Control… just what control do I have…

So it’s been a while since I’ve talked about piracy.  Yes, it’s still a major problem.  I spent six hours this weekend working takedown notices.  Six hours.  FYI, that is six hours that could have been spent either finishing the next Grimm book, finishing my romantic suspense, or getting closer to done on two of the contemporaries I’m working on.  But because I had to deal with piracy crap, well, those six hours were spent on piracy issues.  Not writing.  Time I spend dealing with piracy is time I spend not writing, which means… less time spent working on books… for readers.

Something that a few readers have mentioned-they wished they could do  more to help and it’s dawned on me… you know what?  You can.  This isn’t just an author/publisher problem.  It’s one that can/will/does affect you.

As piracy and online digital theft is becoming more and more of an issue, governments are starting to focus on the problem.  Readers outnumber authors, and the legit readers also outnumber the pirates.  This is good-because there is actually a ‘political party’ over in Europe that wants to run for office and make ‘pirating legal’.  You know how you can help authors and other creators out?  Speak out.  Talk to your reps and make your voices heard.  Make them aware of the fact that we need to make sure copyright laws are strong, that creators need the support of their government.

For the US readers who hit my blog, I can even make it very easy for you:

This is a quick way to find your state reps & senators.  Send them an email.  Urge them to continue to support and protect the copyright protection of creative works.   That protection is what keeps us writing. If we lose that, you might well find out that some of us, possibly many of us, maybe even the majority of us will stop providing those creative works.   That protection is what allows us to earn a living from our creative works.  We need it.  Take it away, then why should we continue to do it?

If you don’t live in the US, we still need your help.  Can you contact your representatives?  Email them?  Ask them to support copyright protection in your country?

Those of you who do support us and understand our right to earn a living, those who don’t steal from us, you have no idea how much you’re appreciated.  Thank you. From the very bottom of my heart, thank you.

Now.  About control.  What control do I have?  Can I control how pirates think?  No.

Can I control the excuses they use to rationalize their actions?  No.  Although many of those rationalizations just make me laugh when they don’t depress the hell out of me.  I’m particularly fond of the ones like… “Writers are rich-it’s not like it hurts them.”

Rich.  Oh, if only.  Although, ya know what…the writers who are rich?  They busted their butts to get that way-they earned it.  But I need to introduce some reality into this little tale.  I’m not rich.  I can count on one hand how many writers I’ve actually met who could be called rich.  And I’ve met a lot of writers.  A select few are rich.  Some are pretty well off.   Others, though?  The majority of them still work day jobs in addition to writing.  They still work day jobs because they can’t live on what they make from their writing income.  Period.  So the pirates who think they aren’t hurting writers through their thefts?  Big. Fat. Wrong.

I’m actually lucky that I can write as my job and the only reason I can do so is because of my husband-he’s got a decent, steady job with decent insurance.  If something happens there?  I go back to work-we’ve got three kids and I’ve got health issues that require decent insurance.

Let me shed some more reality-our home is 1500 square feet.   It’s not huge.  It’s a nice home.  But’s it’s not big.  We don’t have enough room.   Three bedrooms.  Single level dwelling.  My two daughters share a bedroom.  My office is the dining room.  Our two cars are in the driveway because we have to use the two car garage for storage-no room in our house.  Both of our cars were bought used and have over 100,000 miles on them now.  Mine is over 5 years old.  My husband’s is close to ten years old.  My kids go to public schools, not private.  The majority of our clothes come from Old Navy or Target, and on occasion, Walmart and sometimes, I’ll hit Kohls when there are good sales.  Yes… I’m really living the high life.  We’re still paying on our home, we have the same bills anybody else has.

Again…we’re not rich.

My story isn’t unusual for writers, and I actually probably do a little better than some-again, a lot of that is because of my husband’s job and his insurance.  Because of him, I don’t have to pay $500 or so out of pocket a month for insurance, why is about what it would cost me.

Here’s another shocker-since writers are self-employed, a nasty chunk of our income goes to Uncle Sam.  Taxes aren’t already deducted, so we have to turn around and pay that.   Ever been self-employed? You know that tax refund a lot of Americans look forward to come April?  Not the typical writer-you see, being self-employed generally means we’ll end up owing.  And it doesn’t have jack to do with making a lot of money.  It’s that self-employment thing.

We’re not rich.  Stop deluding yourself with that little fantasy.

Then there’s the ‘writing is fun so why should they make us pay?’ fantasy. Well, aside from the stuff I listed up above… ya know, things like taxes and crap-I mean how in the world can we pay that if we’re not getting paid?  And not paying your taxes leads to things like, oh…say… jail.

But seriously.  You think ‘writing is fun’ and that means ‘they shouldn’t get paid’.  Seriously?  Are these mature adults thinking this crap up?   No… writing is a job and for me, it’s more stressful than the job I used to have-but there are people out there who think I should do it for nothing?  Choke.  Um.  No.  Not going to happen.

Like most jobs, it has it’s moments.  But I spent generally about 10 or so hours a day working-not just writing, because writing is actually only half of my job.  And even that isn’t what I can call fun.  Yes, I’m driven to do it-but an alcoholic is driven to drink.  Doesn’t mean it’s fun for the alcoholic.

The sad thing is, even when I’m not working?  I am.  Writing is a job that we never turn off.  Even when we’re out with our families, trying to focus on them, the stories are crowding our head and pushing in, trying to intrude and take over and we have to try and block them out.  Writing isn’t like a faucet you turn off and on.  It’s just there.  It’s not like the nursing job I had, where I could leave it at the office, either.  It’s always on.  Can you imagine how mentally exhausting that gets?

