Yes you should! That’s what public libraries are for. And their modern equivalent, the Pirate Bay. For all the books you couldn’t buy anyway, either because you’re a broke high school student or because you are not part of the Chosen People according to B&N. Or at least if you do, I won’t be condemning you, since I just did the same thing…
On a list of most counter-productive things to do, stealing religious material must be somewhere close to the top! So how did I end up downloading this book about the afterlife from Pirate Bay?
It all started with my reading about Purgatory, a Catholic invention (except it also appears in other religions, just not in the Bible, probably not). Raised in a distinctly non-Catholic corner of Europe, I found the notion rather quaint until recently, when I actually came to that part in Dante’s Divine Comedy. I still doubt it happens after death, or at least if it does, it is probably only as a continuation of a process initiated in this life.
Be that as it may, Wikipedia somehow pointed me in the direction of this book, What Dreams May Come, by Matheson. Known as a horror writer until then, he had decided to write a fiction based on his own belief about the afterlife, the result of careful studies of a broad range of different sources.
Now, I could order the book in paperback and it would be here in a couple weeks, by which time I would have forgotten the whole thing. Or I could buy the ebook. I went to Amazon and tried to find the Kindle version, but there was none. Well, the book is not new by any means, and perhaps not all that popular despite there being made an inferior movie from it.
I did not give up that fast though. Further search on Google led me to Google ebooks, which had an Android readable version. Yay! But… pressing the button had no effect. Another Google search verified my suspicion: Only available in the United States. Well, that’s Google Books for you. Evidently this is a generic policy of theirs, due up for revision sometime this year. Â Google is under the watchful eyes of governments and corporations all over the world hoping for them to make a misstep, so I can see why they would be cautious in the legal minefield that is copyright.
Barnes and Noble had the book in Nook version! Yay! I made a new B&N account. (My previous account there disappeared into the void when they decided to give up on ebooks some years ago and closed down their ebook store along with the books I had bought from them and which they had, at the time of sale, told me that they would keep in their “library” so that I could download it to whichever device I wanted. Now that they have the Nook, they are back, but my books are not.) I actually gave them my credit card details and some such, before they suddenly decided it was time to inform me that I needed a US billing address.
I spent another hour or two looking for any way of buying it the ebook. And then I downloaded it from Pirate Bay.
If B&N or Google wants the $9.99, they just have to write me and tell me how to pay them. You see, it was paying I spent more than two hours in vain trying to do. Getting the actual text to my computer screen takes about a minute, perhaps a little less.
This is not unique for this book, or even for books in general. The actual books, music, movies etc are readily available on Pirate Bay (Sweden) and other file sharing sites. Getting them takes minutes at most – usually only seconds with my fiber connection. Getting to pay for them is a nightmare. “No, we don’t want your dirty non-American money. Go away! If there is a world outside the US, we don’t want to know about it.”
While I could easily spend all my free time downloading books, music and movies from file sharing sites, I generally don’t. If there is someone, anyone, who sells the stuff I want legally, I’d rather buy it from them. Otherwise I usually skip it. After all, I have produced intellectual property myself for many years, as a software developer. If people had copied my programs when they were available for sale, I would have not lost any sleep about setting their house on fire while they slept. That’s how I felt about it back then. I have mellowed a bit since then. -_- Â But generally I don’t like piracy.
There goes a line, however, and it seems to go with people who first steal my stuff and then refuse to trade with me. Hi B&N? I have upped my standards, now up yours!
In more pleasant memories, I actually first met the teachings of Master Ryuho Okawa when I downloaded an animated movie of his, The Laws of Eternity, from a fellow on the Internet who gave the impression that it was free. Â When I learned that it was actually a professional movie that had made the rounds at the movie theaters in Japan, I wrote to the nearest Happy Science temple and asked how to buy this and other movies by Mr Okawa. They were quite helpful, although in this case they had to redirect me to an address in Japan, where IRH Press is located. I have since bought all the publicly available books in English by them, so it is rather a “Happy” ending for them, I would say.
(Incidentally, the afterlife described in What Dreams May Come is fairly similar to that of Laws of Eternity, except it does not move beyond the fourth or fifth dimension.)
Generally, I am not convinced that copying is theft. I suppose if Jesus had multiplied the loaves and fishes today, the bakeries and fisheries would have sued him, but I obviously disagree. (In fact, matter-structure multiplication may quite possibly become commonplace in the not too distant future, which will raise some interesting questions.)
I do however feel that people who give something of value to others should be compensated for it, and currently buying their stuff is the most convenient way of doing so, even though greedy middlemen run off with most of the profit. Hopefully in the future writers, musicians etc will be able to collect donations in a more direct way, but for now, buying is usually the best way.
And for the record, I do not expect or even accept any financial recompense for my own writing, thank you very much! ^_^
(In fact, while I would frown on putting your name under anything I write, it is quite fine to present it as “Some guy on the Internet once said…” Just don’t try to sell it.)