From what do the authors live off?
These books (...) are published under the following statement: "It is allowed both total and partial reproduction of this work as well as its spreading through telematic services as long as it is for personal use only, and not for commercial use." This statement is based in the concept of Copyleft, originated in the 80s by Richard Stallman's (and many others) "Free Software Movement", and it is being used in many communication, creativity, popular science and artistic environments. Copyleft (a play on the word copyright) is a philosophy that translates in several kinds of commercial licenses, the first of which was the GPL (GNU General Public License) of free software, created to protect free software and to prevent anybody (e.g. Microsoft) from taking over and privatising the products of the work of communities of free users and programmers. (For those who don't know, one main characteristic of free software is that it is "Open Source", which, potentially, makes users able to control, modify, improve and copy it).
If free software had always stayed in the public domain, eventually it would have been taken over by the industry's vultures. The solution was to turn copyright upside down so that it stopped being an obstacle and became its ultimate guarantee. Briefly, it means that if I for instance use the copyright sign in my work, that work is my property and it allows me to claim that you can do whatever you want with it. You could copy it, spread it, modify it, etc., but in return, you are not allowed to prevent anybody from doing the same, what means that you can not appropriate it not even stop its free circulation: you can not license it as yours since it already has a copyright (and it belongs to me). In conclusion, a common citizen, who can not afford Wu Ming's book, or even someone who does not want to buy it, can very easily make a copy, scan it with an optical character recognition software, or, what seems to us the most convenient, download it for free from our website: www.wumingfoundation.com. Since this reproduction has no commercial purpose, it has our unconditional approval. Now, if a foreign publisher wants to translate it and sell it in his country or if a cinematic producer aims to take it to the big screen, then that's considered commercial use and they will have to contact us and pay (it is just fair as it is our book). But considering the question again: aren't we losing money?
The answer is an emphatic no. More and more publishing houses' experiences demonstrate that the logic of "one pirate copy = one non-selling copy" makes no sense. If this wasn't the case, then it would be incomprehensible that our novel "Q", already available to download for free for a couple years now, has reached the twelfth print, and that it exceeded the 200000 sold copies.
In fact, in the publisher's environment, the more a work of art is available, the more it sells. Other unequivocal examples come from the USA (a country that is certainly obsessed with intellectual property) and have been described with great precision by my colleague Wu Ming in an article available in our webpage.
It isn't necessary to bother the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to explain what is going on with our books regarding sales: Let's say X connects to our site and downloads, for instance, 54. If he does so in his or her college or workplace and prints it there, X spent no money. Then, X reads the book and likes it. X likes it so much he decides to gift this book, but, for obvious reasons, he can't show up with the copy he printed himself. Therefore, he reaches a library and buys a copy. Now, "one pirate copy = one sold copy". There are those who, after downloading our book, have gifted it six or seven times. "One pirate copy = several copies sold". Even those who can't afford to gift the book can mention it to their friends so that they read it and eventually gift it continuing with the process (download-reading-sale-gift). If the book doesn't appeal to any of his or her friends, then he or she won't have spent in a useless gift. In this way, as it happens with free software and open source, the payment demand of the author (specifically knowledge workers) is connected with a safeguard of the reproduction of his or her work (that is, its social use). The author's rights are praised at the same time that copyright is restrained in the face of those who believe they are the same thing. If most publishing houses have not yet realized this, and they are conservative regarding copyright, it is due to ideological reasons more than commercial ones, though we believe they will open their eyes soon. The publishing market is not in risk as the recording houses one: their logics are distinct, their products are distinct, also their consumption, and, above everything else, the publishing market has not gone mad, reacting with mass raids, legal complaints and processes on behalf the great technological revolution that "democratizes" the access to the means of production. Not many years ago, a CD burner was only available for the recording houses, while today we all have one in our computer (not to talk about peer to peer, computer networks, etc.). This is an irreversible change, that makes all legislations on the matter of intellectual property obsolete, outdated.