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Another FALSE Justification for Thievery

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on September 28, 2012 | Comments (30)

I just read yet another supposed justification for stealing people’s hard work. This was written on a blog, itself a response to a post by Andrieh Vitimus.

It begins with several paragraphs describing the hard life of a young college student who is only working part time at a minimum wage job.

I understand. I’ve been there. I remember days of living on spaghetti with a little ketchup and garlic powder. I remember visiting my girlfriend’s college dorm’s lunch room and making a dozen PB&J sandwiches to take so I’d have something to eat for the next several days—and I didn’t even like PB&Js.

So the person the blogger describes doesn’t have much money left over to spend on books.

We get it.

But does this justify stealing or “pirating” books?


The thing is, while I was going to college I knew I had a choice. I was offered many well-paying jobs, ranging from being a dealer in Las Vegas to touring with a well-known rock band. I chose to stay in school. The student that the blogger describes chooses to be in school. He chooses to have a part-time, minimum wage job and go to school. That means he chooses to be short on money. Choosing to be short on money is not an excuse for stealing. As a magician, it’s important to realize that we are responsible for our decisions and not victims of fate. So I don’t buy this argument at all.

When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.

Some Books are Garbage

Next, the blogger discusses the problem with the quality of occult books. Now, it so happens that I agree with Sturgeon’s Law, that 90% of everything is garbage. And yes, that means that 90% of occult books out there are garbage…to me. That doesn’t mean they actually are garbage, only that I can’t in any way make use of them. For all intents and purposes, for me they are like garbage.

I still remember trying to slog my way through a classic grimoire, The Sword of Moses. I didn’t have enough background in the subject to make any sense of it. So for me, it was garbage. I shared my dislike of the book with a friend. He looked at me in shock. He said it was the first book that actually revealed to him the basics of sex magick. He didn’t think it was garbage at all.

I read Dion Fortune’s Psychic Self-Defense ages ago. I thought it was worthless, paranoid garbage with little practical value. I know many people who think it is the best book on the subject. I know people who think the books by Ophiel (Edward C. Peach) are simplistic garbage. While I agree that some of his books are, in my opinion, terrible, I find others to be absolute gems.

Garbage? Great? That’s all based on personal opinion, not fact.

“Fluffy” Books

The blogger is upset that there are lots of books which are basic. Since he is advanced, he obviously doesn’t want to buy those basic books. For some reason, however, he seems to get snared into buying them, thus wasting his money. In order to avoid this he seems to feel he has the right to “pirate” (i.e., steal) books. In response to this I have one thing to say: “30-day return policy.” Many bookstores, including on-line bookstores, have a 30-day return policy. Buy books instead of stealing them. If you don’t like a book, send it back! Get a refund.

There’s something else I’d like to add. When I was starting out in occultism, advanced books made no sense to me. So I went back and started with books expressly intended for beginners. I read everything. Sometimes, the words really struck me. Other times, the words didn’t share anything new or important. I talked with other people. Some of them agreed with me. Others liked just the opposite books that I liked. There’s a reason for so many beginner books: different books appeal to different people. If one book doesn’t appeal to a reader, another will. So I have nothing against beginner books. I have nothing against there being LOTS of beginner books. The thing is, I don’t think readers should look at beginner books and disparagingly call them “fluffy” or “dumbed down” just because you no longer need them.

It’s absolutely true that Llewellyn publishes a lot of beginners books. I think that’s great. Llewellyn was also the first to publish modern books on astrology, the first to republish books by Crowley and Regardie. We publish books for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students. If all you go after is the beginner books when you’re at an intermediate or advanced level, of course the books are going to seem fluffy or garbage—to you.

A False Attack

The blogger particularly attacks Migene González-Wippler. He writes, “…Migene Gonzalez-Wippler’s Santeria: the Religion [is] put out by Llewellyn. However much the information on Santeria in it might be correct – and with what I’m about to say – the information contained in the chapter on Palo (chapter 19) looks to be complete crap…” He says he prefers “decent material that’s been subjected to a peer review process.”

Respectfully, you wrote it “looks to be complete crap.” Don’t you know? Or are you just guessing? You say much of the information in the book “might be correct.” Don’t you know? Or are you just guessing? You have claimed—falsely—that Llewellyn does not fact check books. Further let’s look at Ms. González-Wippler’s credentials. Here is what Wikipedia says about her:

Migene González-Wippler is a Puerto Rican new-age author and a leading expert on the Afro-Caribbean religion of SanterĂ­a. González-Wippler was born in Puerto Rico and has degrees in psychology and anthropology from the University of Puerto Rico and from Columbia University. In addition to her solid background in social sciences she has also worked as a science editor for the Interscience Division of John Wiley, the American Institute of Physics, and the American Museum of Natural History, and as an English editor for the United Nations in Vienna, where she resided for many years. She is a cultural anthropologist and lectures frequently at universities and other educational institutions. She also has contributed extensively to the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture’s collection, especially when it comes to Santeria and its practices, beliefs and organization.

I realize that being a famed expert on Santeria (I recently saw her being consulted for her expertise on one of my favorite bizarre TV shows, “Oddities“) does not automatically make one an expert in the similar tradition of Palo. But do you really think she’s going to destroy her reputation and career by not making sure her writing is accurate? I think you owe Ms. González-Wippler an apology.


The blogger also uses an old ploy: the straw man argument. In this case he creates an evil monster—The Publisher!—and implies it’s okay to hurt the monster. I can see this monster as an evil old figure, tapping its fingers together saying “Ex-cell-ent!” like Mr. Burns on “The Simpsons.”

