Or really, the question is this: What is the difference between a public library and internet piracy?

1. The internet reaches many more people, much faster.

2. With a library, you have to give the item back.

3. The government, at least in part, supports public libraries.


Now, the object here is not to rankle librarians or those who love libraries, but to raise what i think is a legitimate question.

Books might be a bad example, because not many people go around scanning every page of a book and posting it online. Yes, it does happen (Harry Potter for example), but it's not nearly as widespread (at least in the U.S.) as film and music piracy.

So let's take movies as an example. Many public libraries now let patrons check out DVDs. So let's say I check out Major Payne, a movie which name implies the level of enjoyment I got out of it when I did check it out a month or so ago.

Say I watch MP and like it. Will I buy it? Maybe, maybe not. Say I watch it and don't like it. Will I buy it then? Probably not.

If I don't buy MP, the film company loses $20 (I know, this one is probably in the $5 bin by now, but the amount isn't important anyway).

If I take the DVD and rip it to my computer and post it on the internet, maybe 1,000 people a day will download it, watch it, and conclude the same as I did that it is not worth buying. That would be $20,000 the film company won't get.

So the film company loses way more money through internet piracy than through the library, but from an ethical standpoint, isn't it the same thing? I still got to watch the movie without paying for it. If I downloaded MP from the internet, watched it, and then deleted it off my computer, would it be okay then? What if those 1,000 people did jut that? The film company would still lose $20,000, just much more quickly.

So is it the same? Are libraries as unethical as internet piracy? Or am I missing something?

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All those things you said are true. But the library only bought Major Payne once. What if ten people check it out?

What if I buy Major Payne and then rip it to my computer and put it on the internet? Wouldn't it be the same thing then?

How do internet pirates get these items? There has to be a source. Either someone buys the product initially, or steals a copy from the company or a store, or checks it out from the library first, in which case libraries actually contribute to internet piracy.
Well, I do sort of follow the analogy. Yes, libraries buy the books. I think that may mean about 1,500 sales max. to the author. It will not keep his book alive. Meanwhile, a large number of people over a long span of time (years?) read the book for free. That is a total loss to the author. But a reader who likes a library book may buy the next one in the store and tell someone else about it. That is very positive publicity. However, especially in the area of crime fiction, libraries empty their shelves periodically for new books and the book goes on sale on the internet as used and rejected. Again, no income and a sudden end to publicity.
I feel ambivalent about libraries. They are quite helpful to the new author, but I would not want my entire series to be available for free. At some point, somebody will have to pay for its survival.
I'm glad somebody around here is not afraid to be at least a little bit objective about libraries. And don't get me wrong, I love libraries. But the thought occurred to me that it wasn't much different, in principal, to internet piracy, so I brought up the question. I appreciate you not criticizing me for even bringing the question up.
In this country authors can register for library revenue, and I understand the same is true in the UK. So in the same way that every time a radio station plays a song, the artist gets royalties for it, there's a similar system in place for authors with libraries. I have no issue with libraries at all.

Libraries purchase copies of the books, which translates into royalties. The difference with internet piracy is that authors, or in the case of a movie or music, the artists involved, earn no royalties. Their work is given away without permission, which is theft.

Having worked in a library, I understand the value of the library system. Librarians are well read and refer books routinely. If a person becomes a fan and likes the work, but the library doesn't have the latest or the wait time is too long, some of those readers do go and buy the books. I've witnessed all of this first-hand. There are five copies of my book in the local library system, and that's translated into a lot of readers who would not have spent the money on the hardcover (because despite the fact that I had an in-writing guarantee that the paperback would come out in the spring, they haven't bothered to do it).

