rich of the rich in the industry deserve what they get. Either through luck or extreme hard work, they've earned every penny.

      If there's a product and a price, I believe you either pay the price or don't use the product. However, if the price of the product is overcharged unreasonably and it goes only to a mega-corporation, I don't feel as many moral qualms about 'cheating' them out of money they are essentially 'cheating' us out of. For example, an internet company might charge 40% a month for land line internet and 20 times that for wireless internet in the same amount. This is obviously a rip off no matter how you look at it.

      If there was some way to pay the artist for their work and cut out the middleman, that would be nice. We're not at that stage yet.

      If you own a work already and just want a copy, that seems reasonable. How can you tell, though? Who's to say if I have a song or not?

      Also, agreeing to permanently take down content if requested by the author seems reasonable (key word: permanent). In the current state of things, that seems like the go-to for internet law. I do no better myself.

      However, if I'm correct in assuming your site would allow other users to 're-upload' that content, it defeats the whole purpose.

      I look forward to hearing your reply and insights. Thank you for the prompt response to my writing! If I've written anything of specific offense, please let me know as I may rectify it if I see it as unreasonable and unjustified as well. Also, these are only my personal opinions.

      I've always been a bit of a renegade myself. I've also always figured that 'anything which goes on the internet will somewhere become free'. That's why I sell my book at the price of $0.00. (current Amazon hiccup aside). I wouldn't even mind it being pirated (which it has been a few times) except for the fact I lose count of my download total when that happens. You see, even though my book is free every download and every positive review brings me that much closer to being a professionally published author and improves my record and bio.
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      Writing a whole book is a lot of work, let alone seven, ten, or a hundred. I like to support the little guy. The hard worker who tirelessly perfects his craft without pay, adulation, or respect. A guy without much money, but with honor. I'm sure you have a similar respect for hard workers if you truly do your work without pay or commendation.

      --David L. Dostaler
      Author, Challenger RPG (free)

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    3. :) A long reply, let me go down the list:

      TUEBL has changed the way it operates, the link that you linked to at the end of your post is quite old (at least in Internet time). We are making efforts to legitimize our website and provide a service for authors that we know is needed. We will always have a lot of copyrighted material on our website, and there isn't much I can do about that. To be honest, the copyrighted material draws a lot of attention and helps us direct those people looking for Harry Potter to new independent authors who use our service for publicity... and I don't really feel too bad about it.

      When you make statements about our site being a pirate site, you cause us to lose the credibility that we are trying to gain which decreases the number of authors who are going to be open minded and upload their books to TUEBL as well as increase the number of people who find your post about TUEBL being a pirate website and use it for that purpose. This causes us to have issues with advertisers, payment processors, etc. To the point that we are ready to use legal means to protect our brand against wrongful accusations (mainly in this article that we operate anything that would be considered criminal in the US or Canada).

      The truth is that TUEBL cannot filter our uploads, Youtube can't, Google can't (filter what it spiders), Flickr can't, Facebook can't, etc etc etc. So it's true that when an author removes their book from TUEBL there is a chance it will be uploaded again. Another truth, is that many authors upload their books to TUEBL against their publishers wishes because they know that it increases the number of sales their book gets. This is why we don't require users to log in to upload books. If an author uploads their book for free to some services, Amazon will not let you charge on their service. However, if the book just so happens to appear on a site like TUEBL Amazon wont punish the author as much since the author has plausible deniability. I know this happens because authors who do this have talked to me about it.

      You could say that in the last example we are still a pirate site, because the author is uploading a book that either they don't have the rights to (their publisher does), or they are uploading a book that breaks their agreement with Amazon. However, that's not my moral choice to make and if it's helping authors sell books it doesn't bother me.

      We are doing a redesign which should be out soon, included in that redesign is methods for users to directly give money to their favourite authors. It also will be featuring kickstarter projects and such to help books get funded. However, when authors start creating divide -- it just hurts themselves. TUEBL is in the top 100K websites on the internet, and most other websites like ours would keep doing what they have always done. TUEBL is using it's size to work with authors and to help promote books and reading. We still donate any profit we make to book charities, and soon to kickstarter projects (which means that when authors try to hurt us through advertising or our payment processors, they are only hurting the children -- TUEBL costs $50 a month to operate so it's bills will be paid no matter what).

      Let's also point out that our amazon link sells tons of books, TUEBL can no longer access the stats on our affiliate link because it was banned, but we still left the link up to buy from Amazon and we were selling a couple hundred books a month and that was when our site was less than half of what it is now.

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    4. (apparently I had too much to say for one message)

      I agree with you that these authors put a lot of time and energy into their work. My girlfriend is a writer, and she puts a lot of work (and money) into her books: She writes it, then goes through and edits it, then she pays for a proof copy so she can read it in book form and write in it and edit it again, and then buys a second book with all the edits and marks up that one, and then she buys a 3rd or 4th book just to make sure that the cover looks good and the paragraphs and spacing and things are set. I know that is a lot of work, I know that it is a lot of money.