Publishing companies are not monolithic monsters. They are composed of men and women who work hard and do their best. In exchange, they get paid and use the money to support their families. Money we all pay for books pays for editors and typesetters. They pay for the cost of the building and electricity. The taxes pay for schools and roads and police and fire fighters. They also pay for printing and help the people at the printer earn a living and support their families. If you buy from a local store they help keep that store in business. And of course, they also give money to the author so he or she can afford to write more books and share more information. Sorry, there is no evil “The Publisher!” whom you seem to think only has a goal of making money off of you, of “exploiting” you. You don’t have the right to steal from your mythical “The Publisher!” because he doesn’t exist.

An Admission

Whether you like it or not, books intended for beginners sell in larger numbers than books intended for intermediate students. Books for advanced practitioners, or ones focused on specific and limited topics, tend to sell even fewer books. I can’t speak for other publishers, but I do know that Llewellyn wants to provide good books for all levels of students and spiritual seekers. Those beginner books that you denounce help subsidize and literally make it possible to publish books that do not have as big a market. They help make available at reasonable prices the books you—and many others, including myself—want to read and study.

You may not like what you call “an overwhelming majority of publications that are rehashes of the same tiresome Wicca 101.” In reality, they are different people speaking with a different voice and emphasizing different aspects of Wicca as intended for beginners. But merely because you find them “tiresome” doesn’t mean other people feel the same way.

You seem to be making the same error I described in a recent post when I wrote,

It’s the idea that something that specifically applies to you or works for you must work for everyone else. This could be called moving from the specific to the general without cause. Unfortunately, this is a leap in logic that cannot be made without evidence to support it.

You want more advanced books. Fantastic! So do I. But just because you don’t want to buy books for beginners and intermediates does not mean that other people don’t merely want such books, they need them for their own spiritual evolution. By taking the attitude that everyone must believe as you do, giving you some sort of right to “pirate” books,  you are denouncing and condemning tens of thousands of other people who are not as advanced as you. I find that to be a highly offensive and insulting position.

The Argument

So his argument seems to be that because someone doesn’t have a lot of money, and because they have no way of knowing whether a book is going to be good, they should have the right to steal money from the author, steal money from the people working at the publisher, steal money from the people working at the printer, steal money from schools and teachers, etc., and just pirate a book. I strongly disagree with that position.

Now, I sympathize. I really do. I have read lots of books that I would call garbage. And every one of them helped me understand what I knew and didn’t know. I have saved up for months to get a book I was looking forward to, only to read it and find out it wasn’t what I wanted or expected.

But none of this is an excuse for theft. None of this is a valid rationalization for pirating. None of this is justification for stealing.


When I first started studying occultism, people with similar interests wrote to each other and told each other about books. We waited for months to read reviews in little journals that were created on poor-quality typewriters and duplicated using mimeograph machines (ah, that smell!). We waited. We didn’t feel that because we were poor we were entitled to steal other people’s work. Some of us got extra jobs. My friend Scott Cunningham wrote articles about trucks for auto dealers. I worked as a courier for a bank, in a store that sold beads, in a store that sold magic tricks, and I managed a Halloween shop.

Luckily, today you have an easy way of quickly discovering the quality of books. There are always reviews of books on the internet. You can find them all over. And as you noted, it is also possible to get some books more cheaply in electronic formats.

You have strong opinions about books. Fantastic. Write reviews of books and post them on your blog. Request review copies of books from publishers. That way you can legally obtain them for free.

And of course, there is always the library. Right now I live in a small city with a very small library. You may be surprised to discover what you can borrow through what is called the “Interlibrary Loan” service. And if you’re near a university or college, their libraries and ability to access other libraries is unparalleled.

I have no doubt that some day the student described by the blogger will be earning a good living. At that time I can assure you that he won’t feel it’s right for other people to steal from him.

It’s not “boosting.”
It’s not a “five-fingered discount.”
It’s not “ganking.”
It’s not “gaffling.”
It’s not “geesing.”
It’s theft.
It’s causing other people to suffer.
It’s causing the prices of products to go up so that other people can’t afford things.

I don’t know you in person. If you’re going to steal other people’s work, that’s up to you, your personal ethics and your conscience. Contrary to your claim, nobody is exploiting you and your lack of knowledge about a book’s content. You can resolve your lack of knowledge by using the internet. You can resolve your position by saving some money, getting an extra job or both. Your choice—or the choice of the student in your example—not to save money and not to get an extra job does not justify harming others.

If you’re going to steal, that’s your decision. But respectfully, don’t try to justify the harm you’re doing to others with bogus reasons. They may make you feel righteous in your actions, but they’re really just excuses for crimes.

We each make choices in our lives. When we find a wallet lying on the ground, we can choose to keep the money that’s in it or find the owner and return it. The money in that wallet may belong to someone who needs it to pay for medicines for his child. Our choices have results that affect us and the world around us. In my opinion, when we make choices we should consider the ecology resulting from that choice. By that I mean how does it affect us, those around us, and the community in which we live?

When people know that you steal books, why should they not feel justified in stealing a bicycle, motorcycle, or car? Why should they not take yours? After all, you’ve provided them with a rationale for doing just that.

Reader Comments

Written By Phaedra Bonewits
on September 28th, 2012 @ 12:10 pm

Thank you, Don.

Isaac and I heard every excuse in the book (hah!) from people pirating work. It used to be pirated paper editions where the money went to that publisher and not the author at all, now it’s downloads. The download pirate publisher doesn’t even go through the same effort as the old print pirate did. I say, follow the money! Somebody is gaining from that “free” download.

