Monday, September 20, 2010

On Pirates

Lots of stuff on Piracy going round the blog-o-sphere. I was not going to comment, but today I found out something that is spurring me to share my thoughts on the subject.

First of all, the extreme arguments on both sides are effin stupid. 

On the one hand you have people out there who seem to think that you CAN stop torrents and file sharing and other types of unregulated distribution of information based products. You can't stop it. It will always happen. 

One the other hand you have people who seem to think that because you CANNOT stop it, that makes it ok and that everyone should develop business models around piracy and file sharing being the norm. This is even more stupid. Keep it a crime and an action that society at large considers morally wrong and you automatically are controlling the problem because huge numbers of people will not do it. If you pursue penalties where it makes sense to do so and will not drive you broke, than go for it. If not than thats ok too. The mere status as a crime is enough to control it to an extent. 

Now all that said, I agree with Gordon that the Freemium model is the only one that really works for web based business today. There are however two versions of this. The first basically gives the stuff away and hopes that 10-20% will want to buy the same thing in some form. For example, I give the PDF away and maybe 10%-20% buy the book. There are now a handful of famous authors who have done this and champion the model. The problem is that the model really only works for famous authors who will have tens of thousands of readers. The model does NOT work for lesser known authors, who still largely need to build credibility by selling books through traditional publishers. 

The other model is the one that I use. A large amount of info is offered for free (in my case the blog, and articles, and such) as well as some things that are very inexpensive and which I do not make a lot of money on ( my books). The hope is that 10-20% will like it enough to buy the PREMIUM material such as the course or attend classes that I do make decent money on. This is the Freemium model that WILL work for people who are not famous. 

At this moment, my books are torrented and on rapid share. I did not put them there and I do not approve of it, but I am also not getting all upset about it either. It gets the meme out there and is basically advertising. There is after all the chance that one of those people will buy the course or come to a workshop. 

Now, if I see the course material up on a Torrent site, I am going to be seriously put out and take whatever action I can against those who post it. It is how I make a good amount of my income. If the premium stuff gets up on torrent sites and detracts in serious numbers from people paying for the course, that makes it not worthwhile to even bother with the course at all. So far, no one has, to my knowledge done this. 

This brings me to yet another level of this discussion, and to a character that is the true Pirate - the guy that steals the work of another, reproduces it himself and makes himself a profit. I got word today that "The Sorcerers Secrets", along with Frater R.O.'s books, were being sold in spiral bound editions at a Pagan Pride Day in Mass. This person is a total scumbag and deserves what is coming. 


D said...

Wow, can't believe that douche would sell your stuff. You did the work, you deserve the reward (after all, your students are rewarded by using your tech).

That said, would you consider selling authorized e-editions of your books? I like both paper books and electronic copies. I bought your books (from you personally), and would love to get ebooks where you would get paid.

petoskystone said...

thieves should be expecting consequences--not everyone allows a thief to walk away....

Jason Miller, said...

There are Kindle editions of both books.

Because I work through a publisher I cannot produce my own PDF format books for sale.

Thelema Sorcery said...

You know what? Jason is, as (nealry) always, right in his sound good sense. The truth is out there, but it is in the middle. Let me explain.
I live in Italy, so I cant' often see foreign books before buying them. I'm of the older generation, 47 years old, and when I was young and naive I've been ripped off several times by reviews and blurbs who made me buy useless books. We had no google books back then. No previews. I can't count the times I've been cheated by publishing houses, both big and small. In the 80's I was buying Finbarr books, just to discover they were, most of the times, they were rip-offs of other authors (mostly Regardie, in the books I bought - how many times did they print the same middle pillar ritual taken from NAP - and therefore from Regardie?) or simple jokes. One of their books was a reprint of the Abramelin squares with a single added page with a "sign" supposed to charge the squares. In one of their books even the testimonials are copied (slightly changed) from NAP. And how many "next big thing" did we buy from Llewelly just to discover it was the same stuff we already had in other books? Now I download, if I can. And you know what? I buy more books.
My pdfs can be grouped in 3: books I already have (a pdf on my computer can be useful), books I found interesting and useful (and after skimming or reading the pdf I bought the book), books I downloaded ot of sheer curiosity: I could buy them, after I've skimmed them. I wouldn't have bought them anyway, without looking first at what's inside.
So: pdfs get to be adverts... and all the youngsters who download madly, welll... they wouldn't have bought the book in the first place.

Pallas Renatus said...

As one voice out of many, I can say that as a tight-budgeted college student, I'd have never bought Jason's books or enrolled in his course unless I knew what I'd be getting into. And if I'd gotten them completely for free, I'd probably not be doing the work, nor recommending it to people. So I have to say, he's doing something right.

Then again, as a pretty frequent pirate of the non-magical variety, I have to ask: With all the varied opinions on the subject by authors, why on earth would you risk pissing off magicians, of all people? This just seems like common sense to me.

D said...

Kindle? Darn, I've got a Nook. I went for the ePub format to side-load books.

Jason Miller, said...

For Nook

Anonymous said...

