In the Tarot world, as in the book world, there are small and large publishers. Some of the largest Tarot publishers include U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Lo Scarabeo and Llewellyn. Most of the decks they produce are done in large quantities, and as in any industry large volume reduces the final cost to the customer. Then there are smaller independent publishers, like Adam McLean, who hand-craft decks and often sell them at cost. People like that make no money from the effort; whatever they sell covers the cost of producing the decks and leaves very little to fund the next endeavor. These decks are a labor of love: love for art and love for Tarot.
Now, because of deck piracy by various Web sites, small publishers like Adam are being forced to give up on producing the beautiful art decks which would never find a home at the larger publishing houses. These sites not only scan and post copies of entire decks in direct violation of copyright laws, but encourage others to do the same, going so far as to publish directions on how to scan them in at a high enough resolution that illegal copies can be downloaded and printed by anyone who pays these site owners for access to the decks. The artist and the original publisher of course never see a cent of this ill-gotten gain. The answer seems obvious: don’t steal. Unfortunately, some people seem to have missed the ethics gene. Adam is now realizing he can no longer afford to keep producing these decks since the pirating of them has caused his sales to drop so dramatically.
As Adam said on his blog this morning:
“The various people who scan my materials and distribute these illegally on the internet are effectively closing me down. They are responsible for destroying my tarot publishing project and stopping future publications.”
Even I had one of these pirates e-mail me to try to enlist me into scanning in decks for them. Of course they try to portray themselves as simply “wanting to share the beauty of these decks.”
The connection to book publishing seems obvious here. The more books enter the electronic sphere, the less control publishers and authors will have over sales, and profits will become essentially nil. I can’t envision most of these publishers continuing to produce books simply for the love of literature. The largest publishers may be motivated to take legal action here and there for well-known authors whose books bring in the largest chunk of their revenue, but for new or less well-known authors I imagine little to nothing will happen. In the case of small publishers, they simply won’t have the resources to initiate legal action against book pirates. Will writers end up working for free? As it is, the writer is often the last person to get paid. Why is that?
And then there seems to be this attitude among writers (and I have been guilty of espousing the same philosophy) that expecting to be paid for writing is SO gauche, that writers must only be writers for the love of the written word.
Why? Why is writing the one art form that seems to think it’s ok to give away work for free? On the front page of WordPress today is an article asking if we’re witnessing the Death of the Paid Writer? Everyone’s rushing to post their work at free sites, on their own blogs, getting people used to the idea of free books. Do we see painters giving away paintings for free on the side of the road? Not even those homicide-worthy black velvet paintings of Elvis are free. So why do writers do this to themselves? Between the thieves and our own attitudes towards money (eww, ick!) we’re destroying our own livelihood.
The genie is out of the bottle, and I don’t really see any way to get it back in. The wild west that is the internet seems uncontrollable, and to an extent that’s a good thing. The exchange of information is a wonderful thing, no one argues with that. Were it not for the internet, small publishers would have a much harder time reaching any audience at all, so it’s both to and against their benefit.
But publishers, and writers, can’t live on nothing. As the NYC Ballet said years ago, “We can’t live on love alone.”