Pirating Really is Stealing

Graphic courtesy of openclipart.org.

I wish Facebook had a facepalm button.

Recently I was one of several people in a Facebook conversation with someone who said that while he understood copyright law, he nonetheless believed that intellectual property should never be copyrighted. Therefore, as far as he was concerned, there was nothing whatsoever wrong with pirating copyrighted work.

No matter how many times we tried to explain to this, “gentleman,” and I’m using the term loosely here, that pirating an artist’s work is actually stealing from the artist, he just didn’t care. As far as he was concerned, books, movies, and other creative works were merely ideas, and it was simply wrong to put a copyright on a idea.

Facebook seriously needs a bitch slap button as well.

So, while I’m not an attorney, and while my intention clearly isn’t to give anyone legal advice, I’m going to explain, in general terms, what pirating, and plagiarism really are, as the man was also unable to distinguish between the two.

Simply put, pirating means you are obtaining a copy of someone else’s creative work, such as a book, movie, or software program, in such a manner as to circumvent having to pay for it. Pirating isn’t limited to illegally downloading a book or a song off the Internet. Making hard copies of someone else’s creative work without their permission is also illegal. A good example might be a church photocopying songs from a single songbook so that each member of the choir has a copy, instead of purchasing enough books for the entire choir. Regardless of how the work is pirated, the end result is the artist who created the work it isn’t paid by the person using it. Would you expect your plumber, your doctor, or your dentist to work for free? Then why should an artist be expected to work for free?

Plagiarism, is another form of stealing. It means you are taking another artist’s work, putting your name on it, and then claiming the work as your own. This oftentimes applies to nonfiction, which is why most, if not all, scholarly works include footnotes and bibliographies. It’s also why our teachers and professors could give us a failing grade on a term paper if they determined that we did not properly credit the sources we used. There have also been some cases of plagiarism in music, when a riff used in a song may have sounded too much like a riff used in another published song.

Again, I’m speaking in generalities. For more specific information on copyrights, and fair use, you should consult a copyright attorney. The point is books, music, movies, photographs and other creative works must be either be purchased from the artist who created it, or from an authorized seller, such as Amazon or iTunes. Otherwise you risk paying a hefty fine, or even serving jail time if you get caught, and yes, people really do get caught. Pirating is stealing. Period.




Why Political Posts on Social Media is a Bad Idea for Authors

Hands at KeyboardIt’s that time again. A presidential election is coming up, and people are expressing their opinions all over social media. Hey, I understand freedom of speech. It’s the American way. But our mothers also taught us that you should never discuss politics or religion in polite company, and our mothers were right.

Social media is an invaluable marketing tool for authors. It’s the best platform out there for driving traffic to our websites and blogs, and, with some hard work, perseverance, and a little luck, we can get people to buy our books. It also takes a huge amount of time to build a following, and by huge I mean months, or even years. That said, do you really want to risk alienating your fans and followers?

If you’re a political writer, then it’s a given that you should write about politics. But if you’re not a political writer, then my advice is this: DO NOT write political posts on social media.

I may not be a mathematician, but I think it’s a safe bet that roughly half of your fans and followers do not share your politics, and they do not like your candidate. So if you’re out there bashing the candidate you don’t like all over social media, then you’re going to make half of your fans and followers angry. And if you really tick them off they’ll unfriend or unfollow you on social media, and they may unsubscribe to your blogs and newsletters. And they even if they don’t ditch you on social media, chances are they’ll be less inclined to buy your next book. So, do you really want to lose your fans?

I’m sure there are some of you out there who are so passionate about your beliefs that you don’t want people who disagree with you buying your book in the first place. However, I think most of us really don’t want to lose any of our fan base. I know I don’t.

Over the past few weeks I’ve unfriended a number of people on Facebook for overloading my newsfeed with negative political posts, and no doubt I’ll be unfriending more before the election is over. Some have been people I’ve known for sometime, and it made me sad to unfriend them. However, I’m honestly burned out on all the candidate bashing, and it’s put me in a place where I’m reevaluating some of my friendships.

I guess I’m kind of old school. I subscribe to the belief that who I decide to vote for is for me to know, and the rest of you to wonder about.


One of the Pitfalls of Social Media

Hands at KeyboardAs writers we’ve all been told that social media is an essential marketing tool, and it truly is. I’ve made fans and sold books on social media. It can also be a double-edged sword, so it must be treated with respect at all times. Let me give you an example.