A common excuse and one I’ve heard from a repeat offender was “I found this for free already somewhere else on the Web” as if stealing stolen goods somehow makes it ok. But I follow the money. That person uses “free” downloads to drive traffic to her website where she sells services (including pirated stuff on disc.) This is not Robin Hood putting it to the Publisher Man. This is ripping off people for her personal benefit.

And I’ve heard the poor me starving student excuse more times than I’d care to say, too. If you’re that broke, try a little deferred gratification — buy your books later when you can afford them. That’s what I do. Ask for Amazon gift cards for holiday gifts. Borrow from friends. Or, *gasp*, go to an actual bookstore and check the book out before you buy it. How about a used book store? A huge number of books in my and Isaac’s personal library came from second-hand stores. You can find real gems. Oh, of course that does require patience and effort.

If you’re a student, you’ve got access to a university library with interlibrary loan. There is no excuse whatsoever for not using it. And the joke is, you’re more likely to find the older and/or more advanced texts through interlibrary loan than the latest fluff.

Or rather than reading books, you can sit around with or correspond with fellow magicians and learn that way. You’ll probably hear from them which books are worth having or saving up for and which ones to skip. Learning from other people is a lot like learning from books, you know. It just takes a little more effort.

Come to think of it, all these things require more effort than does sitting on the couch with your laptop and hitting the “download” button. But guess what? If you really want to be a magical practitioner, that takes a lot of effort, too, so you might as well get used to it.

Thanks for letting me rant 🙂

Written By Christopher Bradford
on September 28th, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

Fra Craig,

I’m sure there will be an absolute deluge of posts from people arguing with you about this one; while I have a minute I want to address Whippler’s writing on Palo….it is complete and utter nonsense. I don’t say ‘might’ be (kudos to Fra Faust for having the integrity to make it clear he was not an expert on the subject–we need more of that from bloggers in general) as this is my religion and tradition. I’m a Tata Nkisi of Palo Mayombe, and I can say with absolute certainty that her writing about Palo is filled with offensive errors, with syncretic mistakes and gross generalizations. Her appearance on Oddities was absolutely terrible–she has no idea what she is talking about.Many Santeros are also Paleros; she is not. They are separate traditions, and should be treated as such. I find it amazing that you defend her writing, when no one at Llewellyn could be bothered to speak to a single Actual Palero about our tradition before publishing her commentary.

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on September 28th, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

Thank you for your comment.

As I wrote, “…being a famed expert on Santeria …does not automatically make one an expert in the similar tradition of Palo.” So we are in agreement on this.

I would respectfully add that Palo has different traditions. For people reading this who are not familiar with Palo, the different traditions are known as “houses.” Merely because what you know may be different does not make González-Wippler wrong.

Having met Ms. González-Wippler and having great respect for her and her writings, I have absolutely no doubt that she wants to be as accurate as possible. If you think she should share your House’s version of Palo in a future edition, I would urge you to contact her and let her know how your Palo differs from what she has presented.

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on September 28th, 2012 @ 1:15 pm

Thanks for your post, Phaedra!

People should also look for your blog, “Views from the Cyberhenge,” available at http://neopagan.net/blog/ .

Phaedra always has great concepts, information, and posts.

Written By Christopher Bradford
on September 28th, 2012 @ 1:32 pm

I appreciate your respectful reply; I’m afraid you are in error in a couple of significant ways. The different traditions in Palo are called “Rama” not Houses. Munansos (houses) are individual secret societies that work Palo of a particular Rama they are descended from. There are no Ramas that teach a Palo like what she communicated, as she describes the tradition from the perspective of an outsider with the prejudices of another tradition. There is a Rama that has a somewhat similar syncretic view of the mpungo, but she didn’t say she was speaking of Palo Kimbisa San Cristo Bien Viejo–she said Palo Monte/Mayombe, and taught incorrect generalizations. I am not a Santero, and can’t speak to the depth of her understanding of Orisha tradition; if she is an expert there, then fantastic. She is not of Palo, and hurts our tradition by speaking nonsense about it. Even you presume to correct me on the basic terminology in my own religion; I am less and less surprised that Llewellyn is printing the kind of nonsense I read about Palo from the good Ms.Whippler.

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on September 28th, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

I am absolutely sure you know about your tradition. If you feel she is hurting your particular tradition of Palo, I would respectfully suggest contacting her. I believe she would very much like to learn about other Palo traditions.

I was not trying to correct you at all and I regret that you feel that way. I specifically wrote, “For people reading this who are not familiar with Palo…” which I did not, in any way, believe relates to you.

I regret that you take offense, but of course, that is your choice. I would like to say, however, that the original blog to which my post was a response, as well as your two posts, seem intent on attacking rather than educating, cutting down rather than building up. That’s why I suggest writing to Ms. González-Wippler and sharing your tradition.

In fact, perhaps you could write an entire book sharing Palo as you know it. I believe there are a lot of people who would be interested in reading it.

Finally, the original post to which my blog is a response uses most of his post to support stealing other people’s works. His attack on Ms. González-Wippler was a minor part of it. What does your tradition of Palo have to say about stealing other people’s work?

Written By Mike C.
on September 28th, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

As I expressed on comment section of the blog in question, I wholly agree with the author of that post. I do not “encourage’ piracy of books, but I do understand completely why many people participate and I do not condemn them for it. Let’s call a spade a spade here; many publishers these days release absolute tripe – González-Wippler’s books being a shining example.

Addressing first your suggestion that they buy and then return such books, while Llewellyn, Amazon and some others do happily accept returns, the fact is that for many of the “independent occult publishers” do not. Further, those that do accept returns require that you pay to ship the book back to them, and as many of them are located in the EU, UK or otherwise internationally, the cost of posting a book back to them renders the refund moot and the whole thing an exercise in futility.