There's nothing wrong with selling an idea. To say that you can own an idea in the way that you can own a tangible thing is absurd.

Let's say I take pen and paper and make a copy of a book you wrote. In what meaningful sense of the word is that your book? You may say that the law disagrees, but the law also once recognized property rights in slaves, so merely appealing to the law as an ethical standard is meaningless.

-Ngawang Tenzin Zangpo

Anonymous said...

And what's more, you might not LIKE that person for earning income that you might otherwise have earned, but while piracy might be bad for you, it's great for everyone else.
Check this out:

If that doesn't convince you, this monograph written against copyright might:

Jason Miller, said...


The salon article doesn't address how writers within China will find compensation for their work.

The second link you sent doesnt work.
I would ask you for a good link but...

You comparison of intellectual property to human slaves is so incredibly shameful and idiotic that I am not terribly interested in what you have to say.

If you made a hand written copy of my book and sold it, it would be theft of intellectual property.

People can shout "information should be free" from the mountaintops, but unless good business models arise to compensate writers for their work, and believe me it is work, than the work itself will cease to flow.

Anonymous said...

You did absolutely nothing to address my points. I claim that "intellectual property" is an incoherent idea because it implies that one owns something which is not tangible and, if you take the idea to its ultimate conclusion, that you own ALL physical copies of an idea. This implies that, for instance, if I hand copy one of your books, you somehow "own" the paper on which it is written, since enforcement of intellectual property entails preventing me from sharing that copy. So, how does that work? Even more ridiculously, if you take the idea that you own a concept to its ultimate conclusion, then you would be forced to argue (in the interest of intellectual consistency) that, if I were to memorize some work of yours, you would somehow "own" that part of my brain, since it is a copy of the information. This conclusion is obviously absurd. Since the premises on which intellectual property is based result in absurd conclusions, the premises themselves must also be absurd, no matter how convenient they may be.

If you actually care to inquire further into this idea, you can google "Against Intellectual Monopoly," which was released by Cambridge University Press, and which is available on line in its entirety. That is, however, if you weren't just looking for a quick out, which your silly claim that I equate intellectual property and slavery leads me to suspect, as I had thought it was pretty damn obvious that what I was pointing out is that referring to "the law" as an ethical arbiter is silly, at least in this case, since the definition of what counts as property has changed considerably over time.

Pallas Renatus said...

@STP076: Wow, you're showing a complete lack of grasping both the concepts of what intellectual property is, and what it's supposed to be.

If you were to hand-copy another author's book, in no way is the "logical conclusion" that he owns that paper. Your hard work went into the scripting and binding, and you have every right to sell that for a profit. HOWEVER, to completely ignore that the author deserves some compensation (perhaps not as much as his own book would cost) for the CONTENT, without which your hand-copy never would have existed (and which the author put just as much, if not much more work into) is idiocy.

Similarly, the ENTIRE POINT of selling information is so that you, the buyer, can store it in your brain. If the author wanted the degree of control over his information that you're implying he does, they'd have never sold their book in the first place.

Intellectual property may be intangible, but that does not mean that hard work did not go into producing it, and does not mean that it isn't as useful as a physical tool. By buying it, you're compensating the author for that work, based on its worth. This is NO LESS "intangible" than paying someone for their hard work in an office, even though their number-crunching produces no "tangible" results.

And honestly, if an author's work is going to be worth reading, why wouldn't you WANT to pay them for it? Money is really the only impetus they have at all for putting in the work required to produce these works. No "intellectual property", and the quantity and quality of works produces goes down substantially.

Kenyon said...


I just wanted to thank you for making your books available on both Kindle and Nook. I have bought both the physical books, but most of my reading has been on the Nook app for Android. Having your books there during my breaks at work has been great. I wish more authors supported both of these devices.

Anonymous said...

First, I would say that IP would say that he owns the work I just created. I say this because the author would have the right under IP laws to prevent me from distributing the copy I made. If a person has control over a given object, in this case by being able to use the force of law to prevent me from selling it, then he has ownership. That's why I say that IP would imply ownership of a copy I made, and I argue that such ownership is not legitimate.

Intellectual creations are useful, and are the result of hard work, but that doesn't necessarily imply ownership. Children are useful, and (well-raised ones, at least) are the result of hard work, but no-one would say that children can be owned. Of course, other factors come into play there, but the point is that the usefulness of something and the hard work that went into creating it are neither necessary nor sufficient factors for justifying intellectual property. You are right in one regard - by buying it, I compensate the author. Hence, the wisdom, for instance, of what authors did before IP protections - expensive editions to make money. That's how authors would get paid in the absence of IP, and would, in fact, represent increased income for them since, in most cases, most of the money goes to publishing companies (just as most of the money from record sales goes to record companies, which prompts musicians to make their money from live performances, which are not duplicatable in the same way that a fancy edition of a book is less likely to be duplicated.)

If you read the monogram I pointed Mr Miller toward, you'll see that not only does IP NOT enhance income to the creators of intellectual works, it is also unncessary (and ethically unjustified.) (You might not be convinced on the last point, but I think the argument is persuasive.