      The thing is, her book isn't going to get picked up by a major publisher -- and even if it was, the chances are she would never sell out of her advance, so the publisher would indefinitely hold the rights to her book. With self publishing and TUEBL she is able to get people to find her book, download it, love it, and then we have 50 copies of the book here which she sells (and gives away) and she is finishing up an extended edition ebook (with notes and commentary and stuff) which people who buy the book or who support the book in some way get access to.

      She wont remove the extended edition if it gets uploaded somewhere, but the odds are that the extended edition wont be uploaded because the standard edition (which includes the full story) is already out. It doesn't provide any advantage to upload the extended copy and as you were saying even people who pirate have moral boundaries.


      Instead of trying to fight piracy which she (nor any other author) will ever beat, she instead focuses on making do with what is available and views it as a major marketing tool. She realizes (as all the data confirms), that piracy isn't going to hurt her book sales, it is only going to help them. People have a deep connection with their favourite authors or favourite books. JK Rowling's fans would have ensured that she had enough money to write her books, even if she gave them away for free... because people wanted to read the next book she wrote. There are already public libraries and things where people can get books for free, but they don't use them because they would rather support their favourite author.

      You say "If there was some way to pay the artist for their work and cut out the middleman, that would be nice. We're not at that stage yet." Why? what is preventing us from cutting out the middle man? On demand printing is more available and cheaper than it's ever been. Authors who have tried it, have found that editing can be effectively crowdsourced, kickstarter gives you a platform to get the initial funding you need, websites like TUEBL are wonderful for marketing your book, blogs are good at reviewing your books, createspace will even get your book into bookstores. Paypal and Stripe make accepting payments on your own effortless. What exactly is holding us back?

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    5. (apparently I had too much to say for THREE messages)


      You also state "Writing a whole book is a lot of work, let alone seven, ten, or a hundred. I like to support the little guy. The hard worker who tirelessly perfects his craft without pay, adulation, or respect. A guy without much money, but with honor. I'm sure you have a similar respect for hard workers if you truly do your work without pay or commendation." You assume that the people I respect are not the authors who are on TUEBL. I also respect the readers and the people TUEBL helps, not just through it's charitable work, but by existing. My point ties into your belief that "If there's a product and a price, I believe you either pay the price or don't use the product." TUEBL is available in every country in the world. We were just contacted by an Iranian girl who was looking for help for TUEBL and explained that all of her friends use the website because they /cannot/ buy western books. In part due to local laws, but mainly because there is a financial blockade of their country. This goes for /many/ places that TUEBL helps. South America isn't sold to by most publishers for ebooks, and the cost of physical books is too high for most people to afford them, and especially not people who can read a book in a day.

      So I say again, instead of working against TUEBL and trying to find ways to shut us down (which simply wont work), why not try to find a way to work with TUEBL and make your work more profitable.

      I am going to leave you with a video by someone I am guessing we both admire: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Qkyt1wXNlI (this video only backs up the data presented by every study on the subject, as well as publishers such as oreilly)

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    6. Wow, excellent and in-depth comments! I can always appreciate a well-reasoned stance on a subject, kudos. I read everything multiple times to digest the meaning, and I've fully viewed the Youtube video by Neil Gaiman which I found very interesting. Thanks for sharing it. I 'do' admire fantasy authors of many types and works and Neil Gaiman is one of them.

      I'd like to try to respond to each of your points in-depth, roughly in the order you wrote them.

      I didn't realize that TUEBL was currently operating within Canadian and U.S. copyright law. If this is the case, the accusations of being illegal are obviously unwarranted. However, I can't help but notice that the site quite easily makes available illegal downloads to potential users. I'm currently unaware of any changes to copyright laws which allow you to take copies of copyrighted work or reproduce them against the copyright owner's wishes.

      I do not object to any author uploading their book by choice to TUEBL for any purpose they deem fit, including reasons concerning Amazon. I also realize that having 'no filter' on what people upload to a site is a reasonable and common practice. It is the same with Google, Youtube, Firefox, and many other sites. However, I find it questionable, on those grounds, that TUEBL does not have any way to permanently remove content deemed to be against an author's wishes. Youtube has removed all videos except one by a certain (and many) musical artists, has linked to the 'official' place to buy that music, and has further made advertising deals with that particular artist. Also, the single movie which remains is always of a lower quality than the song available 'officially' thus encouraging proper buying of that music. I would definitely find a similar system used by TUEBL less objectionable. While I applaud your planned efforts to work authors into the site, I think direct links on each download page to the 'official' place to get the work would go a long way.

      First off, I'm glad to hear the information I had found is now out of date and that TUEBL is trying to become a legitimate site. I do not object to any author who willingly wishes to share his or her work through a website. I also agree that famous authors such as Gaiman and Rowling would probably never have gone bankrupt no matter how much piracy was going on at the time. However, mid and low range authors might have been more harshly affected.

