Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pirates of the crazy-bein'

Fame, fortune, and great hours. Oh yeah. That’s what an author gets for all his hard work. Think about it. The author sits down and dreams up a story. Where did it come from? The author’s mind. An invention conjured from the author’s imagination. Daydreams turned into reading entertainment. Everyone daydreams. Some more than others to the chagrin of their teachers and bosses. Most people today can type. If they can’t type they can write. And if they can’t write they can pick up a tape recorder and record their imaginings and get someone else to do all the really hard work. Typing. Anyone can make up a story, get it on paper (or electronic media), and find an audience. Just post it on the internet. Add a button that says [Download Here] and you’re all set. Go for it! I mean, how much effort can be involved in creating the next Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, or Romeo and Juliet? We’re just talking about words, right? Words are just a bunch of letters put together in a predetermined order. No big secret there. The dictionary will give you that little tidbit of information for free (sorry, you might have to make an investment there). Yep, fame, fortune, and great hours can all be yours for the time it takes to type up a few pages of text.

Not. Let’s analyze the effort that went into one of my more recent releases. Bastina’s Necklace. Liquid Silver Books. Yeah, I know, a shameless plug. The final draft (the book you can read by going to – another shameless plug) has (any one of my editors would kill me but I refuse to write these figures out) 70,217 words, 312,548 characters without spaces, 2,314 paragraphs, and 6,105 lines. Here’s a little nugget of knowledge that surprised even me. The book also contains 67,866 spaces. Yep. Spaces. Empty space. Blankness. Nothingness. My imagination must have gone on strike 67,866 times. Anyway. Those are the numbers. The stats. Kind of like a baseball player’s averages. The yards a football player advances the ball. The square meters of brick a bricklayer can construct in a day. The number of cartons of milk that comes out of the dairy’s plant each day. Cars built by Ford or Honda. The number of times you did whatever it is you do that provides your home, comfort and food for your family, and makes you feel good about yourself. You know what I’m talking about.

Let’s analyze some more. My typing ability is pretty good (another shameless plug – anyone need a secretary?). Just typing from text (put a book out there and ask me to copy) I can hit the upper fifties in words per minute. On a good day with creative writing I can churn out five-thousand words. I’ve done that several times. But that’s a good day. Creative writing is a little different from copying a book. A creative writer doesn’t see a written page in his or her head. I’m sure everyone works a little different but mostly we see events. Kind of like going to a movie, sitting on the front row, and typing the story out as the events unfold on the screen (sorry, could you run the movie back – I missed that dialogue). And we certainly want to make sure we go to a good movie when writing. But wait. What if we get a third of the way into our movie and we suddenly decide we don’t like where the story is going? Simple. We have this key called backspace. Works great. We just get rid of some of those words that came out of our imagination (Bad. Bad imagination. Shame on you) and we type some more words. New words. Better words. So…given the time involved in forming the images, interpreting them (what the hell is a woman with purple hair doing in my imagination? Note to imagination – get real), all that backspacing to change the reel in the projector, and getting the story from imagination to written word our typing speed might drop a little. Let’s just say that when the old imagination is firing on at least five of its eight cylinders that I can type about twenty-five creative words a minute. That means that Bastina’s Necklace (shameless plug coming – required forty-six hours to type. That’s right. For forty-six hours of my time (a week’s worth of nine-to-five) I was rewarded with a science fiction thriller full of love, sacrifice, and romance. Something my readers have taken great pleasure in. How do I know? They told me (nothing like fame to make your day). Sorry? What’s that? Reader’s that thought I could have done a better job? Oh, right. There is that. Yep, you caught me. Fame is a two sided coin.

But back to my article. The reason I tried to get your attention to start with. For one week’s worth of typing you too can bask in the glow of adoring fans, watch your bank account swell, and enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that comes from creating something out of thin air. Just like this article. Right?

