Sharing free content at paid piracy websites

Piracy is about sharing for free a content for which you have to pay money elsewhere. But what if you find at a file-sharing site a content which is free anywhere else? And what if you actually have to pay for it?

One of my books, Hasło niepoprawne, is available at Chomikuj.pl, Poland’s most popular file-exchange site. It’s OK, the book comes with a Creative Commons license and anyone is free to share it anywhere on the web.

There’s one little thing. At Chomikuj you have to pay for file transfer. There are many sites like that, naming only Rapidshare, where you pay either for quicker download or for premium features, like search option. Users have to pay for content, even if it’s offered elsewhere for free by its legitimate author.

This case made me think of three issues, which are worth raising: knowledge, convenience and trust.

Most users of piracy websites assume that they are making a deal on downloading any piece of content. If they don’t know that the book is elsewhere available for free, they take it for granted they save money. What’s more, they don’t want to know whether the content is free somewhere else if they pay for a pro account at their site.

Convenience is a next big thing in piracy. Some people are ready to spend small amounts of money to save time on browsing, conversion, etc. Those who use Rapidshare paid account may not be eager to check around for other possibilities, especially that, again, they pay for a pro account here.

File exchange site with a premium account becomes a trusted content source. Content provider is usually another user of that site. He is a good guy, the curator of the content, bringing to the others the product cleared from all he cheat: price and DRM.

The biggest challenge for legitimate content providers is what to do to be more convenient and trustworthy than a piracy site.

There are more and more authors giving away free ebooks and more and more such ebooks will land at piracy websites. How does paid piracy affect them? The biggest issue is information ambiguity. The author looks like the one who elsewhere wanted money for his book – probably too high.

If you’re an author and somebody downloaded your free book to a piracy website, you may look like a cheater and users punish you for that by using this website, either free or paid.

This is really bad, as I believe the future relationship between the author and reader should be based on honesty.