Wake up, Polly Parrot.


by Brian Plante

Pirates live among us! You probably know some. Perhaps you are one.

These pirates pillage and plunder not on the high seas, but in the realm of intellectual property. You've heard of Napster and its imitators, which have enabled every teenager with a computer and a modem to bypass the local music store and download his favorite tunes for free. This deprives the struggling and not-so-struggling musicians and their multi-billion dollar record companies the income they so-rightly deserve. In addition to all this stolen music, multitudes of software pirates make illegal copies of computer software daily, and thus threaten to make poor Bill Gates go hungry with his losses.

But there's an even more prevalent and insidious form of intellectual theft going on, right under our very noses. Surprisingly, this theft has been going on for many years, long before the advent of Napster. The most shocking aspect of this is that the government knows all about it and chooses to look the other way. Right now, your tax dollars are being diverted from much-needed subsidies for the desperate tobacco farmers to fund this colossal scam!

It's called the "Public Library" and odds are there is one right in your hometown. Thousands of authors are losing millions of dollars in this institutionalized version of Napster for the written word. The mind boggles at the magnitude of this theft.

Here's how it works: Instead of buying books from a bookstore, these word-pirates go to the Public Library and "borrow" the books. For free! But it gets worse -- when they are finished reading a book, instead of putting it on a shelf to collect dust like they're supposed to, these pirates bring the thing back to the library. Then, some other pirate reads it, and then another and another and another. Instead of selling a hundred copies of a new book, the poor author sells only one copy that is passed back and forth between library patrons like some venereal disease.

Think you've heard enough? Here's another shocker -- many of these libraries have duplicating machines, right out in the open, where patrons can actually make paper copies of some of the book pages, for a small fee (none of which the author or publisher will ever see).

How do they get away with it? Apparently, it's run like a private club, with some sort of membership card required. But that's just a front -- they give out these "library cards" for free, and anyone with a card can take out as many books as they like. And not just books, but some libraries lend out magazines, CD's, videotapes, DVD's, software programs, and just about every other form of intellectual property you can think of. One so-called "library" I infiltrated even lent out fine art prints to hang on your wall. Imagine the starving artist trying to sell his best work at the Holiday Inn (no painting over $40) while over at the library, they're lending out copies of masterpieces for free!

Just as surely as Napster and it's ilk will cause talented musicians to quit making music in search of employment that pays a decent wage, libraries will cause thousands, no millions, of writers to quit scribbling and go back to their day jobs. Record companies and publishing houses will crumble and drag down the economy. It could be the ruin of modern civilization as we know it.

I don't know about you, but I don't want my tax dollars used to take money out of the pockets of struggling artists and writers. Let's all make our voices heard and put an end to these so-called "Public Libraries," and send all those bookworms back to Barnes & Noble and Borders where they belong. Damn these pirates to hell. Arrrrgh!

Copyright © 2001 Brian Plante

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