Where did I put that bridge? The one with the FOR SALE sign on it. And, of course I achieved this heady feat all by myself. Oh yeah. All by my lonesome. Not. Again. Truth be told my effort was supported by the publishing house (Liquid Silver Books – yep, more shameless plugs coming), the publisher (Tina Burns), the acquisitions director (Tracey West), my line editor (Katie Bryan), editorial director (Terri Schaefer), art director (April Martinez), production, administration, legal, and a host of others (believe it or not). Who are these people? They’re the credits at the end of my movie. The movers and shakers behind the production of Bastina’s Necklace from submission draft to final published edition (plug, plug, plug, plug). Just in case I haven’t expressed this properly let me take a second to say thank you to these people. A very heartfelt thanks.

Okay. The plugging and accolades are over. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. The inspiration behind this particular creative moment. The reason the movie started running in my head today.

While my imagination was taking a break (my imagination has union rights that would make the UAW run for cover) I was forced to occupy my mind with other things. As is custom I was checking out the news and an article at MSNBC caught my eye. Music industry battles Spanish computer buff – Pablo Soto’s story may be every computer whiz kid’s dream – or nightmare (copyright MSNBC). Just the title brings the readers imagination into play. I can see the big, bad music industry with tanks and an invasion force of lawyers in fatigues, field equipment strapped on their backs, .45’s holstered, M16’s in their sweaty little hands, sneaking up on computer whiz kid Pablo Soto. MSNBC even provide a photograph of a perfectly normal looking guy (well, looks like a kid) who launched a computer program in 2001 that facilitates downloading software, music, movies, e-books – anything electronic that can be found or placed on a server connected to the internet – for free. This software was specially (and purposefully – that part’s important) designed to avoid the loopholes that spelled the demise of Naptster. The long and the short of it is Pablo Soto created a program that facilitates piracy. From reading the article I was left with the impression that Pablo’s program is, in fact, the very best program available for this task.

Pablo is painted as a child that left school at sixteen to support his family. That he was living a modest life and doing the best he could to get by. That his program is the result of his devotion to something he holds near and dear – designing computer programs. These are all actions and attitudes that societies applaud (with the exception, maybe, of North Korea). There is no greater story than that of the underdog triumphing. And rightly so. This smacks of hard work and dedication. Of integrity and an altruistic nature that should only be admired. And he did all this, created the number one P2P program in the world, and gave it away. For free! He continues to give it away for free. I still haven’t found his logic in wanting to help support his family and dedicating valuable time to something just to give it away for free. But who am I to question Pablo Soto’s motives? I’m just an author that can whip out a novel in a week.

Let’s backtrack a little. That book, Bastina’s Necklace, the movie in my head that a gaggle of other people dedicated time and effort to? The one that you may have purchased with money you worked hard to earn? The book I typed in just a week? I lied. The creative writing, rewriting, erasing, re-thinking – the creative process - actually took about four months worth of very hard work. Then there’s the time all those other people I mentioned invested to polish and shine and make the book the very best it could be. And did I mention that I write fulltime? That writing is what I have aspired to as a career? That, just like Pablo, I really only want to make sure my family is taken care of. And I should add that all those other people involved in the production of my book share aspirations very similar to Pablo and me. They just want to earn a living, provide for their families, have a home, and feel good about what they do.

Enough of that. Let’s get back to Pablo and his altruistic nature.

I think Pablo may be onto something here. We should all create something and just give it away. Everything we do should be free. Hell yes! The new capitalist formula for living a safe and healthy life. Free! The hell with all those movie production people that feed their families making sure the latest blockbuster that entertains you (and, might I add, makes you smile) is the very best it can be. Forget about the music producer that paid for the studio time to bring you the latest from your favorite singer or group. The damn studio time should be free! I’m liking this. So the manufacturer of said studio equipment, musical instruments, and the place all this angst and creative work takes place should be free as well. We’re on a roll, Pablo. Maybe some computer manufacturer will just give me a new laptop. I’ve worn the keyboard out on this one (all that typing). All those books out there by all those award winning authors should be free too. Just think of authors sitting at their computers (dedicated to what they love, just like you, Pablo) spending their time to create the latest and most captivating read they possibly can. All out of thin air. All for your entertainment. Their life would be so much simpler if they could just give it all away. No publishers to deal with. No line edits. No proof reading. No cover art to be anguished over. Sorry if the book doesn’t read quite as well as it used to. I couldn’t find anyone to work on my book for free. Nope. No cover. Misspelled words? And? Sheesh, the book is free! What the hell do people expect?