      You say that the upload of a copyrighted material is the moral choice of the person making the upload. You also say that it helps the author sell more books. I think both of those points are debatable. One: which each person's choices are their own morally, a very small percentage of people making the 'wrong' choice can effect a greater majority of the people making the 'right' choice. Further, by creating the site, it is your moral obligation to make the 'right' choice personally and not shift responsibility wholly onto the user. Simply by the act of creating a website you are always making a moral choice personally. Second: I agree that in some cases piracy can enhance sales. However, I do not believe that to be true 100% of the time. With big name authors I think it's more often the case, whereas with smaller authors it might not necessarily be so. Regardless, even if 90% of authors are helped by piracy the remaining 10% have 'no choice' in the matter and are effected regardless. I feel that, no matter how small the percentage, it is the moral right of the 'copyright holder' to make that decision, and none other. More on that in a bit.

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    7. ***

      TUEBL's Revenue: Apart from the obvious fact that all revenue should be going to the copyright holder, I couldn't help but notice you said all 'profit' goes to the charities. Does that profit exclude any 'expenses or paychecks' to the operators of TUEBL? While I support giving money to charity, I think that such money should always be from the person who legally makes the money 'the copyright holder'. All such things aside, I think that morally all donations to TUEBL should go directly to the respective copyright holders minus site expenses. That would seem much more fair. I know you said it's easy to send PayPal directly to an author, but really, who does that? When anyone pirates a song or a book do they really think "Gee, I guess I should send 5 cents to the author through paypal?" I think not. Even I, who love to support authors and artists of all stripes have never ever done this and probably never will. It's just not something people do.

      I commend you on running such a successful site and making good deals with Amazon and various advertisers. However, I think that's besides the point of what I'm trying to get at here.

      Regarding Unknown Authors: Yes, piracy can help you get your name out there. I never said it couldn't. Giving away your work for free can do the same but it's the 'author's' choice. That's the big difference. Your girlfriend 'chose' to have her works on your site. I 'chose' to make my book free. Some authors have that choice made for them which I view as wrong.

      I fully support on-demand, kick starter, crowd funding, and crowd sourcing. The sad truth is these things are used for companies to 'get off the ground'. The end of any kickstarter is a product to be sold for a price. If the price of the product at the end disappeared kickstarters would cease to function. there would be no point. The point of a kickstarter is to build up capital for a 'sale-able' product, not a free product. Have you ever seen a kickstarter for something where the end goal was a free product? It's possible, but mostly unlikely.

      I agree that fighting piracy is probably an unwinnable war. Fighting crime could, also, be called an unwinnable war. That doesn't mean you stop fighting it and let criminals do whatever they like.

      You also said your girlfriend's work will never be picked up by a major publisher, so why bother? Is that really your decision to make? Is it up to you to determine that everyone's work will 'never make it' so why bother not pirating it? No. It's 'her' choice. If she made the choice to believe she'll never publish professionally, I feel her pain, but that was her decision to make.

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    8. ***

      Helping People who Can't Afford Books: I agree that this is a laudable deed. I fully commend you on the honor of doing something good for the world and I wish more people could share that trait. However, I'd like to point again that you're giving away money that someone else has earned. You also said that these people could not otherwise have bought these books because of a financial barrier. Yes. That's the whole point. This comment could be taken to mean that anyone without financial means has the 'right' to take things who are more well off. In a perfect world, this could be a great concept. As the comment stands, I can only take it to mean that hard work, wealth, accomplishment, and money have no meaning and you believe it is the right of everyone to take anything and everything they want from those more powerful. This sounds like communism on a micro scale. I'd like to point out that the fellow who invented communism was very smart and his ideas were good. In fact, implemented correctly communism could be a great way to live. The sad truth is that by human nature, communism simply doesn't work. I'm not saying it's right, I'm not saying it couldn't, I'm just saying it 'didn't'. At least, not in Canada, anyway.

      Working with TUEBL: It's quite possible I'll change my mind about TUEBL. If I come to believe (through reasonable and sound argument and practices) that TUEBL is both legitimate and helpful, I can see myself working with TUEBL and even recommending it to others. I'm an open kind of guy, and I'm always willing to see other points of view and consider new ideas.

      Whether TUEBL can be shut down seems irrelevant to the points at hand. The only meaning I can deduce from it is 'if you can't beat us, join us'. Making an informed decision is never based on ultimatums, so I don't have much to say on that point. If you didn't mean it in that way, I apologize but can't think of what else you might have meant.

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    9. ***

      The Video by Neil Gaiman:

      First off, I'd like to make a few points about the video I think were missed in your implication of its meaning. Regardless of data, I believe it's the right of the copyright owner to determine whether they want their work pirated or not. For instance, even if there was a 99% chance a drug would save my life, I still believe it is my moral right to choose whether to take that drug or not.

      In the video, we're talking about a very famous person here. His works were already being sold legitimately on a massive scale. The pirating was occurring in places where his book was not available and enhanced sales by exposing him to that market. If his book was being taken on his home market, it might have made a big difference.

      As he explains, not many people find a book by buying it. This 'does not' mean people were pirating it. Many people here of books from legitimate sources such as friends, newspapers, websites, or borrowing it from a friend (and then wanting to buy it for themselves. Key point, the friend wanted it back). I would be very interested to see how many hands would have went up if he asked instead, "How many of you have pirated your favorite book and never bought any in print".