You argue that while the blogger finds many of the books released today useless, they may not be so to others. In this you’re incorrect. They’re useless to everyone. You refer to Miss González-Wippler as an expert in Santeria. Apparently she is also an expert in Wicca, Paganism, Christian Mysticism, Qabalah, Grimoires, Palo, Dream Interpretation, Christian Qabalah, Amulets and Talismans, What Happens After Death, Angelology, and Seashell Divination because Llewellyn has published her books on each and every of these subjects, as well as several others. They all share a common theme – tripe.

Publishers who release such material, alongside Schueler’s Enochian material which, lets be honest, is even worse, are going to have their releases questioned by the market they target, and justifiably so. If someone would rather download an illegal version of a book released by that publisher than spend the $10 or $20 only to find out that what they’ve purchased a bookend, I can’t blame them.

As Jack said in his original post – Llewellyn DOES has several authors who are genuinely good teachers and authors, and who write an excellent book. However when their work is next to a dozen Silver Ravenwolf titles, Migene’s “expert” treatises on every aspect of occultism under the sun and Schuelers’ Un-nochian material, the buyers have a very good reason to be suspicious.

Written By Mike C.
on September 28th, 2012 @ 6:18 pm

Seriously Don, have you crossed so far into the world of the politically correct that you can’t even acknowledge that some books are just plain bad? Has the man who brought us Modern Magick gone so far mass market that he can’t even concede that there are some books and some authors who are just out and out useless?

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on September 28th, 2012 @ 8:09 pm

Hi, Mike. Thanks for your comment.

I fully acknowledge that there are books that are horrible. Absolute garbage. Putrid.

I have no doubt that there are books you feel are that way, too. But here’s my question for you: “How do you know they’re bad?”

Obviously you, I, and many other people reading this blog know it because they have studied other books and practiced from them. The book they think is bad is actually a test, revealing how much they already know. It allows you to prove to yourself just how advanced you are.

I’ve read, perhaps unfortunately, a lot of bad books.

I’ve learned something–even if it’s just how bad they are and how much I already know–from each one of them.

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on September 28th, 2012 @ 8:22 pm

Hi again, Mike.

As I wrote earlier, I fully understand where the original blogger was coming from. What he gives, in all honesty, are excellent reasons for pirating–stealing–books.

There’s another word for “reasons.” That word is “excuses.” They’re nothing but rationalizations to justify criminal behavior. They’re an attempt to absolve people from responsibility for their actions.

And since the essence of magick, in my opinion, is obtaining results from your actions, such excuses/justifications/rationalizations are ways of saying that as magicians they are failures.

I am not an expert in Palo or Santaria or Hoodoo or Vodoun. I know people who are. They’re also experts in Kabalah, magic, Wicca, Witchcraft, Enochian magick, sex magick, Thelema, music, child development, and a variety of other areas. So I see no reason why any person couldn’t be an expert in Wicca, Paganism, Christian Mysticism, Qabalah, Grimoires, Palo, Dream Interpretation, Christian Qabalah, Amulets and Talismans, What Happens After Death, Angelology, Seashell Divination and a variety of other areas.

I agree with Robert A. Heinlein who wrote, “Specialization is for insects.” My guess is that you’re an expert in a variety of areas, too.

Written By Brian Shaughnessy
on September 28th, 2012 @ 9:36 pm

Calling file sharing for personal use “theft” is completely absurd. If I buy a book and let somebody borrow it, is that theft? What if I loan it to ten people? What’s the magic number where it stops being my right to share an object I bought and becomes stealing from the author?

If somebody is making money off of your work it’s theft, if somebody is sharing a copy of your work they compensated you for via the terms you or your legal proxy agreed to, that’s called sharing.

If you want to base your definition of theft on the foundation of insanely restrictive and very recent ideas about copy rights be my guest. I’ll be unmoved by those arguments, and laugh hysterically every time you use the word tradition when what you apparently mean is commodity.

FWIW, I’m a published author as well, and my art has been shown internationally. I’m not arguing from the perspective of somebody who doesn’t understand what it’s like to have your work shared, with and without express permission, or to stumble across insanely derrivative uncredited mashups of your work. Sometimes it’s flattering sometimes it sucks, sometimes it’s theft and sometimes it isn’t. The notion that world owes you anything because you chose to create something is laughable.

I’m not a student, I have a good job and disposable income. I’m not somebody without achievements in the arts in general or writing in particular. In other words I am making a principled argument about why I don’t care if my work is ‘pirated’ and why there is a real difference between actual theft, and P2P sharing.

I;m not in other words somebody who is, as you attempt to paint all your detractors, just trying to justify their own criminal behavior.

Also I think it’s hillarious that you defend somebody’s credentials by linking to a wikipedia article. You do realize anybody can edit those articles right? If that’s LLewellyn’s idea of fact checking you may as well just stop pretending you do any serious fact checking. “I found it on the internet” is not credible fact checking in any venue where they take fact checking seriously.

Seriously at least try to be intellectually honest on this issue.

Written By Rose W
on September 28th, 2012 @ 11:19 pm

Greetings Fr. Kraig,

You quoted Heinlein who wrote, “Specialization is for insects.” Yet, in the same post you state you see no reason why any person couldn’t be an expert in Wicca, Paganism, Christian Mysticism, Qabalah, Grimoires, Palo, Dream interpretation, Christian Qabalah, Amulets and Talismans, What Happens After Death, Angelolgy, Seashell Divination and a variety of other areas. This, of course, is in reference to the numerous books written by Ms. Gonzalez-Wippler and published by Llewellyn.