And if everything is free then what the heck do we need to do anything for? Why go to the office? Your house is free. Food is free. Energy is free (let’s all go tell the middle-east that we are no longer paying for crude, that Pablo said it should be free). Let me send an e-mail to all those people that helped in the production of Bastina’s Necklace and let them know that as much as I appreciate all their hard work and commitment to my endeavor to entertain the masses that I want--no, I demand that it be made available for free! Immediately!

Hang on. This is starting to smack of socialism. Well, more like hardcore communism. Maybe we should run over to the ex-Soviet Union and ask the people if they’re ready to return to the 80’s and let the government provide their housing and stock their stores. Just like the good old days. Or maybe Pablo should go live in North Korea for a year.

Sorry, Pablo. I’m being a little tough on you. The only thing you did was create a computer program. How people use it is up to them. Right? And the cocaine producers, drug lords, and pushers are just making a product available for the masses. Right? The problem is with the people that use the illicit drug industry’s prodcuts. Doesn’t matter that their product is addictive. Doesn’t matter that the use of their product clouds judgment and makes good people do bad things. All those people attached to the illicit drug industry are just trying to support their family, right? Put food on the table. Now I’m starting to get the picture.

So, Pablo, tell me. I guess the clothes on your back, the car you drive, the apartment you live in, the food you eat, the occasional cerveza you enjoy, are all free as well. What? I didn’t catch that. Maybe not. I don’t recall finding any free apartments, meals, or cars in Madrid the last time I checked. So I guess you do something else for a living. Wait tables? Wash cars? Collect garbage? Hey, I have a job for you, Pablo. We want to paint the outside of our co-op. We’ll hire you and when you finish we’ll fill you in on the new capitalist system. Free. We’ll be sure to say thanks and how much we appreciate your work though. What’s that? Not interested? I guess not. Maybe I should let the reader in on our little secret. Might help them understand the joke. Pablo’s program may be free but the advertising space he sells that appears on the computer desktop of anyone that uses his program isn’t. That’s right, Pablo Soto, the kid that just wanted to help support his family and, I feel, might be an adamant supporter of the new Free Capitalism scheme, receives income from advertising space sold to appear in conjunction with the use of his free software. So, basically, when the new summer blockbusters hit the screens Pablo is very happy. Thousands of people are just waiting to download their free (pirated – as in stolen) copies using Pablo’s program. Imagine how long it will take to download something as big as a movie. All that exposure time for Pablo’s advertising. Gotta hand it to you, kid. That’s pretty slick.

Son, take some advice from someone that actually likes to be paid for his hard work and effort. I read MSNBC’s article. Caught a few blurbs from you. Got the gist of what’s going on and, son, this boat won’t float. You are, in point of fact, making money through the promotion of an illicit activity. Your free program which generates income for you promotes the blatant theft of the hard work of a hell of a lot of other people. It would not be illegal for me to sell a gun to the guy down the street as long as I comply with the laws and regulations that govern that sale. It would be illegal for me to sell that same gun if I knew, directly or indirectly, that the guy down the street planned on committing a crime using that gun. That’s called common sense. Most activities performed by the human race are governed by that little pearl of wisdom. Here’s the advice. Cop a plea while you can. Take the genius of your ability and go to work for a software company. Become a very vocal and knowledgeable advocate against the piracy and theft of other people’s hard work. Beg for mercy and hope you get it.

Wait! I just had a thought. Someone can just hack Pablo’s program and install their own advertising. They can start a small competing business. They can hack every new version he comes out with. You don’t have a copyright on the program do you, Pablo? Sorry. Didn’t catch that. Let me check. Yep, here it is. Copyright 1999-2009 Reserved. That’s just the web site. I’m not about to download the software. P2P software is notorious for having Trojans and stealing information from your computer. Oh, and look at this. Pablo has an XXL version that only costs $19.95. Any hackers out there? I can’t imagine that Pablo will mind. You can download the program with Pablo’s own program. Hack it. Then give it away for free. Who wants to be the director of marketing? Someone aggressive. You want to take every bit of market Pablo has.

