Saturday, February 4, 2012

Avast Ye Pirates

I have been pirated!  A friend pointed out to me that my first book has been torrented.  My first reaction?  What is wrong with my second book, that it has not!?  I, of course, downloaded this pirated copy, as I didn't have a good PDF version of my first book.  Otherwise, how do I feel?  Not great, not horrible.  I am opposed to the violation of copyrights, including mine.  I don't download illegally music, videos, movies, television shows, etc., and I discourage my daughter as I do think that such activities are theft.

But the reality is that my book sales on that first tome of knowledge were and have been largely unaffected by piracy.  The sales were what they were. 

But I am a bit more troubled by on-line note-sharing sites.  The Montreal Gazette has a story today about a couple of McGill students putting together a new site, Note.Sac, for the buying and selling of class notes.  Yes, this is an old business in a new form, but I guess it bothers me that this kind of intellectual property theft is not seen as problematic as the more well known forms.  Why?
  • It is perhaps less obvious that the effort one puts into lecturing is creative, compared to the text of a book.  So, this kind of piracy actually contains a bit more dis-respect than other forms.
  • The note-takers/sellers may be doing the students who purchase a disservice since they may not get right what I said, how I said it and what it might mean.  Sure, buyer beware and all of that, but note-taking services have no real accountability.
  • Perhaps most annoying of all--for my big intro class where a note-taking seller would seem to have the most added value and biggest market, I do plenty to help out students who miss a lecture or two or three--posted slides, each lecture is automatically recorded and posted, I have TA's to explain stuff, and my own office hours.
So, today I whine about heaps of piracy even though it does not impact my income in any significant way.  It just hurts my feelings.

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