Paganism and stolen books

Recently, Lupa Greenwolf wrote a very good blog about how stealing books impacts on Pagan authors.  Most of us are not wealthy, in fact many of us struggle, and theft hurts us in many ways. As Lupa has covered that side of things so well, I wanted to explore the magical and spiritual implications of working from a stolen book. To clarify, if a person picks up an ebook someone other than the author or publisher of said book was giving away, and the author is alive or only recently dead, then the book is stolen.  You might want to look up a post of mine – Should I have this free book? – for further clarification.

I give this blog away. Most authors give stuff away. There’s tons of legitimate free stuff out there. Help yourself to that with an easy conscience and enjoy the results.

Most Pagan paths advocate honour. Stealing clearly isn’t honourable. So, from the moment you get that book you are at odds with the path. If you’ve exploring a path that has more of a grey feel, or is less about honour and more about power, consider that these are the authors who will unhesitatingly curse the people who cross them.

If you are following a deity, and you steal a book written by a devotee of that deity to learn more… are you in that deity’s good books? Probably not.

If you practice magic, you’ll run into ideas about how energy moves around. Give something for what you take so that it isn’t taken from you is a popular theory for people working with herbs, for example. Consider threefold return, karma, like attracts like, and all the other philosophies you have encountered. What is your stolen book going to do for you? How is that energy relationship you now have with the author going to work out for you?

I realise that most people don’t know copyright law, and it is easy to be persuaded that it’s ok to have something you want. There are a lot of people out there spouting all kinds of crap about why giving away other people’s ebooks is ok. It isn’t ok to give other people’s ebooks away, simply. However, anyone can make a mistake. Anyone can pick up a book because it sounded legit. If you are new to Paganism and just dabbling and exploring, there’s a lot it is easy not to know about.

If you’ve made a mistake and taken something you shouldn’t have had, you can fix this by rebalancing things. Buy another book from the same author. Buy a hard copy for yourself. Stick something in their donations pot or patreon.

What do you do if poverty put you in this position? If you truly can’t afford to give back? Focus on the things that are freely given. Save up for books. Consider what you are paying for – because if you can afford to buy coffee from cafes, you can miss a few coffees and buy a book. If you’re at the level of poverty where you have no disposable income, I know how tough this is, and it’s a bloody unfair situation to be in. Commit to rebalancing when things are better for you, at the very least. Don’t buy into the idea that you are always going to be so poor that you have a justification for theft. Try talking to the author. Some authors will give books in exchange for reviews. Many authors will happily point you at the things they already give away.

We aren’t going to get rid of book theft in Pagan circles until we change Pagan culture and value the people who make things a bit more. If you see it happening, call it out. And feel free to use anything in this blog, in whole or in part if it will help you. Copyright waved on all of this blog post. (For other blogs, credit me please, and let me know, but this one’s different.)

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

16 responses to “Paganism and stolen books

  • Carla

    I bought a couple of books on druidry second hand from Amazon for dirt cheap. I payed for some more for shipping to my country than for the actual book. I truly recommend everyone that doesn’t have money or used book shops near their home. Good for the wallet and environment!

    • Nimue Brown

      Absolutely! It’s a good solution, it keeps you out of all the crappy stuff, you may also be really helping out someone who is in trouble and needs the cash… and there’s also reviewing if you like a book enough to want to do the author a favour 🙂

  • Ryan C.

    Do you consider a difference between someone giving away a physical copy of a book that they bought and giving away an ebook? I work as a librarian so copyright/access is an interest of mine and I’d be interested in your thoughts as to whether there is a difference, and if so what it is.

    • Nimue Brown

      It’s about the numbers. if we’re talking about passing a book to a friend – I can’t take issue with that. Not least because many new fans come to authors because a friend loaned them the first book. But, putting an ebook out there for free on a website so that thousands of people can take a copy, that I think is a problem. Part of it is the cultural impact, people feel entitled to free thins online, maintaining the sense that an ebook has a value is not easy.

  • Siobhan Johnson

    It’s amazing what humans will do when they think they won’t get caught. The amount of defensiveness I’ve encountered when people have stolen/plagiarised my work has honestly made me want to cast myself into the sea in a fit of rage. They’ve wronged me, but apparently I’m worse for asking them to pack it in by writing a Facebook comment? And the amount of strangers who will pitch in to tell you you’re a bad person for wanting to be paid or recognised for you work is astounding. Sure thing, buddy. Sure thing. I’m so sorry to hear that it’s happening to someone else. And with paid-for content? Ouch. I wish all the people who think that just because their life isn’t fair because they haven’t money they’re entitled to steal realise how not fair that makes the author’s life.

    • Nimue Brown

      often these are people with jobs who do not seem to see any parallel between their being paid for work, and other people’s paid for work. I wish them meaningful learning opportunities.

  • bish

    I’m reminded of something the English folk duo Show of hands once said (I don’t know if they still hold this position), where they weren’t bothered about sharing of their CDs because their music got out there and they got more attendance at gigs (where the punters then bought more CDs). They’ve certainly thrived on their philosophy, but does it translate to a “part Bay” style Facebook group? Not a bit. Lend a book and you may create a fan, scattergun thousands of illegal copies and you simply deplete the pond of authors willing to put the work in to create new work. If no-one else was – like me – aware of the initial problem it is perhaps more clearly defined in today’s The Wild Hunt

  • Briana

    As an author myself, I’m bothered by the theft of books, or any other material for that matter. I’ve found my ebooks scattered across download sites, and it’s not a good feeling. Now, it’s one thing to make a mistake. I, myself, got a book from an EDU website, thinking it was legal, only to find that it was still in print and the author was still charging for copies. I deleted the file. Even careful people can get tricked. However, most people are just looking to get something for nothing and not thinking about how it affects anyone else, let alone their own karma.

  • Cymraes

    Reading this, I’d like to invite you to a group I help admin on Facebook – we’ve been going some years now, and have an international membership of pagan authors, bloggers, artists and general supporters. While we’re not a vigilante group, we do keep an eye out for illegal shares and alert members to the possibilities there works might be online. We also have a number of experienced members to give advice should it be needed.

    The issue is slowly gathering momentum, and we as a group aim to educate the pagan community about copyright theft and why it’s not wise to steal of magical people…

  • Peter Alexander Thorne

    Stealing is stealing, and magical seals to protect and/or teach a lesson is justified. Personally I’ve been writing a book on evocation but, truthfully, there’s very little money in the occult genre as it is without some fool giving away free pdf’s of my work. The balance must be maintained, one way or another.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: