This post is more for readers than it is for authors or publishers. Frankly, I'm emotionally flattered when readers go to pirate sites and download my books for free. At least they are reading them and talking about them, even if my hard work is being completely ignored. I do file abuse forms all the time, but it's virtually impossible to keep up with book pirates. They are making a lot of money by doing this, and a lot of people are supporting them. But I don't think the people who are supporting them fully understand the magnitude of what they are doing.
One fact about book pirating is clear. No matter how much anyone wants to justify downloading e-books for free from pirates, it's still illegal. I don't make the laws; I don't decide what's legal or not. And when someone goes to a book pirate site, signs up, and pays a fee to join, their information is permanently recorded forever. People think they are getting away with something by using fake names and fake identities on these sites. And on the surface, they are correct. If you sign up with a pirate site and download books for free, and discuss those books and leave comments and reviews under the name "Chantw0968," or something like that, you are protecting your identity on the surface. (Chantw0968 is an actual person with a profile who downloads books for free; click the link on Chantw0968 to see how it operates. If you've never done this, it's interesting to see how dark and furtive and creepy this whole underground world really is. I actually feel bad for people like Chantw0968)
However, your information is still there. Whenever there is a crime, especially when it comes to things like sexual child abuse, the first thing the authorities do is confiscate the computer. They do this for a reason. Anything you do on your computer is recorded. Anything you download can be traced back to you and the computer you used. A while back, there was a well known cigarette web site. They sold cigarettes cheaper than anyone in the world. Millions of people ordered from them and they made tons of money. But they were doing this illegally. And the government caught up with them, confiscated all their merchandise, and then went after the people who purchased illegal cigarettes from them. These customers (most didn't know how illegal this was) paid hefty fines and back taxes. And they never even received their cigarettes.
In the world of technology, even if you think you're doing something anonymously, you're not, Chantw0968. If someone with the right power and knowledge wants to find out who you are and go after you, they can. Personally, I wouldn't want to take that chance. The laws between what is legal and what is not are clearly defined. And they are becoming clearer each day.This isn't an emotional issue up for debate; it's not even a moral or ethical issue. Downloading books from pirate sites is illegal and you are infringing on the author's copyright.
Update: As of today, Dec. 6th, the user, Chantwo968 that I linked to on the pirate site has hidden his/her profile from public viewing. Interesting, and most likely not a coincidence. So if anyone is interested in checking out another profile, here's a fresh one:
pmac_xer 595 ♠ 1076 ♣
Be interesting to see if this one disappears, too. By checking this link, you can see the books they've released and the books they are requesting as free downloads, which infringes on the author's copyright and is highly illegal.