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Oatmeal, McGuire, and Entitlement

I like The Oatmeal, and I’ve seen a lot of people pointing to this comic, often with a comment like, “This is why people pirate!”

I see two things in this comic. The first is an excellent point: people want to be able to buy and download things when they come out. More and more people watch and read things online, and it’s incredibly frustrating when that option isn’t available. In this example, I think HBO is probably making a mistake by not selling Game of Thrones to people who want to watch it.

The second thing in this comic, however, feels like pure entitlement. HBO has made a business decision to only offer the show for download to HBO subscribers. I think that’s a bad business decision, but does the fact that the show is not available RIGHT THIS SECOND mean people have the right to say, “Oh well, I tried. Time to go swipe it off a torrent site!”

My next book is going to be released as a hardcover, which means it will cost about $25. I totally understand that not everyone will want to pay $25 for a book, and I’m happy that a year later, you should be able to buy it for $8 as a paperback. But if you want a copy of that book for $8, you have to wait. You don’t get to say, “I want it now!” and just swipe it off a bookstore shelf.

DRM is annoying. Businesses that don’t make their products available to users who want to buy them is frustrating as hell. But the entitlement thing is a problem too.

Case in point: Seanan McGuire’s latest book went on sale early at Amazon … in print format. The e-book edition won’t be available until the on-sale date. As a result, readers and so-called fans have been heaping abuse on her because … well, because they might have to wait a whole two weeks to buy the e-book:

People who have to wait for their electronic books are not being denied anything; they’re doing what was supposed to happen in the first place. This has not stopped the exciting emails from rolling in. They mostly stopped after the first day, but on that first day, I was called…

…a bitch.
…a whore.
…a cunt.

Because that sense of entitlement, the idea that I WANT IT RIGHT NOW!!!, is so powerful that these people felt justified in attacking and threatening the author, then running out to pirate all of her books. The author who, incidentally, has no control over this situation!

Naturally, since Seanan is female, the abuse is even harsher and significantly sexualized. Because women, like books and TV shows, are possessions, right? And we’re entitled to say or do whatever we like to them.

What the f*** is wrong with people?

I get being frustrated when you really want to watch/read something and you can’t. It frustrates the hell out of me when publishers limit availability or cripple a file’s usability. And I know perfectly well that people will choose to pirate files when they can’t easily buy them.

But for God’s sake, get a spine and own that choice. Don’t pretend the evil publisher made you do it. Take responsibility for the fact that you couldn’t bother to wait two weeks for Seanan’s book to be available legally, or that you didn’t want to subscribe to HBO and didn’t want to wait for them to make the show available through other outlets.

I don’t really get worked up about piracy these days. I have more important (to me) things to care about. And I get that it’s a more complicated issue than a lot of people want to admit.

But the entitlement thing pisses me off, especially when that attitude leads to such vicious attacks on my friends.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 110 comments — Leave a comment )
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Feb. 24th, 2012 01:59 am (UTC)
For me, the piracy isn't the issue here. It's the rudeness shown towards your friend. I don't get involved or worked up about piracy myself. Everyone's got an opinion, and it's a really convoluted issue. My thoughts on it are not radical, but they aren't exactly popular either, but I believe everyone has a right to their own opinion. In the end, people will do what they want anyway.

What really bothered me was the way Seanan was treated. This is one of my biggest peeves about the Internet. It makes me horribly angry. Because people are faceless and anonymous, they feel that they have the right to say anything they want and treat people however they want. They purposefully try to hurt other people just because they can. Kindness and decency fly out the window. It comes down to that sense of entitlement that you mentioned, but it also makes me wonder what kind of world we are turning into.

Anyway, enough ranting. I'm posting a link to this in my journal. I hope that's okay.
Feb. 24th, 2012 01:28 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't post anything here that I wasn't comfortable with people linking to.

I wonder if the nastiness is a sign of the world we're becoming, or if this has always been here, and the anonymity and lack of accountability online just makes it more visible.
(no subject) - vixyish - Feb. 24th, 2012 06:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 24th, 2012 04:10 am (UTC)
I'm still struggling to come to grips with what happened to Seanan.
Feb. 24th, 2012 04:46 am (UTC)
I look at it this way... A company is no more entitled to my money than I am to their product.

If a company fails to meet my wishes as a customer, they definitely don't get my money. That's their fault, not mine. I will happily give my money to a company that makes it easy for me to get their product, meets all of my wishes in terms of quality and availability, produces a product I enjoy, and prices their product so that it is accessible to people with poverty-level incomes, whether or not I fit in that group at the time.

HOWEVER, just because a company fails to accomplish all that doesn't mean that I will turn around and take the product simply because I want it. If I did, that would be my fault, not theirs. Personally, I don't ever do that, and the laws have nothing to do with that choice, nor do the bad policies of the companies. I just live in a creative industry and think creators of stuff I like deserve to eat and pay rent so they will survive to keep making stuff I like. Unfortunately, although I never pirate, many companies approach distribution with such unfathomably restrictive and punitive policies that I also spend almost no money for products I want. Why would I give my precious cash to people who don't trust me, don't satisfy me, or actively seek to exploit me? I simply do without their products instead.

Any sale a company is not making to me is entirely their own failure. It irks me to see it claimed as a loss due to piracy instead of just bad decisions, especially because of the part where no one has infinite money to disburse on luxuries, and no product is guaranteed sales, so claiming money as lost, let alone to piracy, is a bit presumptive in the first place.

It might also be wise to consider that the use of the term pirate in the context of intellectual property distribution dates back more than four hundred years, and it came into use because people would not tolerate and began subverting a government-granted publishing monopoly. Pirates are not born, they're made from a hostile environment. Attacking people for piracy changes very little. Making it easy to buy the product and helping people feel good about doing so is likely to go a lot farther.

