Activists associated and allied with the many variants of the Pirate Party worldwide are regularly painted as hardcore Internet pirates.
It’s not hard to see why given the Party’s history, but that’s certainly not the full picture.
Today’s Pirates, of which there are many flavors around the world, are just as likely to lobby in favor of transparency, privacy, free speech and anti-corruption, as they copyright reform and free sharing of information.
But while the former topics are now the focus for many, others are still very much interested in the latter. Take Travis McCrea, the former leader of the Pirate Party of Canada, for example.
Back in 2011, when McCrea was just 21-years-old, he launched Tormovies, a now-defunct torrent site designed for the sharing of movies. Speaking with TorrentFreak at the time, McCrea said he had zero intentions of backing down in the face of opposition. It now transpires that eight years later, he has similar things on his mind.
One of McCrea’s latest ventures (he describes himself as an entrepreneur) is the eBook site, Ebook.bike. Unlike most official eBook platforms offering premium content, everything is without cost to the user. Simply by navigating to the site, choosing a title, and selecting a convenient format, books are downloaded for free with zero DRM.
However, it seems pretty clear that McCrea doesn’t have licenses for the content being offered. Perhaps that’s why the site, according to SimilarWeb stats, is currently receiving more than a million visits per month. While this is great news for McCrea (who previously told us he has both American and Canadian passports), authors and publishers everywhere are extremely unhappy.
Opposition to the site (and its predecessor TUEBL) has been sizzling away for some time now but during the past few days, more and more authors have been attacking McCrea on Twitter over what they see as blatant copyright infringement.
Their position is that the site has no authority to publish their work. McCrea’s position is that his site is an upload platform – much like YouTube – which is protected under the terms of the DMCA. If they want content taken down, they should file a DMCA takedown notice, he says.
At the same time, however, McCrea – in his own inimitable style – admits he has been deliberately provocative on Twitter in response to complaints, something that hasn’t gone down well with authors who’ve found their work uploaded to his site.
McCrea isn’t shy to admit why he’s been behaving the way he has on social media. In what appears to be an honest post, he says that it’s been all about driving traffic to his site.
“Lot’s [sic] of anger, and I’ll admit I am responsible for fanning the flames. The honest truth is trolling you gets you to post links of my website to your fans and we have hit 10K additional unique visitors this week… however, I am realizing I should be more compassionate,” he wrote.
If attention is what McCrea wanted, he’s been successful. An article published on The Bookseller has Joanne Harris (MBE), the author of the award-winning novel Chocolat, calling for publishers to relegate McCrea’s site to history.
“We need to get the site taken down and publishers need to do something about it. It’s certainly possible to do,” Harris said.
“The music industry has done this successfully for many years. But big publishers are sometimes not very quick to pick up on new developments. They need to learn from the film industry and the music industry and be very muscular.
“People say pirate sites are like mushrooms, you take one down then one pops up somewhere else. I can’t help thinking there actually needs to be a court case and a precedent set.”
The author’s stance is receiving plenty of support. The piece indicates that the Society of Authors has filed a copyright infringement complaint with McCrea’s webhost, with publisher Hachette UK refusing to comment on “specific legal actions” but promising to continue its fight against book piracy.
But despite McCrea’s previous connections with the Pirate Party of Canada, he claims his site is in place to help – not hinder – authors.
“Imagine a world where authors can make money by giving digital versions of their books away to their readers, and readers could explore all sorts of books that they may have never even considered reading before. In a nutshell, this is Ebook Bike, the Ultimate Ebook Library,” the site’s promo page reads.
McCrea says his platform is based on the idea that when people are favorably exposed to authors’ work, they go on to become good customers, buying physical copies of books while promoting the same content to friends and family. He also says that his platform has more to offer.
“We want to give authors even more though, so we provide analytics to authors who want them so they can learn where their users are coming from and other useful information which they can then use to target book sales, advertise, and market themselves more effectively. We also have user feedback, so authors can learn what people like and don’t like in their writing,” he adds.
McCrea claims that his site has “1,500+ confirmed partner authors” who are “excited about bringing change to the way people consume their books.”
While that may very well be the case, those authors are not currently making themselves known on social media, or perhaps they’re simply being drowned out by the opposition. McCrea did not immediately respond to our request for comment.