April 26, 2011
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Google and Piracy

David Flanagan.

The piracy of my books is profoundly discouraging. When my Ruby book came out in 2008 I was sad to discover that pirated copies were available within a week or so of the book's release. When my jQuery pocket reference came out earlier this year, I was shocked to discover that Google was giving the ebook download sites higher placement than reviews of the book. And now JavaScript: The Definitive Guide is out. I don't have a copy of it yet, but illegal copies are free for anyone who wants one. And Google will suggest those illegal downloads to anyone who tries to research the book (see the screenshot). I've worked really hard on this book, and I've got to say that this just feels like a kick in the gut.

One of the great harms the music meltdown has done to us is that lots of Internet firms now sympathize with the pirates and assume that it’s just a song or two and that everything will work out fine in the end. "An important part of this", Flanagan writes, "is that the ease of finding illegal ebooks has removed any stigma involved. Malware sites get flagged 'may harm your computer'. Porn images get filtered by default in Google image search. But illegal copies of ebooks? They're just out in the open--it must be okay to download them."

The comments are filled with idiots who suggest selling sophisticated technical reference books – some of Flanagan’s are right at the state of the art – for $0.99 in order to circumvent piracy. Or give the books away, since pirates aren’t going to pay anyway.