Saturday, July 28, 2012

Piracy, Books, and The Magician

First let me start this blog with some comments about pirating books.

The arguments that copying digital material is not the same as stealing are just weak and while true in way.... still I think people know exactly what they are doing.

The arguments that authors should some how be mysteriously and awesomely grateful that people steal their materials for promotion is equally just wack.

The idea that the people who pirate a book would not buy the book anyway, maybe true, but also seems morally defunct.

Essentially, any justification for it, is well, just bullshit.  Be honest it just isn't right.

Usually people do not pay, after getting the materials.  This may work in music, but it does not work in the occulture or with books.

Now that said,  it's here to stay. Its mostly the wrong track to hunt down people who do it.

An author cannot win against piracy by fighting the way the RIAA and other organizations like that want.  Simply put, this alienates the people who would read the book, and in a NICHE market is even more a closed community.  Why would I write about this? First, Several people on my friends list are in a Tizzy.  Second, it is a matter of magical will as I shall get to.  Simply put piracy is here to stay, and getting upset about it as an author won't help.  Aaron Leich went as far to say he was happy people pirated his book.  I won't go that far.

Part of being a magician- a real one, is to know what you can change through action or magic and then willfully change it according to will.  In this case, for a variety of reasons, this is not one any author can win by legal means, magical means, or by shouting loudly.  For every site you take down, 10 will arise. This is the nature of the beast. No one wants to end up like Metallica... suing your fans to make $2 dollars an album if that.  I don't at least.

Reframing the status as "holy author" and the lessoning power of the Book

In the internet age, some bloggers are at least as important as book authors in the pagan market.  These pages, along with a host of others are free.  In fact the entire Web 2.0 suggests information should be free.  Of course, there is a cost to running the servers, and generating content.  For too many years this has been given away.  Site after site of free information. This proliferation has in some cases already obsoleted books in the occult.  Of course, some people react by publishing beautiful, rare, limited edition books that are extremely limited.  Unfortunately, while trying to provide the reader with an experience above what they can get online, many of these books have relatively weak content that do not fit with the beauty of the packaging.  This is a good idea, as I shall elaborate.

All sorts of metaphysical goodies and in fact many spiritual people feel that all things spiritual should be free.  I find that argument to be utter poppycock, however these arguments are growing in number. These beliefs compound the piracy argument as well as economic conditions which honestly make it hard to know whether or not people would buy some of these materials themselves.

Further complicating the piracy issues, is that plagiarism and other accusations are the first comment that teachers accuse each other of on facebook to do the kinds of one up man ship that is mutually destructive.  Many books are simply re-hashing of older books, and so in some ways are part of a much larger cultural matrix.   This forms the basic argument, which stemmed from the Mage the Ascension, a fictional game, commentary, "Information should be free". That all information is a product of the information before it and thus, there should have no copyright.  

These coalescing ideas mean that for the pagan or occult author, not only is piracy not going away, it will be more and more common while the pool of people who actually read books is going down.  The attempt to fight the stem of piracy through legal action, for what is in essence amounts to $1-2 dollars a book for most authors is a anachornistic and romantic clinging to the importance book authors had.  It is, a way for authors to feel special, when their influence is clearly diminishing within the niche I write in ( pagan and occultism).  I say that as an author.  In fact, to even get name recognition inside the arena, an author might be FORCED to give away or pirate all of their materials to get any recognition.  This is exactly the argument the various pirate sites make... and in a way they are correct.  In the age of Lulu and the internet,  so many books and sites are being published that getting noticed is job 1.  It is neither fair nor right, but it is.

Changing the Occulture
For an occultist or real magician, this should matter a whole bunch.  I know I have been slow to write my next book, in part because the financial reasons to do so are minimal.  Piracy does not really help that situation (although it can be argued it might not hurt that situation either).  What is much more damning than Piracy  is a culture where the Norm of Reciprocity does not apply.  In fact, in our age, we are in a information super-load where information is so easily and cheaply traded that people do not have a good sense of value for any information.  Most information in modern occult books has an extraordinarily HIGH noise to signal ratio.  The real content is minimal and there is a fair degree of fluff.  Buyer beware.

This leads to a depressing set of conditions.  Authors are expected to be the "teachers" without any compensation for their work.  For occult and pagan adherents, it really means a culture change on a radical level.

Teachers need to get PAID for events in the same way Musicians do.  No not just free entry into a festival, PAID to give seminars.  Festivals should and MUST charge more, giving some of the money to authors.  Otherwise expect a continual decline in the quality of work.