A question for you, Pablo. Your program and your small company is your dream, isn’t it? Something that came into being through your imagination and creativity, right? You enjoy the fame and fortune of that creative spark on a daily basis, I bet. Maybe not too much right this minute but you have in the past. And given your position on this whole murky ‘I don’t support piracy but I earn money off the best damn piracy program in the market’ thing I don’t guess you’ll mind if someone in China decides to steal your program and make a little money off of it. I mean, what the hell is a little imagination and creativity worth?

A small post data for my readers. Pablo Soto has sold or given away more than 17,257,127 copies of his program. And I’m absolutely sure all those people are only downloading public domain material. Right? Just give me a minute. I know I’ve got that bridge around here somewhere. I have no idea why the city keeps taking down my FOR SALE sign.


Gem said...

I guess you said it all and you're right. I doubt if Pablo will get the message, though.

Maybe, if everyone else does, Pablo will go legit.


Roscoe James said...

He might get the message if the courts do what is right.

Thanks for dropping by.


Lynn Lorenz said...

What we have to do is to attack the companies that advertise on the sites that offer piratied material.
Bring them to the forefront with a campaign like #Amazonfail, letting everyone know that such and such promotes the crime of illegal downloads.

And remember, as I've said before, it's supply and demand. Pablo wouldn't have wasted a moment of his time if the hordes of people clamoring for a way to steal music, video, books an movies weren't so damn loud and insistant.

So, at the bottom of this pit lie the readers.

That's right. Readers.

The same people who would never dream of walking into a B&N and stealing a book off the shelf, much less fifty books, but think nothing of downloading their equivalent from a pirate site.

Whe the demand stops, so does the piracy.

Roscoe James said...

Quite true Lynn. Thanks for dropping by. The problem is discovering who his advertisers are. With out luck his advertisers are the download sites that house the pirated material.

I did some more reading on Pablo. The kids has a recording studio and music company. He is also (get this) creating the next generation P2P program that utilizes a virtual HD to store things. And he said - I paraphrase - that way they can't trace the downloads back to any one persons computer.

This kid has been interviewed all over the place. The Spanish language articles are more telling. His native tongue and all. And the P2P people think he's a god. Or some lesser diety.

I think a Twit attack is a great idea but just tell me who to attack.

Cherise Sinclair said...

Writers, especially those who write ebooks, don't make that much money writing.

If what I write is stolen by readers who don't want to pay, then I'll simply go back to my other job where stealing is more obvious.

And there won't be any more books by this author.

I feel horribly betrayed when I see my readers stealing my books by 'downloading for free'.

The feeling is probably akin to that of having your neighbor walk in and steal from your house.

Anonymous said...

Sad but true. What we need it is a tech solution to prevent copying and distribultion... oh yeah, DRM... the thing everyone hates...

I keep hoping someday we'll have a solution.

Fiona Vance

Anonymous said...

Sad but true. What we need it is a tech solution to prevent copying and distribultion... oh yeah, DRM... the thing everyone hates...

I keep hoping someday we'll have a solution.

Fiona Vance

Charlotte Pinder said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again this makes me so mad. I'm a member of quite a few authors intenet groups and I know and appreciate all the hard work that goes into the books I love reading and in some cases re-reading. If there's anything I can do apart from e-mailing publishers when I come across any of these sites please let me know because if this causes any one of my favourite authors to give up writing I would be heartbroken. Can I end by saying loyal fans appreciate all of you out there who write for us.

Roscoe James said...

There isn't much that can be done other than vent and build awareness with our loyal readers. I did a little checking yesterday and most the advertising that fill the P2P sites is advertising for more P2P sites. And I do not recommend anyone download the particular program in question. Number 1 P2P and number 1 at taking over your browser.

Thanks for dropping in.