There's a little debate going around in which writers are calculating the millions of dollars they've lost, as well as that wonderful, lofty perch on the bestseller list, because of all those meany pirates out there dumping their book files into torrents. I tweeted last week that 10,000 illegal downloads doesn't mean 10,000 lost sales, it means maybe five lost sales. And I'll bet it was because the book was overpriced to begin with. (Which almost universally means either someone else is setting your price who has their own agenda instead of the writer's best performance and income in mind, or else you have not paid one bit of attention to the digital market in the past two years. Or, in the case of New York publishing, both).
My books have been stolen for years. Ironically, it's only my corporate books that are illegally shared; my DRM-free ebooks don't show up there, yet they could easily be shared, swapped, ripped, and even rewritten. I only even notice the piracy when I do Google alerts of my name and see them in the rapidshare and torrent streams. I don't even know what those streams do, or how they work, and I don't care. It would be like sticking my thumb in a river to try to plug a dam six miles downstream. It would be a full-time job and all I would get is a wet finger. And the pirates would never even notice.
Why do I not care? It's stealing, and stealing is wrong. Anybody who says it's not stealing is wrong. I don't even make cassettes or copies of my own CDs, not even for personal use. But I am not casting stones, because I've conducted other illegal or immoral acts. None of us are without sin.
But I'm a writer, not the world's morality cop. And I have plenty of my own shortcomings. Anyway, the author has many antidotes to piracy:
1. Quit freaking out--stealing or not, this is how people communicate in the modern age. They share. They mutually create content and their shared experiences. They aren't as hung up on "ownership."
2. Take control of your content (from a corporation) and make it cheap. If your book is a buck or two, all but the most ardent thieves (who are spending their time stealing instead of reading anyway) would rather just buy the book and save the hassle. And you'll make the same amount of money, anyway. Actually, far more.
3. Find your own translators. Even if you gave up control of your English rights to a corporation, you can still seek translators on your own. If somebody cracks your book, translates it, and puts it out, that's an incredible homage--many hours of their life. This way, you can make a little money and pay them a royalty.
4. Use it as a positive. In five years, you'll be "selling" your download stats to sponsors and advertisers. And getting ripped off big-time then becomes an asset. Think of them as your future shares in the new market.
5. Why do we write in the first place? If you had told someone 100 years ago you could widely spread your ideas to millions of people at no cost, they would have said you've gone to writer heaven. Or you've gone insane. Which, when you look at it, is basically the same thing.