The funny first. I was checking hits on my blog and I saw that someone was querying Google for "chasing fire by angela benedetti torrent" recently. Yay, someone else looking to steal one of my stories.
Except I've never published a story called "Chasing Fire." :) Nor even written one. And when I checked, it doesn't seem there's anyone else named "Angela Benedetti" who's written a story by that name either. (Although there are a couple others of us; one's a meteorologist who publishes a lot of scholarly papers, and the other is a lady who works with children in Bogotá. So far as I know, neither one writes fiction.)
So it looks like this is one confused pirate. :D Not that I'm complaining or anything -- confused pirates are the best kind. Hey, dude? If you can find a torrent copy of a story by me called "Chasing Fire," go for it, with my blessing. [wave]
Moving on to the subject of slightly more competent pirates, someone finally did find a copy of "Learning to Love Yourself" and got it up on a torrent site back around the end of June. I sent a takedown note and, credit where it's due, the site took it down. It was up for however many days, though, and a bunch of people got free copies.
It's been argued at many times and in many places that piracy of this sort actually benefits the creative producer. That people who'd never have tried my work if they'd had to pay for it right off will instead download a pirated copy, and some significant number will like it and, being essentially good people, will then go and buy a legitimate copy. They might even buy more of my work, once they've tried my fiction and become fans. I'm pretty sure this isn't the case with the person who made the original request for a free copy of "Learning," judging by his/her comments in the request thread, but supposedly most of the people who use these sites are not actually selfish, entitled thieves, contrary to all appearances.
All right, fine -- let's test that.
Since the pirate copy was made available in late June, that's too late for any Pirate Bonus Sales to show up in my upcoming royalty statement, but about three months from now I'll be getting another one, covering sales in July through September. Surely that length of time is enough for most people to read a short story (about 3300 words), decide to buy a copy, and scrape together $1.29.
If my third quarter royalty statement shows a significant spike in purchases of "Learning to Love Yourself" -- not necessarily a huge flood of sales, but a clearly noticeable increase over prior sales trends -- then fine, I'll assume that there is some significant number of ethical people who prefer to try before they buy, but who do buy, and that the net result of the torrent upload was a gain for me. "Learning" hasn't been reviewed recently or anything like that, so there's no obvious other source of sales stimulus right now; I'm willing to credit it to torrent people, if it occurs.
[Caveat: if "Learning" is reviewed within the next couple of months, or if irony strikes and this challenge is publicized all over the web, that would clearly taint the experiment with multiple sources of attention for the story, and it'll be impossible to sort out what caused any given number of sales. If the situation remains as it is now, though, then I'll assume extra sales are to people who downloaded the torrent copy.]
So there you go. To BUGCHICKLV and associates: if you've read a stolen copy of my story, this is your chance to prove to the world (or at least to me) that you're not just a bunch of thieves. If I see that spike in the sales numbers, then I'll admit that all the pirate apologists who make the "But letting people read for free results in more sales!" argument are right, and I'll shut up about the issue. I'll let my publisher go after pirates and torrent copies if they want, but I'll personally leave it alone. Fair enough?
I think it's more than fair, myself.
So, let's see what happens. I'll check back in on this subject when my third quarter royalty statement comes in, in late October or early November, and then we'll find out whether piracy is actually "to the writer's benefit" in the long run, or whether that claim is just a bunch of thieves whining and making excuses.