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Reality vs Practical Reality

There are realities, and then there are realities.

The reality is the movie, TV, and video game industries are leaky sieves, and are quite possibly losing lots of money to pirates who procure and distribute their work for free online. In return, these industries have taken measures to stop the leaks — lacing their work with draconian digital rights management software and other tricks that punish legitimate users more than pirates.

The practical reality is if you create content, it will be stolen. Somehow, somewhere, by someone, the world of piracy and theft will find a way. This is a practical reality because it’s not what we want to hear, but it’s the truth. Facing such a truth leads one to reassess and extrapolate based on the facts, rather than acting emotionally and reflexively to a threat, and in ways that are familiar, if not particularly effective.

My work is stolen all the time. This is a reality I’ve learned to deal with, and even embrace. Though I would prefer people pay for my work, I know that some people simply aren’t interested in doing so, and will take the time to search and find and make use of my stuff for free.

My options are to get really angry and write petulant rants about how the world today doesn’t respect artists blah blah blah and apply DRM to all of my ebooks, or I could make the best of the situation. Accept the practical reality and move forward.

In my case, this means including a pirate-targeted bit of text on all of my copyright pages, telling them that if they enjoy the work (whether or not they paid for it), I’d really appreciate a review or recommendation to a friend. At the same time, I make it clear that I really appreciate the folks who do pay for it, because it allows me to continue to produce more.

I also have different types of work available.

If someone pirates one of my books, they might buy the next one, if I make doing so a worthwhile option. As such, I make an extra effort to ensure my books are cheap enough that buying them is kind of a no-brainer, especially compared with the effort that can go into finding a legit, usable copy of an ebook on the torrents.

I also have service-like products like Exiles that aren’t as pirate-able, and I have subscribers who have told me their first exposure to my work was through a pirated book, and the small loss of a sale led to a much longer term relationship. This can only happen when I don’t antagonize the people who come to me in this fashion; by acknowledging that this is a cultural thing that won’t go away, I’ve opened up the gates to a large group of people who might otherwise feel justified in pirating my work forever, because I treat them like trash.

Before accepting a reality as truth, make sure you know which reality you’re considering. It could make the difference between knee-jerk answers and practical solutions.