You are aware that the very definition of “expert” is:

1. a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority: a language expert.

“Specialist” and “expert” are essentially the same. Are you suggesting Ms. Gonzalez-Wippler is an “insect”? If not, perhaps I’m misunderstanding the context of your decision to use the quote? On the other hand, perhaps not. You see, the point of Fr. Jack Faust’s post, the blogger to whom you refer, was that it is highly unlikely anyone can be an “expert” in all those occult “specialties”, and more, to such a degree as to write, let alone publish, a quality text on each topic; the books are, indeed, garbage.

I’ve been working in the specialized area of Dream Interpretation for 34 years. I have yet to read a quality modern text in this area of expertise, and the bulk of what I find is published by Llewellyn. It is a shame, because the information published is generally so bad (standard dream symbol meanings which are assumed to be the same for virtually everyone) that those with whom I’ve discussed this with in depth have a difficult time understanding not only their personal symbolism and keys, but the difference between working out the daily stress and what may be genuine precognitive events which should be recorded for future reference, in addition to astral work, etc… and they give up on dream work far too soon.

Why? Because they’re beginners using crap beginner books published by a pulp publishing house. They buy book after book which are all virtually alike, and they have no way to check out the goods before purchasing. They move on to something different when they may be incredibly gifted with dreams.

Fr. Faust was making a valid point. Though pirating isn’t condoned, it is a result of not being able to “try before you buy”. As a result, some publishers began making texts available more cheaply through electronic means; the e-book. I believe if you read his blog a bit more carefully, you would have noted his nod to specialty publishers like Scarlet Imprint who have noted this problem and have now made their excellent books available in a less expensive format for those who cannot afford the more preferable paper.

At least if a customer discovers they don’t care for what they have purchased, they’re not out as much money, and when one is poor (and I’ve been there… on the streets, homeless kind of poor), this is incredibly important. They don’t have to choose between shelter, food, or books to assist with continuing their spiritual learning and practice. They can make it work to have all… especially if outfitted with an appropriate phone or other e-book device.

As for “Specialization is for insects”, me thinks you may have used the wrong quote. Or, perhaps this was a Freudian slip, because to become an expert, one must specialize. As eclectic as I am and as long as I’ve been practicing/studying, I can still only consider myself an expert in one occult field; Dream Interpretation. Chaos Magick, Tarot, and the ToL are all running a distant second. I specialize in nothing. Therefore, I am an expert in the only thing I knew prior to studying all things.

In a sense, you seem to be giving a reason; in other words, making an excuse; for churning out poor occult pulp, because to become an “expert” (i.e. to specialize) within any occult field, one must study and practice within said field for many, many years. In the case of Santeriea, Palo, Wicca, and Christian Mysticism at a minimum, one must not only study and practice daily to qualify as an “expert”, but one must also be called by Spirit.

You accuse Fr. Faust of making excuses, and yet you do exactly that. Wouldn’t you say that is a bit hypocritical?

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on September 29th, 2012 @ 12:09 am

Thank you, Mr. Shaughnessy, for your comment.

If you wish to buy a book and loan it to friends, go ahead. The thing is, you cannot loan it to your described ten friends at one time. To loan it to ten friend simultaneously you would require ten copies.

With illegal file sharing someone is taking one copy and sharing it, simultaneously, with ten, twenty, or a hundred or more people simultaneously, most of whom are not that person’s friends. That means dozens of copies are not being sold, the author is not getting paid, the people who worked on the book will eventually have to be let go because people aren’t paying for the book.

If you choose to let people pirate your works, that’s fine. That’s your decision. You’re giving your work away. I support that. In my opinion it’s the creator’s right to give away what he or she wants to give away.

However, there’s a big difference between choosing to allow people to freely take your work and having people steal from you that which you do not want stolen.

I am in no way criticizing those who wish to give away their efforts or those how choose to take what is given. The problem is when people steal. You seem to be equating the two.

Think of it this way: If someone takes 500 pounds of food to a food back every week to give away, and people take it, that’s fine. I applaud it. But if someone steals the car that person used to take the food to the food bank, not only does it hurt the person who had his car stolen, but it also hurts those who will no longer receive the food donations.

I think there is a big difference between these two actions even if you do not.

I am no fan of Wikipedia. As I like to say, “It’s a good place to start, but a terrible place to finish.” And you’re correct. Anybody can easily go in and change entries in Wikipedia.

So, please indicate what, exactly, is incorrect in her listing. I’m sure we’d all like to see which claims you can show are false.

Written By Brian Shaughnessy
on September 29th, 2012 @ 12:44 am

Incidentally, since it’s been mentioned twice…that whole “Specilization is for insects..” line…Donald, you do realize that quote was uttered by a fictional character who was supposed to be over two thousand years old and the product of a eugenics experiment right?

I’m assuming you do, since you quoted it and you’re a fastidious fact checker; I’m curious are you actually arguing it’s a reasonable position to assume that an ordinary human like Wippler can reach achievements comprable to a fictional character who lived for thousands of years, and was specially bred to be better than regular humans? Or is quoting Heinlen a misguided attempt at erudition?

Knowing more than average about a topic does not make one an expert in it, incidentally. I know more about neuroscience than my girlfriend, that doesn’t make me qualified to give a disertation on the subject let alone sell myself as an expert on the topic. Likewise an author writing a “fluffy” book may know more than somebody in the market for that kind of book, but that alone does not confer mastery upon the author.

