I sent the following to my Senators (Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer) today after realizing that I care way more than I expected about the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act. I urge you to read up on the Acts themselves (at the links I just provided), and consider contacting your Senators/Representatives or signing this petition at Google.
I write to you today as a proud New Yorker to urge you to reconsider the Protect IP Act, Senate Bill 968.
Many are writing to you today to express their outrage about the possibility that SOPA and PIPA will promote censorship while allowing corporations to limit free speech. As I believe that, considering your legislative record, this was never your intention in supporting PIPA, I’ll leave those letters to them, and instead appeal to you as an artist.
I make my living as an author, and by most measures, I am successful. My novels are published by Scholastic and HarperCollins and have received critical acclaim. Three of the four that are published have hit both the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller Lists. My fifth book will be published in March, and I’m crossing my fingers for similar successes.
Every one of my books, including the one that is not yet available, has been pirated. They are all available through torrent sites, via links at blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. It’s awful to stumble upon a link to a torrent site where I can see that hundreds of thousands of people have downloaded my books for free. It’s a terrible feeling to know that these people either have no understanding of how their digital theft might impact my livelihood or, worse, understand it and simply don’t care.
It’s frustrating, infuriating and, honestly? It makes me sad. This is personal for me. There are few things in the world I loathe more than online piracy.
But, here’s the thing: Providing media companies with near-unfettered access to block/shut-down websites and networks that pirates use to link/promote piracy won’t help. It will hinder. Because the truth is, those networks also help my career. In fact, I owe my success as an author in large part to those networks.
Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, blogs, book review websites, YouTube…All these networks (and hundreds more that exist or are mere glimpses of ideas in the minds of brilliant young developers) have supported my books. They’ve allowed people to talk about them, to quote them, to reimagine them with art and with video and with other forms of media. They’ve allowed readers from around the world to find each other and talk about my books, to recommend them. To say, “This author is new, and worth reading.”
They’ve sold books. Have they sold more books than have been downloaded at torrent sites the World-Wide-Web-over? I couldn’t say. But they’ve sold enough to keep my publisher printing and to keep me writing. They’ve sold enough to keep a roof over my head and to keep my dog fed.
Eventually, PIPA would almost certainly silence some of those voices, and they deserve to be heard. I’d like them to be heard, please.
No matter how much well-meaning legislators say that PIPA won’t shut down YouTube or hurt bloggers or endanger the social networks that have fast become critical pieces of the social fabric of our world, as it is written, the bill does allow for that possibility. And even the possibility of such an eventuality is unacceptable.
There are ways to combat piracy, I’m sure of it. Ways to ensure that fewer books and movies and other pieces of art are pirated. There are brilliant people who have incredible, new, interesting ideas on how to do it without resorting to censorship. I urge you to seek them out, to speak with them…and to rethink PIPA.
Thank you for your time, and for your service.