So again… that writing is fun justification…it’s just another delusion.  It’s a job, and it’s a damn hard one.

Back to control… there are some pirates out there who think they are part of some big ‘revolution’ where they will force ‘content to be free’ as part of a big political change.  A little tangential side note-the content isn’t free for me to provide.  I spend money doing it.  Guess what-it shouldn’t cost me money if I can’t get paid.

We also have a whole hell of a lot of freeloaders in our society.  Writers/creators actively contribute-we provide a service, we work, we aren’t asking for a handout.  We’re doing a job.  We’re earning a living.  This is how we earn a living.  Surely even pirates understand that to earn a living you must be paid, correct?  Surely even pirates understand that in order to make it in society, one must be able to pay for things like food, your home, food, and if you have kids, you need to be able to provide for them.  (unless of course these pirates are going to produce some marvelous system where creators are provided for by society….)

How is a writer to earn a living if they aren’t paid?  Do you want to add to the burden of society and take away our paying jobs?

So back to this ‘so-called revolution’.  This idea that they can force content to be free-again, content that isn’t free for us to provide to begin with.   I disagree that you’ll be able to force this revolution.

Wanna know why? The majority of governments, the majority of people understand the value of creative works.  Even the pirates seem to get that there is value.  If there wasn’t any value, they wouldn’t want the creative works.  They just feel entitled to take whatever they want.

Governments, the majority of people do understand that the creators need to have the right to protect their work-that protection is what lets them earn a living, what enables them to NOT BE A BURDEN ON SOCIETY…because they have a job, ya know?

You take that protection away?  Well, here’s a question for the pirates….

If we can’t protect our works, why should we give it to you?

I tell you now…a lot of us will stop.   And you can’t make us continue-that is out of your control.  We decide if we’re going to provide it.  That is what we control.

Would you like read an disturbing statistic?  From BBC News, in regards to the music industry in Spain, a country that has no laws preventing illegal downloads-nothing to help those creators protect their work:

The sales of albums by local artists there have fallen by 65% in five years.

Sixty five percent.

Another quote from that article:

“Spain runs the risk of turning into a cultural desert,” commented Rob Wells, Senior Vice President, Digital, at Universal Music Group.

A cultural wasteland.  That sounds pretty disturbing.  Sixty-five percent.

You want to push for laws to strip away copyright protection-well, like I said, I don’t see it happening.  All the governments need to do is look at a country like Spain and see what happens when there is little to no protection given to creative users.   Why should any artist pursue a big career in Spain when they realize their own government isn’t going to back them?  I sure as hell wouldn’t.

I’m a realist.  As much as the stories in my head drive me, I’ve got kids who need to be fed, clothed, cared for and I’ll put their needs above all, before all, and if you take away the laws that enable me to earn a living-therefore making it possible to provide for them?

You can’t force me to write.  You can’t force any writer to write.  Take away the protection that enables us to earn a living from the books we provide?  You might not like what happens down the road.  You could find yourself in a reader’s wasteland.  Yes, there will be those who write to be read…but not all of them will be books from professional writers.

Before you roll your eyes and think, yeah, right… ask yourself, imagine, just imagine, you’re one of those local musicians in Spain, and your income has dropped 65% over the past five years.  Do you really, honestly see yourself still doing that job or are you looking to alternatives?  Me?  I’d be looking to alternatives, and thank God, I’ve got a steady reliable career to fall back on–quite a few writers do.  Most of us didn’t come into this biz fresh out of high school.

If you wouldn’t continue to work at a job where your income was cut by more than half, why would you expect anybody else to?  If you can’t see yourself doing it,  don’t expect anybody else to do it, either.  Don’t make the assumption that writers, artists, whatever will stick it out in the ‘hopes of being read’ or ‘they have to do this because they need to heard/read/whatever’.

Because that only defines some artists, only defines some writers.  Some are in it for the glory.

Many of us are in it because it’s our job.  Those of us who are in it because it’s our job?  You take the job part away?  The part where we’re able to benefit?  That part goes hand in hand with copyright protection? Take it away and you’ll be surprised, because you will end up losing out, too, when you realize many of us are done.

In the end… I don’t write to be read… I write because it’s my job… I choose to put the books out there.  That is what I control.  I’ve got another career I can turn to, and it’s one I’ve kept up with-I can go back to nursing.  There is a reason I kept my license active, a reason I still help out at my old day job.  It’s so I can return to it, should I ever need it.  Take away the laws that protect my work?  I’ll pick up that stethoscope again real fast.

That, right there, is the control I do have.  You can’t force me to write.  You can’t force any writer to write.  If our right to protect our works is stripped away?  Well, in the end, one right we do still have?

The right to decide if we’re going to give you, give anybody another story.

This right here is why readers everywhere need to care about piracy and copyright protection.   Don’t let pirates be the ones who decide about some so-called digital revolution.  Since copyright protection and digital theft is a hot topic right now with a number of law makers, now is the ideal time for readers to make their voices heard.  Contact your representatives.  Speak up.  Make your voice heard.  Please.  Help us protect our work, help us protect the stories that we love to give you.

One Reply to “Control… just what control do I have…”

  1. This was an intense post. Thank you for sharing. It just so sad to know that between the book retailers, the publishers, the agents, and Uncle Sam taking their cut, there’s so little $ left over for the author – the original creator. And then layer in the piracy issues, there’s even less. If it helps, I sent a note to my senator.

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