And that’s a huge problem on every level when it comes to occult tomes regardless of which imaginary “skill level” a practitioner is at. Charlantry, poor translations, and lack of primary sources are all part and parcel of the history of occult literature. And this publisher has a less than stellar track record when it comes to substituting new age woo for verifiable facts about actual cultures and traditions for which there are real resources. I realize you’re a company man, but you aren’t seriously going to tell me with a straight face this publisher never published, as one of many examples, a word about Celtic culture or traditions that wasn’t exactly…accurate shall we say?

The fact checking by most Occult writers and publishers is completely atrocious that’s why your books are published as occult books and not serious books of anthropology. Can we at least be honest enough to admit that? Magicians are in the business of story telling, and myth making not doing due academic dilligence on the many traditions they pilfer for source material.

There’s a market for that, and I’m not saying it makes you a bad person, but when somebody from the Palo community shows up, maybe have the humility to stop making lame defenses and pretending you’re capable of making an authoritative judgement about their serious accusations? Maybe say, hey, I don’t know enough about Palo to take a side.

Hey I’ve read some books about Jewish Mysticism, but if I speak on that and a practicing Jew shows up and tells me I’m mistaken about something or tells me I’m parroting some sort of horrible blood libel…well it probably behooves me to consider that seriously instead of doing what you’ve done here, assuring somebody who almost certainly is in a better position to know than you are, that they are wrong. Being a published occult author does make you an experct on everything tangentially reated to the occult. A fact I can’t believe I have to point out to a thinking human adult.

Incidentally, did you manage to miss the the irony in quoting a character born from a eugenics experiment to defend somebody against accusations they were negatively representing cultures and communities they aren’t part of?

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on September 29th, 2012 @ 12:45 am

Thank you, Rose, for your comment.

Yes, you are misunderstanding Heinlein’s comment. The full quote is: “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

What Heinlein meant was that becoming specialized so you can only do one thing is a trait that should be limited to insects, not humans. So no, I was saying that people who, like González-Wippler are polymaths are the opposite of insects.

The idea that some dream symbols are universal is not unique to González-Wippler or any other writer. It was a major belief of psychologist Carl Jung. Freud, on the other hand, believed that all dream symbolism should be interpreted individually. So there are two different schools of psychological dream interpretation, and you are clearly siding with one. That doesn’t make the other school–in this case that of Jung–wrong, just different.

It sounds like you have a lot to say about dream interpretation. I would encourage you to write a book. You have a voice that deserves to be heard.

It’s amazing, though, how we often only see what we want to see. I just went to Amazon and entered the search term “dream interpretation.” On the entire first page of over fifteen titles, only one was published by Llewellyn.

Yes, the original blogger to whom I was responding did mention eBooks. However I did see it. In my post I wrote “And as you noted, it is also possible to get some books more cheaply in electronic formats.” Perhaps you didn’t see that in my post? By the way, that’s why a large percentage of the books published by Llewellyn are also available as ebooks at lower prices through a variety of venues. And on many sites there is a function that allows you to read part of the book before you buy it, effectively negating your argument.

As for there being lots of beginner books, perhaps you also didn’t note that I clearly agreed with you. But that’s because there are far more beginners than there are intermediate and advanced books. I don’t study beginner books any more. They aren’t junk. They’re not “bad.” They’re just not for me. Condemning beginning books because they’re not advanced is like condemning oranges because they’re not apples.

If a person buys a book rather than a meal, he or she is still going to be hungry whether he or she comes to consider the book good, bad, or somewhere else in that spectrum. The judgement of the quality of the book is irrelevant to the hunger. Otherwise, it’s like choosing to be run over by a 2012 Lexus rather than a 1992 Corolla. Either way, you’re still in the hospital. I’m sorry, but I don’t see how “I’m homeless and starving to death but at least I own a good book” is better than “I’m homeless and starving to death and I have a lousy book.”

No, I didn’t use the wrong quote. Sorry you misunderstood it. I agree that to become an expert one must study and practice for years. I’ve seen too many “IROBs” (I Read One Book and now I’m an expert!).

I’m making no excuses for anyone. The original blog poster–who is now calling me names–put forward the idea that if you’re poor (and the situation he describes is a choice to be poor) and can’t find a way to figure out if a book will meet your needs, it’s okay for you to steal it.


Theft is still theft.

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on September 29th, 2012 @ 1:02 am

Yes, Brian, I read Heinlein’s “Time Enough for Love” years ago.

Unfortunately, you seem to be making an illogical extension. If someone can be an expert in 2, 3, 4 or more things, they must be an expert in all things. I’m not. I don’t know anyone who is. But if someone presents information showing he or she is an expert, and their information is accurate as a result of checking, I’m inclined to believe it.

It so happens that I have fact-checked a few books from Llewellyn before they were published. As a result, they were changed. Being an expert does not mean people are perfect

Nor do I note that there is a requirement for people to be experts in order to share what they know. I asked you to provide some data showing that the bona fides of Ms. González-Wippler, which you attacked, were not accurate.

I still invite you to prove your point on this.

You write that you’ve “read some books about Jewish Mysticism, but if I speak on that and a practicing Jew shows up and tells me I’m mistaken about something or tells me I’m parroting some sort of horrible blood libel…well it probably behooves me to consider that seriously…”

Really? Just because someone is a practicing Jew doesn’t mean they know anything about Jewish mysticism since it’s not a part of mainstream Judaism.

You write that I have assured “somebody who almost certainly is in a better position to know than you are, that they are wrong.” Really? I have done nothing of the kind. I have stated to one person that I’m sure he’s right. However there are multiple traditions of Palo and saying that one is right and others, therefore, are wrong smacks not of being wrong, but of being dogmatic.

You write, “Being a published occult author does make you an experct on everything tangentially reated to the occult.” On that we will have to disagree. Being a published occult author makes one an author who can share some information. That’s all.

