Why Piracy Hurts Creative People…

Here is a post I made to a site debating about sites like Tuebl and illegal e-books:

“After reading all the posts, I am going to jump in here since I have already lived through piracy affecting my family income. For 16 years, while my children were small, I designed and wholesaled counted cross stitch patterns around the world. I produced them through a printer, since I was a graphic designer and did all of the pre-press and photography myself. I built the company up to where we were being sold in 26 countries around the world with 3 major industry distributors and was featured in several US magazines. Then China and Russia opened their websites to allow people from outside the country to post on their servers. Within a year, pirated charts were popping up after stitchers would scan them in at home to create illegal copies and then “share” them with other stitchers who couldn’t afford “expensive” patterns. Within 2 years, one major chain store stopped carrying all leaflets not produced by Leisure Arts ($18,000 loss from our family income per year) and stores began closing. Within 6 years, my income from stitching dropped 350%. Of the 98 designs I had spent 16 years creating, 57 of them were out there in illegal formats that I keep shutting down to this day.

So I took my experience with me and moved on to illustrating children’s books. I have also become a small press publisher and had another press publish my first manuscript as an author this spring. Our second title has just been nominated for an award that will see 600 books go into the schools along with 19 other titles for the 2012-2013 Hackmatack award so that children in Grades 4-6 can read the books and vote on the winners.

The saddest thing about this whole thread is that the arguments I hear from many of the people sharing e-books (or even those creating their own illegal e-books to share) is that the language and tone are identical to those who stole cross stitch charts and decimated the industry. It is not OK to profit from someone else’s creativity or deny them a reasonable payment for what they made. Most authors/illustrators receive 10% of the total book price at best as their royalty. Publishers no longer support new authors with promotion or travel costs until a book has “proven” itself. For every “Hunger Games” or “Fifty Shades of Grey” there are hundreds of published authors doing their own footwork, promotion, school visits, media tours, library visits etc. to try to find readers to enjoy what they have created.

This truly is the first digital generation who thinks that they can have or share anything they find out on the Internet for free, download copies of movies, books, games or music without paying for it and copy words without quoting sources. My two children know better because they have lived through how it affected our family income… but they are considered odd by all of their friends.”

Most people who share illegally will never be convinced that what they are doing is wrong… but every now and then, someone’s story might make them stop and think. I read voraciously, but I use libraries, garage sales, book swaps and used book stores to feed my habit or save up for the authors that I love. I hope that maybe one person who reads this thinks twice about how their actions affect those who create something from nothing.

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