Awhile back I was posting on a friend’s Facebook thread, and I started engaging with another of her friends on the same thread. As I recall, we were talking about jazz music, something we both enjoyed. During our online conversation she mentioned that she was an editor. I told her I was a book publisher and to please send me a friend request so I could include her on my referral list.

As it turned out, she posted frequently Facebook. Her content included extreme left wing political posts, along with rants about her hatred of children, her dislike of men, her belief that interpersonal relationships were a complete waste of time, her hatred of churches and of people of faith, and so forth. She also had no tolerance whatsoever for anyone with an opposing point of view, and she wasn’t beyond telling anyone to “go f— themselves,” for simply disagreeing with her.

After reading a just handful of her posts I realized there was no way I could EVER refer this woman to any of my authors, and I have since blocked her on Facebook. My issue wasn’t that I disagreed with her opinion. Let’s face it; the world would be a pretty boring place if we all thought alike. My issue was her open contempt and hatred of others. If she could tell people she disagreed with to go “f— themselves” on a public forum, I could only imagine how badly she would have treated one of my authors.

Be careful with what you post on social media. It really can come back and bite you.



Why I Prefer a Blog Over Social Media

keyboardAs authors we’ve all been told, dozens upon dozens of times, to use social media to promote our books. However, just like anything else, social media can also be overrated, if not overused.

Too many authors go on social media and post nothing but, “Buy my book. Buy my book. Buy my book.” Enough already! We all want people to buy our books, but social media is NOT meant to be used as a vehicle for free advertising. Think about it. When was the last time you went on Facebook or Twitter thinking, “I want to buy a book. Gee I think I’ll go look for one on Facebook or Twitter.” Yeah, that’s what I thought.

So, how does an author use social media? Well, this author likes to use it to drive traffic to her blogs.

Why I Think the Blog is Still King

There’s been plenty of talk about the problem with trolls who apparently have nothing better to do with their time than to destroy an author’s career. They’ve done some serious damage on Goodreads, and they’re a problem on Amazon and other social media sites as well. However, with a blog, particularly when it’s your blog, you can eliminate trolls completely. All you have to do is set up your comments so they cannot be posted without your prior approval, and bye-bye trolls. You’ve just created a place where people can feel safe engaging with you, and with each other.

The other great thing about a blog is you can really engage with your readers on a more personal level. You can share ideas, have contests and promotions, and build your following. And yes, a blog IS a form of social media, because as long as you allow comments, your readers can engage with you, and with each other. I can also do a lot more with a blog. Both Blogger and WordPress allow multiple pages, so one of my other blogs, Marina Martindale’s Musings, uses the other pages for sample chapters. That’s a whole lot more than I’m able to do with my Facebook fan page.

So how do I use social media? Well, aside from the fact that I’m probably spending way too much time just hanging out on Facebook, (a topic for another blog post on another day), I can post links to my blogs there, as I also do on Twitter, Google +, and, when appropriate, LinkedIn. And of all the social media I use, I find Twitter to be the most effective for driving readers to my blogs.

So there you have it. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media, when used properly, can certainly help you publicize your books, but, in my opinion, there simply is no substitute for a blog.

My tip for the day.




Common Sense and the Internet

Hands at KeyboardAs an author, putting information about myself on the Internet goes with the territory of promoting my books. However, I also use my common sense. What I post on my website is information about my work history, and why I became and an author. I also use common sense practices to help protect my family’s privacy and to help protect my reputation as an author.  These tips could help protect your privacy, as well as your family’s privacy.


  • Don’t post your marital or relationship status on social networking sites such as Facebook, nor should you post information about your family.
  • Be respectful your family’s and friend’s privacy. Always ask their permission before posting information about them on-line.
  • Grandma was right when she taught you that if you can’t say something nice about anyone don’t say anything at all. Attempting to destroy someone’s reputation on the Internet makes only serves to make you look bad. It’s also against the law and could get you some unwanted attention from the FBI. The same could be said for posting compromising photos or videos of family or friends, especially if they are underage, or if you are doing so without their knowledge or consent.
  • Use a contact form for prospective customers to contact you instead of posting your e-mail address. This will help cut down on unwanted spam. And if you work out of your home get a P.O. Box or private mailbox. Never post your home address on-line.
  • And finally, if you’re a parent, I can’t stress enough that you need to closely monitor your children’s activities on-line. Put the computer in the den or living room–not in the child’s bedroom. And yes, you DO have the right, and an obligation to check their on-line history and monitor their Internet activities.


Think of your on-line life as living in a glass house where anyone and everyone can see you, and act accordingly.