Can Piracy Save Literature? a Bestselling Author Says Yes

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From Blop Culture:

Paulo Coelho is one of the most well-known Brazilian writers; he sells millions of books all over the world yet surprisingly he’s a firm supporter of piracy. So much so that he even pirates his own books.

The entertainment industry will tell you that nothing is for free and that you must pay up, otherwise creators will starve. But will they, really? Is it that simple? Paulo Coelho might seem like an exception, but Game of Thrones, another juggernaut of the entertainment industry, further underlines his reasoning: as GoT grew in popularity more and more pirated copies of the hit show were distributed across the internet, yet ratings continued to climb.

. . . .

Piracy is, to some extent, a way in, an open door for consumers to get to know an author, a series, or artist. Game of Thrones is officially the most pirated TV-show in internet history, yet it also became one of the highest-rated shows in entertainment history.

In fact, piracy not only didn’t hurt ratings, but created a much-needed buzz for the show in the early days. Through piracy distribution you’re reaching people who maybe can’t afford to subscribe to cable or to HBO Go, but can turn into consumers of GoT merchandise or become evangelist for the show on social media, for example.

Researchers found that piracy can help a TV show by creating a “shadow competition” in which both manufacturer and distributor benefit, albeit in delayed fashion. That said, it’s not complicated to understand why: imagine 5 million people are watching a show. Only they will buy merchandise, buy tickets for a movie based on the show, watch a spin off, etc.

But if you have an additional 10 million or more people watching the show through torrent or any illegal streaming website, the buzz generated will be amplified. You may not immediately profit from viewings, but in the long run, it will be beneficial for the brand as a whole — and the resultant effect will be having to spend less on things like paid advertising.

. . . .

In 2012, Paulo Coelho wrote in his blog that readers were “welcome to download my books for free and, if you enjoy them, buy a hard copy — that way we can tell the industry that greed leads to nowhere.”

There are studies that show that people who download music illegally are also those who buy more music, because piracy is a way to introduce the listener (or the reader, in our case) to a band, a musician (or a writer). Coelho agrees, for him “‘Pirating’ can act as an introduction to an artist’s work. If you like his or her idea, then you will want to have it in your house; a good idea doesn’t need protection.”

Link to the rest at Blop Culture

PG notes that he does not always agree with everything he posts on TPV.

23 thoughts on “Can Piracy Save Literature? a Bestselling Author Says Yes”

  1. Think of it as free advertising – you weren’t going to make any sales off the pirates anyway but now someone might be talking about how great your story was – and that might lead to a sale.

    • When people on piracy sites like one of your books, they ask someone to put your whole list up so they can read those for free, too. Pirates offer nothing to publishing or authors. They just take. They do give their readers viruses, steal their credit card and personal information, then pass along the profits, and these sites make LOTS of profit, to people who didn’t earn it. Parasites, nothing but parasites.

  2. I view economics as a religion rather than a science. (Me, with two sons that majored in Economics.) As with religion, you can prove anything with economics if you can control the assumptions. So I see Coehlo as making the assumption that piracy expands the pool of potential readers, so he’ll make more money through exposure & volume, whereas others assume that if you can eliminate piracy, you can control the access to books & raise the prices.

    The whole thing seems to come down to whether there are “lost sales” as the result of piracy. Damned if I know. & I don’t see how anyone can prove it, one way or another. It may all be a function of how much friction there is in the system. A little bit of hard to do piracy might not make a difference, a whole lot of easy to do piracy probably would.

    • Both sides are right, both sides are wrong.
      The real problem is both sides are absolutists and believe they are totally right and refuse to accept they might be 60% right or 40% right or 80% or anything but 100%.
      So yes, religion is about right; they’re more interested in being right than in knowing.

      • Taking other peoples’ stuff is wrong. Whether that person steals your bike to sell it to someone else or throw it into the lake, he has no right to do either. That is what p*sses many of us on the issue.

        • Do you object to taxes, too?
          They take your stuff whether you agree or not.
          At least pirates don’t threaten your life and livelihood for voicing your resentment.

          The real world isn’t perfect.
          You either angst over every little injustice or you move on and deal with things you can affect.

              • Do you know how long it takes for a self-published author to make a decent return on a novel? Say, minimum wage per hour of work, plus business costs. In most cases, it’s never. At best, more than a year. It takes an author at least a year just to get a few people to notice the dang book. In the case of a traditional publisher, they would stop publishing because there would be no value in publishing a book which would almost instantly become public domain and could be legally printed by anyone and put out on the internet for free. All this decimation because some smarta** doesn’t want to spend a few bucks on some poor soul’s book. Brilliant.

                • Sadly, there is no guarantee of a positive return on any investment venture, creative or otherwise.

                  Right now we have the case of the FOX investors who sank $200M into DARK PHOENIX only to see a $20M return. If they’re lucky.
                  Long story, mostly out of their hands.

                  “If it was easy, everyone could play.”

              • I would never bother to write a book if the copyright expired in just one year. That’s insane. And piracy only expands the number of people willing to steal. Yes, the thief might tell others about you, but they’ll also tell others about “this great website where you can get all their work for free!”

                Eventually piracy sites will will become the norm instead of the exception and almost all readers will go there rather than purchase titles. Writers will go back to traditional publishing with advances that guarantee money in their pocket and publishers will stop offering digital books as a way to combat their financial losses.

                • A similar thing happened with the music industry as well after YouTube arrived, suddenly people were uploading artist songs without their permission for anyone to watch for free, as a result no musician was ever paid for a song again and that’s why there’s been no new music since the early 2000s.

            • Both are things taken from you.
              Neither gives you the option to opt out.
              Neither asks for your permission; they both simply take.
              Both exploit you without bothering to ask.
              Taking is taking.

              Pretending otherwise is rationalization.

              • A waste of time arguing with those that do their best to ignore history.

                The recording industry thought Napster was a ‘bad thing’, only to take a severe loss in sales once it was closed down.

                I’m still waiting for those laws to kick in in the EU where linking will now cost you and having to prove you have the rights to have anything not your own on your website. (Good thing TPV isn’t over there, poor PG would have to stop feeding us all those quotes, poems and interesting links. 😉 )

              • The true commonality is that the person who doesn’t pay taxes and the person who pirates books are both parasites.

                • Nope.
                  Who generates more for the”common good”, the unwilling to work living off the dole or the business type with the army of accountants?
                  Neither pays taxes.
                  One only takes.

                • Felix: The guy with the army has taxes to pay. Congress just gives him the money back for doing business the way Congress wants him to do it.

      • “The real problem is both sides are absolutists and believe they are totally right and refuse to accept they might be 60% right or 40% right or 80% or anything but 100%.”

        Seems to be the fashion…

        • Yup.
          Because the only thing that matters is whatever you say matters. For various values of “you”.
          Why compromise?

    • Economics can provide a framework and methodology for determining the answer. But, it doesn’t provide an answer to the question because there is insufficient data. Give me the data, and I’ll give you the answer. Until then, there’s not much to say.

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