Paulo Coelho on SOPA: ‘Pirate Everything I’ve Ever Written!’

    February 6, 2012
    Drew Bowling
    Comments are off for this post.

During the entire SOPA/PIPA/ACTA ongoing ordeal, all you have heard about were the movie studios in Hollywood feeling butt hurt about people ripping them off and depriving them of untold millions of dollars due to copyright violations. One sect of artists you probably didn’t hear too much from (aside: now that I think about it, I honestly can’t recall any opinions of artists regarding SOPA – it seems to only be executives making a fuss) on SOPA matters were writers. One writer, however, has some pretty strong opinions concerning the SOPA debate: Paulo Coelho.

Coelho, the best-selling author of The Alchemist and Brida, has been unwavering with his opposition to SOPA, calling it “a REAL DANGER that will affect the whole planet.” Many people, politicians and anti-SOPA advocates alike, have made similar statements but Coelho went one step further in order to prove his point: he wants you to pirate all of his books.

Seriously. Go download them. He really wants you to.

In a post on his blog, Coelho opined about the controversial anti-piracy law and argued that the proliferation of artist content, even if it does have a copyright, is never a bad thing. “The more often we hear a song on the radio,” he wrote, “the keener we are to buy the CD. It’s the same with literature. The more people ‘pirate’ a book, the better.”

Coelho makes a solid point that eviscerates the argument that piracy is harming entertainers: anybody who has ever entertained the notion or even been able to call themselves an artist at any point in their life was pursing that interest out of passion, not monetary compensation. Most people, while it does sound pretentious, can understand that. Well, the philistines won’t but, then again, the philistines are the ones writing SOPA bills in the first place.

Still, artists gotta eat, and Coelho is aware that they need some kind of compensation for their works. However, he doesn’t believe that piracy is what stands in the way of artists getting paid. He related a personal anecdote in this blog:

In 1999, when I was first published in Russia ( with a print- run of 3,000), the country was suffering a severe paper shortage. By chance, I discovered a ‘ pirate’ edition of The Alchemist and posted it on my web page.
An year later, when the crisis was resolved, I sold 10,000 copies of the print edition.
By 2002, I had sold a million copies in Russia, and I have now sold over 12 million.

When I traveled across Russia by train, I met several people who told me that they had first discovered my work through the ‘ pirated’ edition I posted on my website. Nowadays, I run a ‘Pirate Coelho’ website, giving links to any books of mine that are available on P2P sites.
And my sales continue to grow — nearly 140 million copies world wide.

He uses the anecdote to illustrate how pirating can actually help an artist become successful. “A good idea doesn’t need protection,” he wrote.

In a way, Coelho’s pro-piracy argument isn’t terribly different than the relationship that authors and libraries have enjoyed since, well, since always. They’ve managed to successfully coexist with no detriment to the artists’ well-being; in fact, I’d hazard the guess that libraries have been instrumental in fostering many authors who, without the free and available access to literature, might never have become writers in the first place.

So what say you of Coelho’s argument? Does piracy actually benefit an artist by permitting copyrighted material like books and music to proliferate through the hands of the masses at literally zero cost? Do you think people actually go out and financially support artists after getting their wares for free if they like what they’ve read/heard/watched/etc.? Comment below with your opinions.

  • http://gene-Poole.tumblr.com Gene Poole

    It’s not just authors, musicians like MC Lars and Radiohead, films like The Yes Men and Pioneer One, it’s an entirely new business model and it does work. The entertainment industry had better get on board because it’s not going away and soon artists will start to realize they don’t need traditional means of distribution to make money, and they can make more for themselves this way.

    • http://pigshitpoet.livejournal.com pigshitpoet

      i recently read an interview with courtney love (yes that courtney love whose boyfriend was found in nirvana after overdosing on drugs) much to the same effect claiming that sharing of independent music has enhanced opportunities for performers, not diminished them and that the bleeding of handling fees and distribution costs for so called “successful commercial artists” is a mirage leaving many artist drained of both creative juices and financial resources after all the corporate vipers suck their blood out of the profits. i know many musicians whose livelihood depends on live performance and that ever so sought after recording is only a byproduct of their real talent which is to enliven fans with their true music. yes, i agree with coelho. i believe what he says about the numbers. once a thing reaches critical mass, it has a life of its own, minus the parasites who would leech off of it. the celestine prophecy and mutant messages from down under both began as self-published anomalies before the corporate goons got their mitts on it. so shove your sopa up your pipa and acta human. damn!

  • notOK

    The simple answer is: Yes, if it’s worth it.

    People will buy into a brand or series they are introduced to if they feel it is worth buying, but that first step is a huge barrier that is hard to overcome. It’s that uncertainty, basically the thought of “Will I be wasting my money on this?” that keeps a lot of people from ever buying, and the big entertainment industry expects us to just buy anyways without a sampler. In other-words, take the gamble. If the initial cost is.. well, nothing, then that removes the gamble and people are a lot more likely to give something a try. If it so happens they like it, they’re often willing to pay for getting ‘a better quality copy’ to increase their enjoyment.

    Once a consumer finds something they like.. and I mean really like.. they will be more than happy to pay premium prices to get related materials as soon as possible, because they know it’s worth it.

    Only content that can’t stand on its own two feet needs ‘protection’, since it isn’t worth the asking price. Those who are fighting to put these protections in place are the same who are sitting on a mountain of content that people really don’t want, at least not for the price that’s being asked, and are expecting everyone to just take a gamble by paying up front for something they may not like.

    Are there some people who would take advantage of ‘sampler’ content and never buy? Sure, but they were never a potential customer to begin with if they never intended to pay, so they can’t be counted as a loss. However, people who they speak to and inform may spark interest in potential customers, so even though you may not get payment directly from some of those who would try to take advantage of sampling everything without ever paying, the very act of them being involved has potential to bring in other paying customers who may have never know of the contents existence otherwise. Your best way to get sales, is to get the message out to as many people as possible that you exist, because someone who never knows about your content will never be a customer.

    The bottom line is if something is worth paying for, it will get paid for, and no forcing needs to happen.

    • Liliana

      i have first seen AVATAR from torrent and aftar seen it 3 times in cinema … wanted to see what is all about the movie before I pay 10$ for a ticket … i live in Romania btw … here 10$ for many peoples are money for kids lunch or their lunch … i don’t think piracy damage entertainment industry …

    • http://patriotsofmars.blogspot.com/ Jeff Faria


  • http://www.punkrockpermaculture.wordpress.com Evan Schoepke

    If your a creator who supports the file sharing movement then I will gladely donate money to you for your hard word, but if you don’t support the movement then your not going to get my support either or my money.