      Another very essential point is that what he convinced his publishers to do was put out a book for 'free'. This is miles from having a book pirated against your wishes. He purposely set a book for free for people to get. That's what I do myself. I have no objection whatsoever to an author making his book free by his own choice. The key point here is that it was 'his choice'. I've also read that Stephen King once put out a story in parts online and allowed readers to pay him a dollar if they wanted to keep reading it. Many readers paid the dollar but far more pirated it for free. At last, he stopped putting it up on-line, much to the protests of his loyal fans some of whom paid 15$ dollars in an effort to keep him writing the story.

      Lastly, Gaiman may have had his sales increase by being pirated. I do not deny that. However, he was already heavily established. Not all authors have that luxury, and in fact many don't. While everyone owns Harry Potter, how many people own something lesser known? The sad fact is, most people will buy a big name author's book regardless of piracy, but one of lesser interest may be only pirated and never bought at all.

      Summary:

      It's good to hear you're trying to legitimize your site. I am also potentially willing to change my original post if the site itself does not do anything illegal. False accusations are always annoying.

      I still believe an author or other rights holder is entitled to make their own choice about where their works are to be distributed and what the price should be (even if it's none). Working as a hands off third party is a fairly reasonable stance in today's world, but I also believe that common practice is to permanently remove copyrighted material an author wishes to revoke from that site. If that is impossible, at the very minimum, I think the page should link to a legitimate place to buy the work and the one available should be of lower quality than the original in some way (i.e. Youtube Song Practice). If TUEBL implements these small (and I believe reasonable) practices with 100% of all monies barring operating (not personnel) expenses, I believe I'd have no grounds to call it anything other than a normal internet site.

      I may not have a fancy Youtube video by a big name author to back up my claims, but I do have this small testimonial by a relatively unknown author to contribute:

      http://bookhoardingdragon.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/why-piracy-hurts-creative-people/

      Like he says, if even one person reads this, it's worth it. Even if piracy helps 99% of all authors, there is still 1% who are being treated unfairly.

      P.S.

      My friend thinks you're basically Robin Hood. ;)

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    10. If piracy hurts 1% of authors and it is therefore kept illegal as it is now, then there is still the 99% who are being treated unfairly.

      The drug analogy is false. In your analogy you are taking that drug away from many, many others who want to take it. The argument that a site should be taken down or blocked or criminalized, is an argument that the choice to share freely and easily on some of the best distribution networks ever created should be taken away from ALL the authors.


      Neil Gaiman may have had his sales increase no matter what he does. However, not all of us have that luxury. People who are not buying my books aren't buying them because they have pirated them. They aren't buying them because they've never heard of them or me. They aren't buying them because my books aren't in bookstore windows, or even on the shelves. They aren't buying them because I don't have the same opportunities as Mr. Gaiman. Not all of us have the luxury of fame even when our distribution chanels are threatened. I cannot sell books if people do not read my books. I can never become established if people do not buy my books. I can never support myself if I do not become established. The sad fact is that most people will have the opportunity to know a big name author's book regardless of piracy, but one of lesser interest may never be known at all. The only shadow of a hope that I – and many other small time and independent authors – have is to get our books in front of people however possible.


      Tell me, if an author is entitled to make their own choice about their work, then why does, for example, the UK government have the right to block my communication channels of choice? Why does the Iranian government have the right? Why does the Chinese government? Why does the US government? If it is not okay for pirates to take away an author's choice, why is it okay for legislation to take away not only my choice but my channels for making that choice?


      But finally, and most importantly, while I may choose to make my work free, I am still putting my work into a world where readers are threatened into NOT sharing it. Where MY potential readers are told that it is morally and legally wrong to share my work before they've even opened the first page and seen that I don't care. I, unlike Neil Gaiman or Stephen King, do not have the luxury of alienating readers.

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    11. Thanks for joining the discussion, Cheap Fiction! I always enjoy a new perspective on things.

      I'm not sure I fully understood all of your points. However, I'll try to respond to what I felt I did understand.

      It seems like you're saying that because piracy can potentially aid 99% of authors it's a good thing and that if a drug has a high success rate it should be available to all the people. I don't think you understood my argument and analogies there. I didn't mean people shouldn't have 'access' to a beneficial drug. I meant to say that it's 'their choice'. If I make the choice not to be pirated, if I make the choice not to take a potentially life-saving drug, if I make the choice to do the right or wrong thing; that's my choice. It is not any other person's choice to make no matter how many people it might benefit.

      For instance, if I have an apple in my hand it is my choice whether to chuck it in the garbage, give it to the orphanage, or eat it. Morally, it might be ideal to give it to an orphanage, but ethically, it is my choice to make. Having someone steal the apple (for any purpose) and give it to anyone or anything is wrong. It doesn't matter how many apples I have or how much or little that apple would benefit anyone else. It's still my apple. I grew it, I earned it. No one else created that apple.

      I do not believe that the U.K. government, nor any other government has the right to block a communication channel and I agree that that is wrong. It seems like you're saying (paradoxically) that because some large organizations are doing unfair things it's okay to do unfair things yourself? Actually, I'm not really sure what you meant here.

      No one, government, corporation, pirates, or what have you has the right to take away an individual's rights, creations, work, or anything of the sort. This may happen, perhaps a lot. However, like I said before, something happening doesn't mean it's right.