Furthermore, the practically eternal copyright laws that exist now do far more to bury good books that would otherwise have small audiences than anything else. I know people who specialize in bringing these sort of works back into print, and they frequently run into the problem of family members of the author sitting on the copyright in hopes of obtaining unrealistic sums of money for the right to print it.

So, for instance, Mr Miller might make money now from his books, but what happens in 60 years when he kicks it and someone wants to bring his books back into print? If the holders of his estate hold out, those books will pretty much be lost forever. So what's that about expanding access to information?

Anonymous said...

Look at the stuff that Rankine and Skinner put out. That's what I'm talking about when I say that authors could make money in the absence of IP. The workmanship on the books (and not even mentioning the info) is excellent. Even if they were available on the internet as PDFs or in cheap-ass spiral bound volumes, I'd MUCH RATHER have their version because of a) the prestige value of owning a well-constructed book, and b) the durability of such a book. If you study the economics of things like this, you'll find out that there are almost always voluntary ways to convert public goods (in this case, information) into private goods. Coase's paper on lighthouses is a great example - for a long time, lighthouses were an example given of a public good. It was said that there was no incentive to provide them privately since you couldn't confine the benefit to paying customers, and any number of people could benefit at once. Coase went back and looked at the actual history of the matter, and what he found was that lighthouse owners DID make a profit - by charging nearby ports for their service.

The gist of what I'm saying is that just because we don't know how market arrangements could make a public good profitable doesn't mean that it can't be done.

For instance, what's to stop book sellers from including a sort of EULA with the book indicating that purchasing the book indicates an agreement not to distribute it to others, and then including something like a minor spelling error or several different turns of phrase, making it possible to trace back a given book to a given purchaser, in turn making it possible to collect damages?
Other possibilities abound. Like I said, we shouldn't assume that because we don't know, it can't happen.

After all, isn't that the whole point of this thing of ours? ;-)

Anonymous said...

Well, first, you're a great author who delivers work that is deserving of having a copy of in book form. That is saying a lot because I have plenty of expensive books that go way over if the commons sense applications that you deliver if not miss the exit entirely.
Also, I agree with your thoughts on it. From your side being an artist/author, it's the con of being in the information age where it's a pro for others given that it's free; especially since it's economically bad out there but when it comes to the nature of what's being pirated, we're talking magick and not Metallica so I'm sure there are prices tolled from these would be merchants that tax beyond monetary value.

Jason Miller, said...

STP076, Your arguments against IP are all based on illogical extensions of the concept into the absurd "ultimate conclusion" as you call it.

Fact is we have fair use laws, and public domain, and libraries, and the ability to lend our books to whomever we like.

No one is coming after the ideas you hold in your head from reading a book or a handwritten copy you made.

If you decide to distribute your hand written copies and make money for yourself while cutting the author out - than damn straight you deserve to have a penalty.

I agree that laws need tweaking and updating - when copyrights run out for instance is a big one - but make no mistake IP was put in place to pave the way for creators to be able to earn a living off their work.

I would wager that whatever it is you do for a living (though somehow I suspect you are currently in college) there is a key component that relies upon IP.

Telling authors to make their money by producing expensive editions is asinine. It implies that the author needs to be publisher and distributor as well. I like nicely printed editions good occult books as much as you do, but:

1: They tend not to reach as many people as a traditionally published book


2: If there was no way to control the IP of a book you have no way to stop other people from making even fancier and higher quality editions for even less than the author can.

You go figure out how the author gets paid for his time and work in crafting his books without IP and then I will listen to you. Until then your arguments have no weight. Saying "just because we don't know how to do it doesn't mean it can't be done" is not an argument for the real world. It does not put clothes on my kids backs or food on their plates.

Anonymous said...

Wow, someone at Pagan Pride Day ripping off authors who are a part of the magickal community.

Really, really shitty.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that it requires a great deal of philsophical discussion upon the nature of IP rights to intuitively know that selling a book without the author's permission is unethical.

Perhaps knowledge cannot be owned but the codifying and presentation of that knowledge can be.

The only time I believe piracy to be acceptable is if a publisher attemtps to keep an important work off the market while refusing to sell the IP rights back to the author.

I saw this happen to te author of a good book on Wicca and Qabalah entitled Between the Worlds. Llewellyn refused to sell the rights back to the author despite the fact they have kept it out of print for quite some time. The author has made repeated requests and has been rebuffed each time.

In such cases I believe all bets are off...pirate away.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jason, I love your stuff. In regards to IP, I think Mr. AlphaNumerical is missing a key component himself.IP isn't just meant to protect an author, its meant to protect the rest of us from Charlatans and Thieves. The world is littered with people that take something and pass it off. The Secret being a vomitous watering of earlier concepts is a good example. The world thinks the Secret is this wonderful NEW innovation disregarding the rest of us magicians that have been using it for centuries. Reselling someone elses idea as your own is rape, plain and simple. Edison did it to Tesla and it destroyed him. You have violated someone's mind to gain a profit and the rest of us should shun you and anyone that defends you. Dress it up in pretty legalese all you want, but the truth is, you don't know what you're talking about.