I don’t ever say much about things connected with morality in these scribblings. That’s partly because I assume my point of view is that of most normal people – try not to hurt others, don’t steal stuff or kill people, deal with folk the way you’d like them to deal with you. It’s also because, since I don’t want Jehovah’s Witnesses et al lecturing me about how to live my life, I know that they’d feel the same about me if I knocked on their door and advocated fornication, adultery, excessive consumption of alcohol, and various unspecified activities relating to small animals, pieces of latex and a bowl of fruit.
So, the Google alert I got yesterday giving me a link to a Chinese site where I could download The Figurehead by Bill Kirton completely free posed a problem. How should I react to it? Should I be flattered that I’m such an important figure in world literature that pirates are taking the trouble to rip off my wisdom and make it accessible to a larger audience? Should I be upset at the knowledge that, if it weren’t for these pirates, I’d be earning even more than the millions of pounds I already receive for my books? Should I forward the link to people I don’t like in the hope that they will try to download the book and, when it arrives, it will bring with it viruses, Trojans and all those other things which will turn their computers into dire reminders of the retribution that results from acts of gross immorality?
In the end, the answer was – none of the above. I have no idea how great or grave a problem the practice is. I’d prefer it not to be happening – not just to me but to all writers or other artists or any holders of intellectual properties – but I can’t, in all honesty, start pontificating about it, because it’s what people do. If you’ve never copied a track from a friend’s CD or borrowed another friend’s book or photocopied a useful (copyrighted) article or watched a DVD hired by a friend or downloaded music from a freebie site … well, you get my gist. I’m not advocating or excusing any of that, but it happens. And just because it’s now happened to me it would be hypocritical of me to demand a change in the law.
It’s how capitalism works – or is that too simplistic? (Answers on a postcard to anywhere but here please.) Oh, and if you haven’t already done so, you can do your bit to uphold decent human values and beat piracy by buying The Figurehead. You don’t have to read it but the act itself will make you feel incredibly righteous.