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    12. ***

      I'd also like to add that just because something is easy, doesn't mean it's right either. If I was standing on a beach with my book in my hands and someone tried to take it (regardless of who) you can bet I wouldn't put up with it. The internet essentially allows people to take belongings (books in this case) out of the hands of the creators without having to directly face them. In the past, no sane person would try to take something from someone else directly and personally. Not unless they were thieves. I realize the internet changes things, but does it really? Is it now any more or less wrong to take things from others? Metaphorically, nothing has changed while physically it has.

      Lastly, no author has the luxury of alienating readers. I have absolutely nothing against an author or a reader sharing their favorite books with others. I do not have DRM on my books, I have enabled lending, and I put my book out for free. I 'trust' my readers to do the right thing. However, this was my choice. If I had chosen to enable DRM, disable sharing, and put a price tag on my book I would 'trust' my readers to, again, do the right thing.

      Nothing will stop people from sharing the books they love with their friends. Everyone recognizes this and it has always been allowed. However, 'sharing' is absolutely no excuse for theft or taking choice away from the creators of anything artistic. I have no qualms with people sharing legitimate copies of their purchased works. I highly doubt any reader has qualms about getting digital copies of books they own or sharing them with friends. However, this is no reason to justify or endorse the taking of someone's personal property.

      Will I lend my neighbor my rake? Yes. Will I let my neighbor take my rake without asking? No. In fact, if he's on my property snooping around my stuff, I know of a few people who might shoot at him. I probably wouldn't go that far, but I wouldn't be happy with it either. Sometimes small things like 'asking' can mean all the world of difference.

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  2. First of all I can't believe authors would upload books for free. If they do they devalue their work in their own eyes and everyone else's. I tried to search for lesser known authors on TUEBL and found none, only big names were there who do not need the exposure. It's been my experience that when people get something for free they don't respect it, and that goes for Indian's homes on the Rez to books. People who pirate music and literature are generally uncreative slobs who have no idea of the time, effort, and creativity of the artists. If they knew, they wouldn't do it. Maybe they're good at something else besides theft. Mr. McCrea claims he doesn't run a pirate site and when challenged on it likes to lay some guilt on his detractors by his offerings to charity (leave me be or by God, I'll close down the orphanage). This ruse may put some on the defensive, but the bottom line is he provides a place for people to steal much like a sleazy pawn shop claiming the store helps the impoverished. Since one cannot stand outside McCrea's storefront with ropes and torches, the only way to stop online piracy is to incorporate a nasty virus into an innocuous upload.
    I do enjoy the discussion however. Good job David, you are a fine artist and your fighting back is impressive. Unfortunately, the arts in North America, unlike in Europe, are vastly underfunded and unappreciated.

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    1. Thanks for joining the discussion, E.R. I appreciate the compliment and your taking the time to research the subject.

      I hadn't realized the arts were underfunded and unappreciated in North America compared to Europe. Thank you for the valuable insight!

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  3. Though, obviously piracy is a complex issue, one I in fact have not decided upon the correct ethical policy for, it would seem to me that several of the analogies here are irrelevant. Both the rake analogy and the apple analogy miss the point. If your neighbor steals your rake or your apple he is depriving you of having it. If a pirate 'steals' copyrighted material you still possess it.

    Though the law is not really the issue here, ethics are, it is obvious that if Tuebl manages to squirm along following the letter of the law, they still usurp its intent. It is a copyright law hence designed to stop people from making free copies of a work. That is exactly what Tuebl does.

    Then the issue becomes whether the copyright laws are ethical. If they are not it is possible to phrase Tuebl's acts as a moral form of civil disobedience. Obviously, Tuebl sees the restriction of information as unethical. Certain authors and publishers seem to see the existing law as ethical and Tuebl's actions as a moral violation.

    As a completely unsuccessful author who will not ever make a living as an author nor conceivably reach a point at which my readership has become broad enough that the 'advertising' does more harm than good, I would want any books I write to be spread to the maximum possible number of people. Additionally, it is not and will not be my primary source of revenue so I am not dependent upon income from sales and would write to spread my ideas not for money. Obviously some authors write for money, but I believe the majority, like me, write to spread their ideas and perpetuate their existence within the hearts and minds of those who read their work.

    Now, I see no reason for the publisher to make an ethical complaint. If they lose any revenue due to lower sails they also lose overhead. They need not print books that are not going to be sold. Hence, to me the only ethical dilemma is violating the wishes of the author which is generally not a concern because authors rarely except for the exceptionally lucky or talented write as their main source of income or write for monetary gain.

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  4. The claim that piracy is somehow communistic makes absolutely no sense. Communism hinges on redistributing existing works or items to the end of creating equality. Piracy involves the generation of new wealth to those who seek it out at no charge with no compensation to the initial artisan.

    Piracy may well, however, have one of the same underlying flaws as communism. Authors that are motivated primarily by money would not be as motivated to work because some of the most popular of these individuals who need no 'free advertising' would lose revenue. Yet, for the majority who work to spread their ideas and would for the sake of their work gladly assume the status of 'starving artist' motivation is increased not diminished by reaching a wider audience at no increase in money.

