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.