Written By Brian Shaughnessy
on September 29th, 2012 @ 1:28 am

“To loan it to ten friend simultaneously you would require ten copies.”

Or I could loan it to ten people at different times. How many times and to how many people do you suppose a large city library loans a single copy of say, one of the Harry Potter books?

I’m going to guess more times than any of your books will ever be read in your lifetime. Why is that not theft? What if the library aquires the book via donation? What if I buy your book second hand from a private party? You’d get no piece of that money, have I stolen from you, or do you recognize the right of a person to sell used books?

Your argument is then basically that any technology which fascilitates the sharing of information I legally purchased becomes theft.

P2P sharing = theft is an argument only seriously advanced by people who hold the copy rights, almost never the creator of the content incidentally, and people such as yourself who mystifyingly shill for them. The arguement rests on the notion that a publisher owns the ideas on the pages, it’s absurd on its face. This is part of why Portugal has declared file sharing for personal use legal. I know I know, surely Donald Michael Kraig, Occult Author is more qualified than the state of Portugal to define theft….or maybe just maybe this issue isn’t as cut and dry as you claim.

Incidentally, I wasn’t talking about free content. I do generate a great deal of content for free, as I feel any creative person should. I also generate work which is for sale, which I do not personally offer for free anywhere. What I’m saying to you, is that while I will gladly accept payment for that book or piece of art, I do not consider it theft if the image or text is uploaded and shared. I would probably care if somebody was selling copies they downloaded, but that’s a separate issue.

“So, please indicate what, exactly, is incorrect in her listing. I’m sure we’d all like to see which claims you can show are false.”

Strawman much? I never stated anything there was inacurate. Though it’s astonishing to me that you’d play this gambit as a less scrupolous person with editing privileges could go throw in in bad info and wave it in your face. And that was my point, wikipedia is not a safe source to use when fact checking, much less when defending the fact checking of your publisher, because even if it wasn’t your intention, it looks like you’re saying “”No worries, we totes checked wikipedia before sending it to the presses.” Especially when the article you link to contains exactly zero references, unless you want to count the website of Wippler, which is apparently defunct…awesome! In other words the only way for anybody to confirm or deny the evidence you presented is to go and find the references the author of that article should have included themselves…or which you should have found if you were going to present it as you having fact checked something. There is literally no difference between linking to an unsourced wikipedia article and a blog that contains unsubstantiated rumor. Surely you can understand that. It’s an argument about the principle of what you did and the quality of fact checking practices you or your publisher can lay claim to, not an argument about the specific claims of that article.

Written By Brian Shaughnessy
on September 29th, 2012 @ 1:55 am

“If someone takes 500 pounds of food to a food back every week to give away, and people take it, that’s fine. I applaud it. But if someone steals the car that person used to take the food to the food bank, not only does it hurt the person who had his car stolen, but it also hurts those who will no longer receive the food donations.”

This is completely absurd. For this to be a fair comparison, your argument is that if I had an alien technology which allowed me to scan your car and then from that scan create a working fascimile of your car, then I have somehow stolen your car, even though you remain in posession of the car you bought, and then also that somehow my copy prevents you from delivering food.

You assume that somebody who downloads your book would have bought it in a world where p2p sharing didn’t exist. That’s a pretty specious argument. Would you buy a taco for a million dollars? Let’s say you lived in a world where a million dollars was still a million dollars but somehow this is the last taco that will ever exist, and you love tacos like none other…you’re still almost certainly not blowing a million on the taco, because while you may really want the taco, you don’t want it one million dollars bad.

I realize this a blow to the ego of any author or artist, but the fact is people may not want your book 15 dollars bad. Just like if somebody offers me a free taco, I might take it just because, hey fee taco, but I’m not paying 15 bucks for a taco, not even if it looks amazing and I’m feeling snackish.

Find a way to to get people to be loyal enough to you that they’ll buy your books instead of downloading, instead of inventing wild justifications that you own and are owed money for copy that didn’t exist until somebody else created it. People don’t magically owe you money because they read a book you wrote. Even you must agree with that since you haven’t as yet warned me of the socialist evils of public libraries that do not compensate the authors for every viewing of their book.

Incidentally calling Wippler a polymath as though she were Francis Bacon or DaVinci is beyond the pale of ridiculous. This is why it’s amazingly difficult for me to believe you believe half of this tripe and aren’t just showing out for your bosses.

Written By Harold Roth
on September 29th, 2012 @ 10:27 am

I agree with a number of points you have made re piracy, Donald, but I very much do not agree with this: “I see no reason why any person couldn’t be an expert in Wicca, Paganism, Christian Mysticism, Qabalah, Grimoires, Palo, Dream Interpretation, Christian Qabalah, Amulets and Talismans, What Happens After Death, Angelology, Seashell Divination and a variety of other areas.” Maybe it’s because I used to be an academic I know that it’s actually impossible to be an expert in this many fields. Whenever I am considering buying a book, I always look specifically to see which areas the author has written on, and if I see they are scattered like this, I know they are not experts but simply making a living by writing books. Nothing wrong with that, but that is not the kind of book I want to buy or even read for free from the library. It is pap, pure and simple. There is a place in the world for pap in book form, just like there is a place for coffee-table books or pulp fiction, but we would never say that these things reflect some deep knowledge of their subjects. Perhaps our idea of “expertise” has become so diluted and so out of touch with reality that people don’t recognize that expertise means depth of knowledge, not simply being familiar with a topic. I can mend the buttonholes on my vest, I’ve sewn various items of clothing using patterns, I’ve read books about tailoring, so I know the tailor’s lingo and even have an idea what they’re talking about, but that does not make me a tailor, and if I wrote a book about about tailoring, I would be a misrepresenting myself: lying.