    E.R suggests that authors would never support the propagation of their work because it devalues it. This is patently false; bestsellers are more expensive than lesser works. This is not because there is no other outlet to read them. They can be read at a library. A book is not devalued upon being read. In fact until a book is read it is of unproven value. No-one would suggest that the number of people who see or take pictures of a famous painting devalues it. This popularity is the reason that people will purchase it for high prices; they do not dislike it for being seen. Never having been in Europe I cannot comment on the European appreciation of arts, but do acknowledge that Europe has a great heritage of artwork and novels as well as a history of making these works known through free press.

    His sleazy pawn shop analogy is equally false, though he is correct to identify the charity mention as a red herring. Tuebl is non profit and hence is in no way equivalent to a sleazy pawn shop.

    If any metaphor is to be considered applicable I would look to the biblical story of Jesus feeding the multitude. He took the thing of value, the object of human desire,fish in his case, a story in ours, and replicated it. Certainly, had fishermen chosen to sell their fish before Jesus replicated their fish then they would have turned a higher profit, but that is simply a side effect of the net gain of the community through the increase in fish. He did not steal the fish.

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  5. The analogy of stealing your book from your hands at the beach is an intriguing one. However, I feel that it would be more apt to state that he read the book over your shoulder. Except that the uploading of this content is voluntary so perhaps you held it up and many people read it together and then one person couldn't see it very well so his friend took a picture of the pages one by one and sent it to him. The reader of the initial book is not slighted by voluntarily sharing it with others.

    The question remains is the overwhelming majority of readers and writers who engage in their respective pursuits sufficient to override the few writers, the selfish fishermen, who do indeed write for money. That is an open question. That individual should have the right to sell his work, yet the common good benefits from the free trade of information, ideas, and thoughts propagated freely online. In the end the debate will rage forth and I cannot state the answer. However, I will say that human knowledge and ideas are our essence. They are equally important as the fish. Did Jesus slight the fishermen? Perhaps he did. Was that right? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

    Side note: Sorry, I do not mean to make cast an aspersion about piracy being religiously right or wrong. I have a thin religious background and do not mean to comment in any fashion on what Jesus would have done or some such. This was simply the closest comparison I could come up with which was pre-technological age.

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  6. I just wanted to say a couple of things. As a broke college student, it is extremely hard for me to purchase books without going over my budget for food/gas/ other miscellaneous necessities. However, I LOVE to read. I devour books, and I honestly believe it enriches my life to be able to read all these wonderful stories from authors. Here's the thing, I'm close to graduating and I plan on donating a small amount to every single author who wrote a book I enjoyed, because I will have the means with which to do so. Publishers make a TON of money form selling author's books, you gave an example of 90% of the revenue. Let's use that in an example: you sell a book for 10$, the publisher makes 90% of that and you keep 10%. You just made a dollar while the publisher made 9 dollars. Is this fair? Sure, it is a business after all isn't it? However, I believe that there is a more efficient way to reward the authors, such as the manner which I will use. I will donate 5-10$ to these authors DIRECTLY and they will make 100% of the money. I believe reading a book from a site such as TUEBL is no different that borrowing it from your local library, except that it is more convenient and you don't have to return it. Nonetheless true book lovers tend to be extremely loyal to their favorite authors, the authors that make them fall in love with their stories and I have no doubts that a system such as TUEBL only helps the reading community as a whole. There is also the fact that it exposes people who would otherwise not read a book to just do it! It helps to create new book lovers and it can be a way for new authors to get their works noticed. Please don't hurt the TUEBL community, it serves a greater good despite the misconception that it only hurts authors and creativity. I hope you reconsider your stance on TUEBL, as it has truly helped me broaden my horizons.

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  7. Some brief comments. Smart e-authors periodically make some of their books free so they will hook the reader (Konrath, Crouch, Locke) and it works! Tuebl isn't much different in that it lets readers discovers authors they may not have otherwise bothered to read and then go and purchase the rest of their works that aren't on Tuebl.

    Second - I own a tremendous library of print books that I paid good money for over the years. I really don't want to pay again to have the ebook copy and Tuebl helps satisfy that need. Can I "prove" I own the books in print? Yes, if someone wants to go through my library and match up hardbacks to downloaded ebooks, they'll find a very high percentage of matches.

    Finally, publishers have brought this on themselves. Anyone remember Amazon's pledge that no Kindle book would be more than $9.99? The publishers sunk that idea early on and put ridiculous prices on an ebook that requires no printing, no distribution, no shipping and yet cost as much as the hardback does at Costco. And they have forced Amazon to charge their set price (price fixing anyone). I'm glad to see the publishers take it on the chin and I will support the authors by buying books that are self-published where I know the actual author is getting 75% of the proceeds.

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  8. @Voice of Logic:

    Hi,

    First off, I'd like to say I'm sorry I didn't reply to these comments sooner. I was busy with work and didn't realize I had new comments here. Thank you to everyone for contributing to the discussion. I appreciate it.

    I believe the rake and apple analogies were relevant to the point I was making at the time, if not poetic. What you seem to be saying is that because writing isn't a tangible object it has no value. Also, you seem to be saying that stealing a book isn't unethical because you don't deprive the author of the original content.

