Why an author is participating in #StopSopa

If you go to http://www.heidicullinan.com today, you won’t get very far. Credit where credit is due: after reading the how-to’s people posted on twitter, I promptly emailed my brother webmaster and said, “Um? Hans? Help?” He of course had no trouble, and up the module went.

Why? Because I like the Internet. A lot.

It’s true, the Stop Online Piracy Act in theory is designed for me because I’m an author, and I’m pirated every day. But while SOPA would theoretically stop my books from being stolen, it would stop a lot of other things too. Things I like.

  • Wikipedia
  • Coffee & Porn in the Morning
  • tumblr
  • Facebook (well, sometimes I hate this one, but you know.)
  • LOLcats
  • random pictures I post in my blog
  • my blog
  • being able to watch the TV people won’t let me buy legally
  • finding out of print movies no one is willing to sell me anywhere
  • watch old commercials
  • YouTube
  • get music some fool thinks I’m going to pay triple the asking price PLUS shipping PLUS wait a month for the boat to get here

These are the gimmies. But as an author? Here’s the real shocker, and it’s not popular with many other ebook authors, let me tell you that. I don’t mind the piracy of my books even half as much as most people.

I begrudge people who somehow have decided I’m The Man and they shouldn’t have to pay me and upload and download my books from mass sites because this gives them a hardon, being badass. I begrudge them, but I don’t want them stopped, not like this. Pushed to the wall, I want them stopped, maybe, but I’m very leery on the how, and really at the end of the day I’d rather convince people not to steal from me in ways that don’t threaten the Internet. To be honest, I can’t see exactly how that can happen.

The other issue is that I know damn well some people are getting my books via piracy who couldn’t get them otherwise. I’m sure the actual numbers are low, but even two percent would make me leery to cut them off.

  • LGBT teens who can’t even tell their parents they’re gay, let alone that they want to borrow the credit card to buy some gay romances
  • people for whom even having the book on their hard drive could get them beaten or killed, either by their government or a spouse or someone else with undue authority, people for whom actual purchasing is either too high a literal or emotional risk

Those are the two biggies, really. There are a million cases where I empathize in the abstract but resent in the specific, but even there I’m not willing to shut down the Internet so people don’t pirate my books. Because no matter what the authors of this bill or any like it say, it’s not going to do anything but take the freedom from the individual and give it to a bunch of bastards who sit behind desks and think they should be able to drive the world like a bus.

I’ll be the first to admit I have conditional ethics. No Kant for me. But I try not to be a hypocrite as much as possible, in that if I want the freedom in one media, I can’t be too pissed when the same terms apply in my own. And no, I really don’t believe every one of my pirated books is a lost sale. I think the percentage is incredibly small, because I do believe that in general, if the rules are fair, most people prefer to play by them. Those who can’t or won’t aren’t going to be moved much by laws. It’s the same way with guns. Legislation really doesn’t stop people who truly want to get them. I can only carry that analogy so far because I get murky in the idea of “need guns,” but you know, I also am not interested in telling someone else what their needs are and aren’t.

If you pirate my books and read this blog — well, you’re going to have to make your own decisions. Whatever kind of money you imagine I make, I don’t. I have piles of debt and cats and a child to take care of, and book sales regularly mean I can afford to participate in the alternative health care measures that frequently are the only thing between me and pain. So if you’re just some smug bastard who gets jollies off stealing, enjoy your karma. But I’m not getting tangled in your fuckedness. The universe will sort you out soon enough, because it always does. I just don’t care about you enough to be bothered.

To everyone else, I’m not judging you. If you can pay, please do. If you can’t, it’s your risk to take, your conscience, your decision. On rare occasion I stand up to sites that pirate, but mostly I try not to think about it. Your reasons for pirating are your own, and ultimately you have to answer to them.

As for the personal passing back-and-forth of files, whatever.

For me everything gets so muddy so fast with piracy. Pirates have been around forever, and there are as many pirates who fall into the profession because they feel compelled as those who just like power. I’ve already spoken on the latter. For the former? I don’t know. I’m not in your shoes. I can’t really judge your reasons, or rather, I’m not going to. Plenty of other authors and artists will think I should. They have some great arguments, and I suspect I’ll see them and possibly some outraged yelling in the comments.

The bottom line for me is that I’m not about punishing the whole room for the actions of a few. I didn’t like it in third grade and I don’t like it now. I really, really don’t care for rewarding one set of bastards because they made emotional public arguments and greased the right palms of the lawmakers.

I like the Internet as it is. Warts and all. If you are for SOPA, I respect your right to be so. As for me and my websites, we shall stand opposed.

If you don’t like SOPA and live in the US and haven’t contacted your representatives, please do so now.

5 Comments on “Why an author is participating in #StopSopa

  1. Very well written. I followed the link and contacted my representatives. I think that like so may other things the law will prevent well meaning law abiding people from their freedoms but the jerks who want to steal and pirate and even worse profit from someone else’s work will still be able to take what they want. It won’t stop real pirates.

  2. Pingback: Let’s Get A Little Political… «

  3. I don’t live in the USA.
    And in my country doesn’t exist gay literature. To buy your books I need an international credit card. That I don’t have because my income is small.
    I read all the free books and many of the tales in fictionpress and livejournal.
    And I search books in p2p or torrent.
    My budget is small, but I try to buy at least 2 ebooks every months (with paypal that a friend lends me). And I prefer to buy of authors who doesn’t have a so hard vision of eventual pirates. Because it’s very bad that your author thinks you’re a criminal.
    I don’t feel robbing of you because if tomorrow I couldn’t share some the books of my friends, then I couldn’t reads most them. My money isn’t going to increase just because SOPA or another law be approved.
    I read fiction mm because life of a gay man in a country of the third world, profoundly Catholic is very hard. The books give me hope and comfort. And I know that you don’t have the obligation of writing free for me, but I thank your generosity in this post.

    *Sorry by mistakes in my writing, but English is not my native language

    • Thanks, Alexandre. *hugs* I’m sorry it’s hard for you to even do something as simple as buy a book that gives you hope. 😦 Yeah, you’re definitely in the category I don’t mind torrents for.

      You hang in there.

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