Hometown pirates

The Copyright Alliance is a consortium of several larger copyright holders and the organizations that represent their industries. The organization maintains a blog that recently told the story of Brian Keene, a writer who had experienced piracy after posting content on the web during the development of one of his works.

The post portrays Keene sympathetically, as it reasonably should. In many ways, Keene did everything right: cultivated community, shared his work, communicated openly with fans and telegraphed early on that the final work would be for sale.

With that in mind, it's interesting how Keene responded when the "networked" book was pirated. As noted by Lucinda M. Dugger, the Copyright Alliance blogger, Keene posted his reaction:

"I’m used to piracy. What hurt was the pirate’s identity. It’s someone who has been a long-time reader. Someone who was an active and valued member of the old Keenedom forum, and indeed, who is active and valued as a reader in the genre.”

Usually, authors react poorly when their content is posted by people they don't know, or at least can't name. Here, Keene knows who posted the content and infringed on his copyright. As the article makes clear, he soon came to terms with those involved, and the offending work was taken down.

Ultimately this story, rooted in community, undermines the more reflexive anti-piracy positions taken by corporate enitites like the Copyright Alliance. The relationships that Keene cultivated helped elevate his content to something well beyond a file. When called out on their actions, some, perhaps many of those involved changed their behaviors.

Keene chose to avoid naming names, and it appears he ultimately did not pursue the legal courses that were available to him. That's smart, too.

Cultivating community pays off in many ways, including ensuring a base against which the final work can be sold. A more aggressive strategy would have been legal, but given the circumstances it may not have been right.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.