    I'd like to argue that any intangible content does have a value and stealing it is no less criminal than stealing a tangible product. My logic here can be proven by a myriad of things. For example, watching a movie in a theater. It's an intangible experience, but you pay for it. From many cases such as this, it can be deduced that intangible things have worth. Ideas, technologies, strategies, arts, movies, books, pictures, advice, etc.

    Given that something intangible can have value (obviously) it also makes sense that taking something intangible is depriving the owner of value and thus stealing. For example, I tell a friend not to buy a truck. This advice is intangible but has a value. Let's say the value is $500. $500 can buy tangible, physical products just the same as anything else of value. I've basically given my friend $500 of tangible or intangible product. Whether I charge him for my advice or not is my business.

    Secondly, you made a valid argument about whether current copyright laws are ethical or unethical at present. This is fine, as far as it goes. If the current laws are bad, and end up abolished, then I'll have no argument to make. However, those laws were created for a reason (and I believe a good one) and as they currently stand it is illegal to pirate copyrighted work.

    I think whether it's a good law or not is a moot point. It's the law. Like it or not, the law is the law. Until such time as the law is changed, it stands. I do agree that if a law was totally stupid, I would probably ignore it. That said, I think this particular law serves the majority of the people in the best way right now. Also, it reflects what I believe to be morally right. A law against stealing is usually a good law.

    I'm not really sure what your point is about the publishing companies. If they sell less books, they make less money. Overhead is just something they'll always have regardless. Piracy reducing overhead doesn't help publishers, it only hurts them. Whenever a company loses sales, it's losing money. This also causes the author to directly lose money because author's don't generally have overhead.

    Regarding Jesus: I'll have to leave the interpretation of Biblical events to someone wiser than I.

    A continuation to the 'reading the book on the beach analogy': I disagree with the part about my holding up the book. Odds are, it's someone other than the author. So let's just say it's some kid.

    Getting back to the beach, if someone is reading over my shoulder, I'd probably offer to let them look at my book, but I'm going to want it back. If this person were to suggest that he take pictures of every page and send them to his buddy, I'd probably look at him as if he was crazy, and say, "No."

    Elsewhere, the kid with my book would probably say, "Sure, why not. I don't care."



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  9. As to Communism equaling Piracy: I forgot what I was saying, but I'm sure I meant to illustrate a point and not just say that communism and piracy are the same which would just be silly.

    I 'would' suggest that the number of people who take pictures of a painting devalues it. Well, not exactly. It's like this, if you have a famous painting, it's yours. You will not allow anyone to try to duplicate it exactly. You will, of course, allow copies of lesser quality to be sold if you can make money out of it. This is exactly what I was getting at with Youtube and all the rest. No one is allowed to make an exact copy of the Mona Lisa and try to sell it as a fake. Nor would it have any real value. However, that's paintings. Books aren't nearly so hard to 'duplicate'. Also, you can go to a museum to take pictures of a famous piece of art, but no one will ever mistake your pictures for the real thing. Also, generally, people charge for admission at museums, charge for pictures, try to sell you things, or the country simply makes money off of tourism.

    If someone wanted to take pictures of my book sitting in a glass cage and pay me $5 a photo, I'd be perfectly willing.

    Lastly, you write that the question remains whether a few authors should have the power to mess everything up for everyone else who benefits from piracy. In a word: yes.

    If having a huge drug cartel benefits 99% of the people in your country because of kick-back and commerce, it's still bad.

    If a law benefits 10% of the people, and harms the other 90% it's a bad law and should be abolished. In the meantime, it's still the law. If a law benefits 10% of the people, and harms the other 90%; but the law is morally just: I think that's a good law.

    Laws are generally created to help the majority of the people, or to maintain justice despite harming the majority of the people.

    For instance, 90% of all people might hate traffic tickets and think they should be abolished. I still think it's a good law, not because I like traffic tickets, but because it's a just and moral law.

    I think copyright laws help the majority of people, and I also think they're a moral set of laws. If I'm wrong and they don't help the majority of the people, I still think they're moral laws. I would no more abolish them than laws against: stealing, killing, slander, cheating, drinking, using drugs, or driving above the speed limit. Everyone might drive above the speed limit, but that doesn't mean speed limits should be abolished.

    I apologize if I misinterpreted anything you've said, or if I've said anything offensive. Also, thank you for speaking up about the subject.

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  10. @Blaugrana:

    I may well change my stance on TUEBL. I also don't mean to hurt anyone, but I do like to stand up for what I believe is right.

    I do agree with you about big business. Publishers are out to make money. They will take the majority of the profit for themselves and leave the small percentage for the authors.

    I also agree that not everyone has the money to purchase all the books they love to read. Libraries are great for this. You might have to return the book, but you can read as much as you want. Most libraries are also well-stocked with quality books.

    In your situation, I can see how TUEBL would seem dang handy. It's kind of like a library with better selection, no limits on how long you can read, and so forth. I'd just like to point out that libraries 'do' pay for the books they stock. They also operate within copyright laws. If a library can't afford a particular book, they have to wait until they can afford to pay for it. In essence, much like a reader who wants to own a book. I might borrow it from a friend, read it at the library, etc. However, if I really want to keep the book permanently (most readers do) I'll eventually have to pay for it or forget the idea.

