I know. I know. I’m a terrible person. A criminal. A blackguard. An scoundrel of the web, pillaging on seas of gigabytes.
I’m sure many of you have heard of the maelstrom of indignation surrounding the topic of piracy on the internet. And the general verdict is that, well, it’s akin to stealing. No. It is stealing.
I agree. That’s why I’m a terrible person.
But I’m going to attempt to justify my theft. And maybe this will open the eyes of some people who denounce all acts of piracy, and the people who commit them. To show you one of the faces behind the pirates everyone hates.
I’ll lay the cards clear on the table. I pirate purely for financial reasons. Not simply to save money. That is a weak excuse, and if you’re pirating books, movies, or any content just to spare a couple of dollars, don’t. Stop that. Please buy the lovely creative stuff people produce so that they are compensated for their work just like any other professional. Please. But, yes, the reason is that I just don’t have the money to buy books. I don’t have a job, and I’m still in school. School takes up a good deal of my time, especially since exams are underway. Due to a tumultuous family history, I live with my mum with my younger brother, and we veer on the precipice of poverty. Not digging for sympathy. Just a fact.
Yes, we can afford enough food to live, pay for electricity and internet connection and water and the rent. We are surviving, but only just. After all the bills are paid, there is nothing left. Nothing for savings. We live the dreaded paycheck to paycheck lifestyle, and it wears my mum down. It’s stressful. It makes you feel like your whole world is built on quicksand. I really hate it.
For those of you who know a bit about me, and have read some of my blog posts, you’d know that I am a writer, and a lover of books. I don’t think the word love even covers it. I sing hosannas to books, I bow before them, they are my love, my God, my everything. Unfortunately, books take a back burner to survival. I’m not selfish enough to deprive the family of food just so I can feed on the glories of literature. I cannot afford to buy books. So I pirate them sometimes, downloading them onto our rickety computer from the internet. I steal doses of magic, like a crack addict. Not to save money, but because I have no money. If I had any money, every cent of it would go towards buying books. There isn’t a better way on earth to spend your hard earned cash.
But what about libraries, you might say? Can’t you just borrow them for free?
Yes. Yes I can. And I do. I take home piles of books from the local library, and my school library. I’m like an older incarnation of Matilda in the book by Roald Dahl. Unfortunately, due to the area where I live, the amount and range of books is limited. What I mean to say is, the books are very old, and outdated. Their pages unleash musty fumes and spirals of dust upon being exposed to air, and most of their spines are crumbling, sagging affairs, botched together pitifully with contact in a last ditch attempt to preserve their shape. Most of them are classics. And though I have nothing against classics, or non-fiction books on the Titanic, and the best places to travel in Asia, very few of them are in the genre I read in, and write in – namely, weird and strange fiction, offbeat and dark fantasy. Also, I’ve read most of them. Also, the libraries never update their shelves, because they have no money to do so. Also, I can’t travel to other libraries, because they are too far and I walk everywhere. And because transportation costs money. Gah. Capitalism.
This is going to sound cringe-worthy, but I’m just a dirt-poor girl, who loves reading, but doesn’t have the resources to read the books she wants to. That’s it.
Nevertheless, all this isn’t a great excuse for my thievery. I could deprive myself of doses of magic. Books aren’t necessary for my survival, at least, not literally, the way food is. I won’t drop dead if I can’t read books. But the thing is, and I know this sounds cheesy, but books are everything to me. They are my glorious knights in papery armour, wielding swords of metaphor and words and wonder to fight away the many dragons of my every day life. They are a luxury, yes, but they to me, they are a luxury I cannot give up without descending into absolute misery. If books I wanted to read no longer existed in the world, then I wouldn’t want to exist either.
However, it’s also my undying, deep-rooted affection for books that make me hate myself every time I download one from the internet. There isn’t a group of people in the world I respect and adore and admire more than writers. Some of them are well-known and wealthy enough not to be impacted by my pirating. But other writers, the lesser-known ones, lose money because of me. Its clogs my system with guilt. Hell, one day, I know I’m going to be a writer who will live off her work, and what would I do with myself if people were illegally downloading my content?
Yet the truth is, if I didn’t download them, I wouldn’t read them, because I can’t, I just wouldn’t be able to. I suppose what I’m trying to say is, in regards to the writers who I have stolen from, they have gained an ardent appreciation of their art from me, at the very least. Their magic has sparked my soul. This is not a justification for my crime: all I’m saying is, either way, they don’t earn any money from me, yet, through pirating, they allow their art to touch and bring magic to the world of another human being.
If I were one of those writers, and I knew someone like me was pirating their books, I would not hate them. If you’re someone like me, who literally can’t afford to buy books, I don’t think writers should hate you. At least someone is reading their work. At least someone cares enough to scour the internet for their work, and devour their words while sitting in front of the dim computer screen late at night.
But, in the end, it comes down to money, and compensation, and none of my justifications really make a difference in regards to that. Sure, some writers might care about distilling magic in the brain of a young writer, but others would rather have the cash and less frivolity, please and thank you. Which is why I have compiled a list of every book that I have ever pirated, and I add one each time I commit the act. And I swear to you, the moment I start earning more money than is needed for necessities, I’m going to buy each of those books, one by one. It is an oath I am making with myself, because I love writers, and I love what they create, and I hate the pilfering of art. But please, if you truly can afford books, please buy them. And if you’re like me, and you truly do not have the funds (if you can buy an extra pair of shoes, you can pay for a book), I urge you to write a list of all the books you have stolen, and make the same oath.
Because we need to pay writers. Because the joy of imagination and reading and art is worth every penny. Because if we don’t pay writers, then they can’t go on creating art, and our lives will be the worse off for it. Because they deserve to be compensated for their labors of love. Because books are just damn wonderful.