Musicians play live gigs for this reason.  Authors and particularly occult pagan authors are trapped in a no win scenario.  First, its a niche market.  They are losing income from piracy, and they cannot make income from most pagan festivals. Most authors who are more mainstream and non-fiction, make their money giving TALKS.  

Second, and I always say this, we have to collectively give up the poverty meme.  Its not working and its not fair.  This idea that that the work someone does should be free because it is spiritual is garbage.

So how can we turn the tides
As a consumer, you can help this by NOT giving in to the "entitlement culture".  Buy the books, or if you really can't afford it,  MAKE the effort to give back to the author.  Take them out to dinner, do promotion for them, and let the author know you are doing promotional work.  For most authors I know, that effort alone will make them much happier and give them a reason to write.

Fight the good fight on the MEME, reject the idea that spiritual work encapsulated in a work of writing should be free, and that teaching should be free.  Ask festivals how much money they give back to authors and presenters and whether they at least charge enough to pay the authors way and food.  Reject and correct the ideas that that work must be free (of course, you can choose whether or not to support an author).   AKA push for cultural change that places economic value back on presenters and teachers within the pagan/occult market.

Encourage and set up workshops for authors, like myself (Hands On Chaos Magic), to teach courses and workshops in your area.  Do the promotions and get people there.  Make sure the authors are compensated.  This is a win win.  You get in person training.  The author gets exposure.  Usually, it only takes one dedicated person in an area to make an event happen and convince an author to come out. The hard part is building a community around that, that will support the authors teaching.

DEMAND more.  More for free, not exactly.  If you are demanding that festivals compensate, bringing authors in to make money in events, you should should expect the author to bring their A game.  No Fluff, raising the bar at every step, but that means no-bullshit entitlement for you either.

Money isn't the only tradable commondity in occultism and pagan teaching, but this notion of fair exchange and GIFTING is so critical to a functioning subculture.  Simply put if you take all you can, there is no culture.   Society even, subcoultures, are based on giving and then giving back. GEBO in action across multi-tiers.  Learn something that helps you from a lecture at a festival, its really critical to go the extra mile to give back (not really just consume).  Pirate a book, then give back to the person you got it from in some way.

What happens if we don't start doing this?  We get exactly what we have.  People desperate for attention in a world that just consumes with no real culture or community with no VALUE placed on any information.  A cult of personality fest,  where serious discussion is muted, and your dealing with either blatent attempts to just get laid or other gratification.  Party becomes all and essentially dead information rots in our brains through a weak subculture of motioned automatic responses.

Every notice when Golden Dawn books were rare ( and it was hard to know about that), people studied the information diligently.  The information had clear value because of the rareness.   Now, we don't even value people's time let alone if they had a positive effect on your life.  Valuing them does not just mean "oh it was nice", it means financial compensation or time spend working on the teachers behalf.

If some teaching had a positive impact on yourself, you owe it to yourself to reach out and give that material real value by honestly, not just in words, supporting the person who gave it to you.  Simply put, thats how we reform community  and how we form new and honest connections.

As a Magician, What this means for the author
The medieval style grimoric revival of books is on to something.  Rare and expensive books offer a talismonic and art approach to books.   The book then become intertwined with the text to form a new type of art.  This type of art is to be experienced.  The information alone is not sufficient.  The reader can enjoy many parts of the book in all senses.  This is however, an elitist move that has been critiqued in occulture and that might be ok now.

These books give back to the author the romantic and idealistic approach to books.  In fact, the process of reading a book becomes special.  This specialness is in fact what the modern author magician craves in an information overload society.  For the occulture, its almost a addiction now.  Now its almost more important to put out a "fancy book" with no real information to look important as it is to give real information.   Again we see the same demon as Information should be free.  Don't produce information, only produce art in the form of Occult text art, as opposed to occult information.  Self-reflection and self-importance becomes the key, not actual transmission of information.  The modern author magician provides experience almost more then useful magical skills.

I published my book with Llewellyn.  Immediately people think it is a commercial piece of shit.  That it has no value.   The people who read it, know very differently, but I myself upon gazing at the Red Goddess from Scarlet Imprint wished they had imprinted my book.  Why, for the same reasons authors fight the copyright with such legal vigor... to be fairly compensated and even more fairly respected for the work they have done. Is any different from what any of wants in a society where no respect or honor is given.  I don't think so.
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