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I always told myself that if someone stole my stuff and put it online that it would be like free advertising. Only that never anyone seemed to care enough to steal my stuff. Piracy seemed like a gesture reserved for the rich and famous. Free promotion? Maybe, but not for me.

Yesterday, however, I had a chance put my assumptions to the test.

Someone had taken one of my experimental publications for German learners (remember “Peter und das Huhn“?) and uploaded it to a variety of different filesharing sites known for ebook piracy.

“So that’s how it feels!”

My first thought was: “So that’s how it feels!” It was a strange sensation, the fact that someone (maybe it was just a faceless content scraping bot) cared enough to duplicate this little book and made it accessible to everyone was weirdly gratifying. Since the book is linked to my blog and other books, it’s a great help promotion wise.

But to be honest, I also wondered what would happen if all my publications received the same attention. Would people still purchase them? Or would I have to join the ranks of starving rock stars and directors slain in the wake of the piracy steam roller?

Having said that, I don’t think that piracy should be either forbidden or encouraged.

It’s just a fact of online existence. Piracy can’t be prevented. The moment we stop trying to apply pre-digital categories like “property theft” to the inevitable flow of sharing information online, the paper tiger of piracy turns into a little kitten.

Answering with lawsuits isn’t just a failure of seeing the promotion potential, it also puts a dent in the image of content creators, however moralistic their arguments.

Instead of fighting the bad, promote the good!

Each case of piracy vs promotion has to be scrutinized independently, but as a general advice, the same rule applies here as with online reputation management: You can’t get rid of bad information about you online, but you can do your best to constantly create and share good data that will be found instead.

In other words: don’t wait until the pirates “steal” your stuff. Steal it yourself! Make it free, make it public, in whatever way you can (we all got bills to pay).

To underline this, I have made the above mentioned publication now free for everyone to download from our shop, no strings attached. The download comes with a shiny new PDF version, plus a mobi and epub edition for your Kindles, Nooks, etc. But wait, it gets even better…

There’s also a brand new picture book for German learners that I finished last week and which is also – guess what – free, at least for the next 48 hours. (This offer has expired, sorry. Subscribe to our newsletter and be the first to now next time) Click here, or on one of the links below.

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon DEAmazon ITAmazon FRAmazon ES

And remember: If it cheers you, leave a review!

img:  CC by Yodel Anecdotal