Author J. K. Rowling has decided to withhold her upcoming book from a handful of foreign publishers over fears of piracy.
“The Casual Vacancy” is set for a Sept. 27 release in the U.S. and U.K. but will not be sent to certain countries like Italy, Finland, and Slovenia until it is officially published in English. Publishers in Germany and in France are the exceptions.
“We have agreed to let publishers in some countries publish simultaneously with the English-language release,” said Zoe King, a partner at Rowling’s literary agency. “Some publishers are better able to handle the security demands of a simultaneous release.”
It’s difficult to prevent new books from leaking onto the Internet, though. When author Dan Brown released “The Lost Symbol” in 2010, publishers found the book had been downloaded more than 100,000 times from file-sharing websites like Rapidshare and BitTorrent within a matter of days.
Chad Post, a translation publisher at Open Letter Books, told Publishers Weekly that Rowling’s anti-piracy plan is “totally insane and stupid.”
“And it could easily result in sub-par, rushed translations,” he said.
Cover image of The Casual Vacancy, by J. K. Rowling (2012)
If the book’s official translations in Italy, Finland, and Slovenia are truly sub-par like Post predicts, they may act as catalysts driving more readers to the Internet for high-quality versions. Paulo Coelho, bestselling author of “The Alchemist,” has embraced piracy for this reason. He discovered that unlicensed copies of his books floating around the Internet actually increased the sales of hard copies.
“Pirates of the world, unite and pirate everything I’ve ever written!” said Coelho. “The good old days, when each idea had an owner, are gone forever.”
Other copyright holders do not take Coelho’s approach and have instead taken to lobbying Congress for stricter enforcement methods. At the international level, the widely-debated Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) hopes to combat copyright infringement. Negotiations between the U.S., E.U., Switzerland, and Japan began in Oct. 2007, but more attention has been given to the agreement in recent months due to the E.U.’s unexpected rejection of the treaty as well as Mexico’s approval.
Critics like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) argue that ACTA places far too much power in the hands of government officials and that intellectual property can be enforced in a much safer, balanced, and responsible manner.
“To date, disturbingly little information has been released about the actual content of the agreement,” said the EFF. “This raises considerable concerns for citizens’ civil liberties and privacy rights and the future of Internet innovation.”
You can pre-order J.K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy” at Amazon.