You wouldn’t steal a policeman’s helmet and go to the toilet in it, would you?

… So says The IT Crowd in its spoof of anti-piracy warnings, brilliantly channelling consumer frustration with the hypocrisy of Digital Rights Management.

A New York Times ethicist entered this controversial territory when he penned a recent piece in which he uses the example of a generally law-abiding citizen who, when unable to purchase an e-book version of a title, purchased the hard copy and then illegally downloaded an electronic copy for convenience while travelling. The ethicist states:

Buying a book or a piece of music should be regarded as a license to enjoy it on any platform. Sadly, the anachronistic conventions of bookselling and copyright law lag the technology.

But although this rationalisation may gel with the feelings of many a consumer, piracy is still illegal – and, in this case, illogical. Nathan Bransford argues that encouraging piracy does not provide answers to the current transitional glitches in the rapidly evolving publishing industry:

The electronic era is full of possibility as well as potential downfalls, and I think we need to get past the idea that an electronic format is value-less relative to print. It has value. It is a different product. You can add that value yourself by converting something you bought, or you can pay for a new file.

While publishers resolve work flow management issues to enable cost-effective publication across a range of formats, the market is moving in to fill the gap. Pundits have argued for some time that e- and p-book bundling would be an effective commercial model.  O’Reilly have been offering bundles ahead of the pack. Now Barnes and Noble are trialling bundles:

Under the plan, B&N will offer customers who buy a print edition at one of their stores the opportunity to buy the e-book at a discount. Prices will be worked out in discussions with publishers, Lynch said, adding that B&N’s aim is to make the transaction with consumers as seamless as possible.

I love books in all their forms. Having spent pointless hours over the Easter weekend trying to locate e-books that are compatable with my e-reading device, geographic region, tastes, and wallet, I can sympathise with the compulsion to rationalise piracy – but, as a writer, piracy gives me great pause. It is more than just consumer pressure for equitable e- and p-book access that demands innovative strategies be employed throughout the production and distribution chain.


Writing Race at AWMonline forums tonight, with special guest Captain, speculative fiction author Angela Slatter. Woot!

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