    The best part of your argument is your willingness to pay all the authors directly for their works. I think this is a fantastic idea and very noble of you. I don't think many people are that generous. In fact, everyone I know. Every single person who has ever pirated: books, movies, games, software, music, etc. has 'never' paid the authors for it. Not a single cent.

    If everyone had a heart like you, I don't think the world would have very many problems. Unfortunately, by experience, I don't think you're in the majority. In fact, if even 1% of people did what you are doing, I'd be extremely surprised.

    Like I said, if everyone did what you're doing, it would be great. I've never seen a single person in my life do what you're doing. It's sad, but true. I figure that's why we have shopping malls and stores instead of large buildings where you can just walk in, take what you want, and leave a fair amount for the merchant.

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  11. @Tom:

    I wouldn't necessarily say 'smart' e-book authors. I'm not saying those authors aren't smart, I'm just saying a lot of equally smart authors 'don't' make their e-books free. I think the key thing here is that it's the author's decision. If a reader uploads the book, the author no longer has that decision.

    Secondly, I agree with you about owning physical and digital copies. If I own a book, I can't see any reason I shouldn't own the e-book as well. I think the publishers are just being greedy and selfish and trying to make more money. While I agree with you about what 'should' be done, I'd also like to point out that the publisher/author is still in charge of their 'product' and can sell it however they choose for whatever price they choose.

    For example: I paid $15 for an e-book (which costs nothing to make or store) and found the same book and the rest of the series in print for $30. I think this is incredibly stupid and makes no sense at all. That said, it's the publisher's/authors' right to be as stupid as they want about setting the price of their products. A print book and an e-book are two separate products, within the law. The copyright holder can charge whatever insane price he wants for either. If it were up to me, you'd get a free e-book with every print book purchase. It's not up to me, it's up to the publisher/author who owns that product.

    If I pirate a copy of a book I own in digital format I'm stealing an intangible product. Intangible products still have the same value as tangible products. It's still theft. Now, I can't say I'd personally get very mad at you because I think the big corporations are just ripping you off.

    Basically, if all everyone ever did was pirate e-book copies of books they already own, I would have essentially no qualms about it. That said, there is nothing stopping someone from pirating a copy of a book 'they don't own' and that's what I think it wrong. Whether one, two, or a thousand books in your collection are stolen without a physical copy, I believe it's wrong.

    Finally, regarding publishers bringing it on themselves: Yes, and no. I agree, the publishers are greedy little nuts trying to steal as much money as possible with the lowest possible overhead. If they thought they could make more money by charging you $50 for every single e-book, they'd do it in a heartbeat.

    That said, no one 'brings' illegal action upon themselves. That's like saying, "I shot the guy, but it was his fault because he was ticking me off." While true, it doesn't hold any legal weight.

    Just because someone is being psychotic, unethical, illegal, or whatever does not give anyone the right to do anything illegal back to them. By that line of reasoning we should be beating up violent criminals, stealing from thieves, and smashing our cars into drunk drivers. It might seem like a fair approach (an eye for an eye) but is also a little bit silly. Little kids do this until parents teach them better.

    If you're just stealing copies of books you already own, that seems reasonable to me. Just don't pirate any books you don't own. My words probably can't stop you, but I do have the law on my side. I'd also like to be able to trust you and others to do the right thing, but how can I be sure?

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  12. @David Dostaler
    Thank you for your well-expressed and well-reasoned discussion and comments about this important topic. I also find Tuebl's providing such easy accessibility to copyright material without the proper approval of the copyright holder disturbing. In spite of all the protests otherwise by those commenting on your blog, Tuebl sure doesn't seem legal.

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  13. Great discussion! Our laws are as good as we can make them and they protect us from abuses but they don't support the process of writing. Teachers, mentors, family and friends etc.are more likely to do that in a context of generosity and with a different set of rules, long before profits are an issue. The monetary system can and does infringe on such generous processes when there is failure to recognize any other set of rules. The arts, parenting, organ donation, charity, happiness and TUEBL depend on such giving. I don't know the solution but we have been gathering information and writing about this and our work is freely available at http://drdnotes.com/.

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  14. Great discussion! Our laws are as good as we can make them and they protect us from abuses but they don't support the process of writing. Teachers, mentors, family and friends etc.are more likely to do that in a context of generosity and with a different set of rules, long before profits are an issue. The monetary system can and does infringe on such generous processes when there is failure to recognize any other set of rules. The arts, parenting, organ donation, charity, happiness and TUEBL depend on such giving. I don't know the solution but we have been gathering information and writing about this and our work is freely available at http://drdnotes.com/.

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  16. As authors we must have the right to chose if we want our books free or not. Many of us can't earn a living off our books and we want Tuebl to allow us to remove them permanently. It's not anyone's choice but the authors if he or she wants to give it away for free or not.

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  17. Great post! Really insightful. I have not monetized by blog in any way, I didn’t even know where to begin. but you’ve given some helpful tips.


    Virtual Edge

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