So, in my opinion, yeah you're missing a lot. Long before I ever started comparing libraries to internet piracy I'd look at second-hand bookselling and book exchange places, which pass on an author's material and the author received no royalties whatsoever. At least we receive something from the library system - initial royalties, a small payment for borrowing, and exposure. I understand a lot of people don't have the money for all new books and I sympathize, although it becomes a vicious cycle. Publishers working harder to sell fewer copies raise prices to compensate for losses and books are even less affordable and it goes on and on.
Yes, second-hand bookselling and book exchange places are a good point, and I have thought about that. But jut because people don't have a lot of money to buy the books isn't a good argument for libraries. Because the internet does that much better, with more stuff being available to more people, whether they have money or not.

But this royalty thing is a good point, one I was not aware of, which was why I asked if I was missing something. That does change things. Does this revenue program also work for movies? And with books, does the author receive royalties each time someone checks out the book? Because if it's just a one time deal, then it still doesn't solve my problem. If you want to use a song, for example, you have to pay royalties each time it is used.
My albeit limited understanding of the royalities is that there is compensation based on how often the work is taken out. In the UK there is an award, Dagger in the Library: "Stuart MacBride has won the 2007 Dagger in the Library, nominated and judged by librarians and awarded to an author for a body of work, not one single title." The librarians have an active participation with the CWA. I guess I'll know more about how the library thing works after this year, once I start to see money from it.

I agree it's not a good enough argument alone to say people can't afford to buy all the books. But I'll put my defense of the library system in there, and if I'm going to be grumpy save the frustration for the book swapping places and second-hand stores. And the ridiculous return policy that has people reading books and taking them back for a full refund: "no questions asked".

As for movies, I don't know how it works, but as someone else mentioned here, look at Blockbuster. Or Pay Per View on your satelite. And look at how powerful the movie business is. The movie industry starts putting pressure on and things happen - I've seen that here in terms of government legislation about piracy, actually. I honestly don't believe places like Blockbuster would be allowed to exist if Hollywood felt they weren't getting their share.
If it's compensation for each time the work is taken out, then that makes the situation different from what I described it, and therefore I concede defeat.

I always wondered about that return policy. So you can just read the book and then return it? Is that really how it works?
This sounds like one of those comments like, "Mother's milk must be bad for you, since all babies who drink mother's milk eventually die." True, but it might take them a hundred years.

Libraries make available books the average person would have limited or no access to. Few can afford to buy every book they might want to read, and at $25 and up, trying something new can be a daunting proposition for some. Libraries are invaluable for research purposes (when maybe only a chapter or two of a book is needed, and for pulling material into one convenient location.) Libraries are also great for browsing, when you don't know what you really want. Yes, you can go to the local bookstore and do the same, but the library is likely to have many more hard to find books, especially those that are out of print.

A better analogy for a lending library than internet pirate would be Blockbuster. You rent the movie there for a reasonable fee, much as your taxes pay for the library. It's still illegal to distribute the video you rent there beyond your personal use.

There's another argument in favor of the ethics of lending libraries: the publishers are aware of it. That's who sold the book to the library in the first place. Do you have any doubt the publishers would let this little loophole exist if they thought it cost them money? No, probably because they must figure they make money on the deal, long term. I have discovered many authors in libraries, and then went on to buy their other books. Sometimes even the same books.

If you think public libraries are ripping you off, then the principled stand would be to refuse to allow your publisher to sell to them. I'll bet they'll give you a reason why it's a bad idea.
Actually, I never once said or implied that internet piracy was ethical. I was actually looking at the issue from the opposite side--that if internet piracy is unethical, then perhaps libraries are too. It's interesting that so far no one has mentioned movies, which was what my example was about.
That's all well and good; if you want to extend the argument then you go ahead. I didn't. And you're being simplistic with your logic statements. I didn't just make a statement, I gave an example which illustrated it.
The internet makes available movies the average person would have limited or no access to. Few can afford to buy every movie they might want to watch, and at $20 and up, trying something new can be a daunting proposition for some.--sounds almost the same, doesn't it? It also works if you substitute music.
It's not my analogy, it's Dana's. I just switched media. And you just said above that it didn't matter if it was books or movies or music. And again, who said they were in favor of internet piracy?

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