Book Piracy and Public Opinion

There has been a huge outpouring of commentary regarding Terry Goodkind’s naming and shaming a pirate of his new ebook on social media*. Reactions are all over the place judging by several related blogs as well as the dozens of comments I read. Opinion appears to be rather equally distributed between praise, outrage and uneasy ambiguity.

I’m disturbed by how many people think piracy is okay because it’s easy to do and so many are doing it. This is a disturbing bastardization of moral thinking. Pirating is illegal; it’s stealing, and immoral. The actual book might be digital or “just data” but the STORY is owned by the Author and he/she has a right to payment for their creation regardless of format.

Pick pocketing is also common and  easily done  but the victim is still violated and outraged when it happens. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that it is illegal and immoral.

Cutting-in-line is also morally wrong but a common happening; perpetrators are unlikely to be punished. But bystanders applaud when they are ejected to the back of the line!  Why is calling out book pirates different?

Robin Hood’s myth, stealing from the rich to give to the poor is a popular justification for the pick-pocket and the book pirate. Hood was still an outlaw with risk of punishment. His identity was also revealed on wanted posters nailed to trees—the pre-internet version of posting on Facebook or Twitter. Robin Hood was probably proud of his wanted posters; he believed his cause was just.

Why then is Goodkind’s pirate not thrilled to be named? If piracy is okay why are so many people outraged that the pirates name was revealed?

To those who use the logic that Goodkind is famous, rich and wouldn’t be hurt by a few pirated books I offer this.

Goodkind’s campaign against piracy aids all writers–rich or poor.

This includes the less profitable mid-listed authors and the starving unknown author who poured their heart into a novel for years and after finally self publishing is selling only a few of books a week. The missed royalty could helps pay debts for a cover artist and an editing since a profit may NEVER be realized.

I would love to own an iPhone but I can not afford one.

I don’t have the right to steal one even though Apples is rich,  is charging too much and/or the quality isn’t what it should be.  Boycotting is the moral way to protest the price or quality of an item.

I can’t afford an iPhone so I do not have one. The piracy issue is that simple.

Illustration and Laptop image by K LeRosier with partial images from wikimedia commons.
Cover scan of a Classics Comics book at
Buried Treasure: illustration of William “Captain” Kidd overseeing a treasure burial at

Related Links:

Goodkind’s opinions on piracy

Terry Goodkind Smites an eBook Pirate 

Leave a comment


  1. There is a pervasive view that once something goes public, it is public property. It’s not just books; it’s movies, music,art–any work at all that someone puts out there. Even actresses and actors have their privacy violated by those who believe the purchase of a movie ticket or a cable subscription includes ownership of the people on the screen. Part of the problem is that we are so accustomed to purchasing whatever we want whenever we want it, we have lost our respect for the item we are buying. Since we can purchase books in the supermarket, we now hold them at the same level of esteem as toothpaste or tuna or canned peas.
    The difference is that in cyberspace, no one can see you walk out with the product in your pocket.
    Well said, and thanks for sharing.

    • You make good points. One of the problems with books is so often we get them for free or almost nothing since once you buy them you can hand them off to anyone, trade them in a swap-book-club, or buy them for a quarter at a garage sale, libraries lend them over and over. Unlike downloading free music all this is guilt free legal, and socially okay. I was angry when I got my kindle and had to pay full mass market price for an ebook they didn’t have to ship or print and I couldn’t give my copy to my sister later or swap then in my swap club. It’s hard to suddenly make consumers pay for every copy once they get a ereader. Still I’ve never pirated an ebook and I have never pirated music either. My resentment does not give me the right to steal.

      Until I started writing, I never thought about the fact that the author isn’t getting any royalties from second hand books. And I never realized how LITTLE a percent of book costs the authors gets. Now I feel much different about royalty free copies of authors work. No wonder so many do NOt allow free lending.


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