Every single sale we've made in the last decade has been to someone who enjoyed our comics and wanted to support them. They can easily download them without paying, not to mention just reading them entirely legally for free on our websites, but enough of them pay voluntarily, because they're good people and we've bothered to treat them that way. Sure, it's not the most profitable approach in the world to start out by making your product free (and I'm definitely not suggesting that everyone try it or that I expect it of every industry), but regardless of our pricing it's the right relationship to have with our readers, because it is one of mutual respect.
Feb. 24th, 2012 05:06 am (UTC)
We do occasionally get someone who decides to scold us for, say, not keeping up the update schedule, or for having the nerve to start "begging" for donations. I try to e-mail them back politely, explaining among other things that beggars ask for money and offer nothing in return, while we give freely and treat money as strictly optional, as do most webcomics. A few have sent me responses indicating they'd changed their mind, many have ignored me, one rightly called me on losing my temper and we had a pleasant conversation once I'd apologized. We haven't gotten many of those scoldings at all the past couple years, though, so perhaps we eliminated or converted all the entitled folks.

Also, I have no problem with the publisher's choice on this, people attacking Seanen for it are absolutely out of line even if they do have a problem with the release decisions, and I totally plan to buy Seanan's new book now that I know it exists. I was just wondering earlier this week if I'd missed one during the coma stuff. One Salt Sea is the only book I've ever bought on release day, and I hunted down a bookstore in north nowhere Alabama after a four hundred mile (unrelated) drive before so much as checking into a hotel to do it, too.
Feb. 24th, 2012 07:53 am (UTC)
I do not understand how you can love someone's work enough to be this upset when you feel like you're missing out, and have that little respect for its creator. I really don't. I'm beyond repulsed by those emails.

Feb. 25th, 2012 04:08 pm (UTC)
I'd explain it if I could, but I can't wrap my head around it either...
Feb. 24th, 2012 11:52 am (UTC)

If you wanted the book so badly wouldn't you just get it in hard copy? Like sure, it is more expensive but if you want to read it that badly, surely it's worth it? And even if frustrated at the wait, that's no reason to start abusing people.

On a side note: I have downloaded tv shows before but I have never ever illegally downloaded a book. I think maybe this has to do with the fact that tv shows are generally owned by big corporations who in the grand scheme of things, can afford to lose some money. Downloading books feels somehow worse to me because it's usually something that the author has more control over and more investment in and having been more involved with the writing side of things, I know that many authors (unless they are J K Rowling) don't make millions off their books and therefore could really do with the monetary boost, especially at the moment when the economy is not so great and nor is the state of publishing.
Feb. 24th, 2012 12:00 pm (UTC)
Huh- forgot to say that I usually buy the tv show on dvd when it becomes available to purchase in my region.
Feb. 24th, 2012 04:29 pm (UTC)
The one area where I'm still up in the air on this topic is in a situation where the company will actually make more money if I pirate than if I don't. Note that I've only done this once, five years ago, and I wouldn't do it now. But I'd be interested in hearing other people's perspectives on the moral issue.

I watched season 1 of a show(legally, on DVD) over winter break the year after it aired. I then "acquired" all of the aired season 2 episodes, allowing me to begin watching the rest of the season live when it cam back from hiatus. When season 2 came out on DVD, I bought it. Having pirated the previous episodes meant that the company got money (theoretically, since I don't have a nielson box) both from my live viewing of the rest of the season and from my purchase of the DVDs. If I hadn't pirated, the company would not have had the live viewing income stream from me. (Incidently, in a move that really annoys me, because the company didn't release the season 2 DVDs until a week before season 3 came out, the pirating also allowed me to watch season 3 live, which otherwise I wouldn't have been able to do). And yes, I thought through all of this before making the decision to pirate those episodes, but I still feel very conflicted about it.
Feb. 24th, 2012 06:37 pm (UTC)
Y'know, way before all the horribleness that happened to Seanan, I saw that Oatmeal comic, and it made me instantly uncomfortable for that very reason. I remarked to my household that I very much disliked the entitlement inherent in it. As Neil Gaiman once said, "George R.R. Martin is not your bitch." Well, neither is HBO. Nobody has a RIGHT to this TV show that is somehow being unfairly denied.

Thank you for expressing that; I was beginning to think maybe I was the only one.
Feb. 24th, 2012 07:36 pm (UTC)
Agreed with all of this. And also - if you have no money at all, or very little, and are willing to be law-abiding and patient, you can get almost any book from your local library. If we don't own it, we'll send for it, for the enormous fee of 25 cents.

I don't understand why people think they have the right to appropriate someone else's intellectual property just because they happen to want to. I understand still less why they abuse the creator of said property just because they can't instantly have what they want.

"Entitlement" doesn't begin to cover it.
Feb. 25th, 2012 04:07 pm (UTC)
Sarah Bowles
Feb. 24th, 2012 07:56 pm (UTC)
Excellent Article
Really enjoyed this article. It's honest and direct and says what a lot of people are thinking. I understand why HBO have done it, I don't like it, but I get it.

We are definitely in a society that is all about the instant gratification whether it's books, movies, tv shows, or music. We want what we want and we want it now.

I'm happy to wait until the prices drop or the item is released officially before I buy it. It's just the way I was raised.

Edited at 2012-02-24 08:02 pm (UTC)
Feb. 25th, 2012 03:26 am (UTC)
I am suddenly inspired to send Seanan a letter of appreciation. Nothing can "make up" for some of the rude and nasty that has been thrown at her. But maybe if enough fans took the time to be gracious and thankful in response - well that can't hurt.
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Jim C. Hines


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