In the occult world, it is especially popular to claim expertise in all sorts of things without having even the most basic knowledge on the topic because, after all, who will gainsay those claims? For example, I have often encountered self-styled expert Qabalists who do not know the Hebrew alphabet, who don’t recognize ANY Hebrew words, who not only have not read the Hebrew Bible in Hebrew, but have not read it in English, who are not familiar with even the most commonly told stories from the Hebrew Bible, the kind one might read in a kid’s book, all of which enlighten and are the sources for Kabbalah or Qabalah. These same people inevitably claim some sort of special insight into the subject, such as a gem I ran across recently by a traditional witch who wrote that the word Kabbalah came from the word to twist or confuse and had nothing to do with Qabalah, the real deal, thus revealing in one sentence to having not even the most cursory knowledge of the Hebrew alphabet, much less any knowledge about any kind of Kabbalah. The enormous ignorance and lack of learning and frankly, arrogance, evidenced in this statement made me question everything else this author might have to say about anything, and I found I could not read any farther in that book–and it undermined for me the authenticity of the group the author belongs to, if this author is a deemed an expert. How uncommon is this sort of “expertise” in the occult world, though? Not very. I will go farther. I will say that it is a manifestation of the deeply held notion that “everything you have is mine,” or conspicuous consumption in action. This is the very same concept that motivates piracy, better known as content theft.

It is the idea that the person who has done nothing to produce the work is entitled to own it nevertheless, and not only to own it, but to interpret it “correctly,” to know it in a way above and beyond the culture that produced the work. It’s not surprising, then, that folks would feel free to decide for the creator of a work that the work should be free, to make that decision for the creator. Because why not? “Everything you have is mine.” It has nothing whatsoever to do with money or the cost of the book or the worth of the book’s contents. It has to do with having the approach of an infant to the world–all that I see is mine or should be mine, and I will have it, especially if I do not run any risk in doing so.

People have been poor for a long time, yet back when books were still only printed on paper and sold in shops, people didn’t steal them at the rate they do now, because the likelihood was high they would get caught, which would be at the very least embarrassing, and they might even get arrested. Now, though, it is a simple matter to steal a book, just press a button in the privacy of your own home, no one to see you or call you to task for it. And since ethics are not enforced by fear, they are simply jettisoned, because “everything you have is mine.”

Let’s not forget, though, that “everything you have is mine” is not peculiar to people who steal content. It is also a characteristic of people who co-opt other traditions and bodies of knowledge, people who pass themselves off as Bon priests, Druids, Christians, and Buddhists all at once. It has long aggravated me that people feel free to steal my content and then get all huffy when I catch them and demand they quit using it, even lecture me about how I don’t want to “share,” and so forth. But I do see this kind of theft as precisely part and parcel with “owning” content from other cultures and practices and deeming oneself an expert. Theft is theft, whether it is of content or of culture, and it arises out of the same disregard for the work of others and the overestimation of one’s own place in the universe.

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on September 29th, 2012 @ 11:39 am

Brian, if you want to buy one book and loan it out to ten people, one at a time, that’s fine. If you want to buy ten copies and loan them out to ten people simultaneously, that’s fine, too. The problem, as you seem to have difficulty understanding, is when a person buys one copy and gives it away to dozens, perhaps hundreds of people simultaneously. No library can do that.

Sorry, no straw man. You made claims saying that the Wikipedia entry on Ms González-Wippler was questionable. I’ve asked twice for you to say, specifically, what was false. So now you write, “I never stated anything there was inacurate.” So why did you bring it up if your goal was not to question her resume?

No, it is a false attempt at reading my mind to say that I’m assuming that Wikipedia is always right. What I have written publicly for years is that it’s a good place to start, a terrible place to finish. However, it’s easily accessible. But a nice try on your part to change the issue away from González-Wippler since you now admit that you don’t think her resume is inaccurate.

My example was only absurd because it would appear you don’t like dealing with the issues it presents.

No, I’m not making any presumptions. But you seem to be playing the old “change the goalposts” argument. This technique is one where people who find themselves on the losing end of a discussion start bringing in new aspects to the discussion. Alien technology? A million dollar taco? That has nothing to do with theft.

I agree with your comment about building loyalty. But the choice of whether a person’s hard work should be paid for or given out should be left up to that person, in this case, the author, not others. If an author chooses to make things available for free, fantastic. On my web site I give away a Cthulhu story I wrote some time ago. Some author choose to provide things with a “copyleft,” saying that people may copy it and give it away as long as they do not sell it, change it, and list anyone other than the author as the creator. I’m in favor of this.

If an author chooses not to give away his or her work, taking it without the author’s permission is simply theft.

If someone makes a movie and puts it on the internet and says, “share it with everyone,” that’s great. If it’s in a theater and you sneak in, make a video copy, and spread it on the internet, it’s theft.

I don’t know why you seem to be having difficulty understanding the difference between being given something and stealing it. Even little children know that if you take something without permission it’s wrong. Sometimes, children are very wise, aren’t they?

Written By Nineveh Shadrach
on September 29th, 2012 @ 12:03 pm

“I realize this a blow to the ego of any author or artist, but the fact is people may not want your book 15 dollars bad. Just like if somebody offers me a free taco, I might take it just because, hey fee taco, but I’m not paying 15 bucks for a taco, not even if it looks amazing and I’m feeling snackish.”

If someone offered you a taco he acquired from Taco Bell without paying for it and without their consent and you ate it then you ate a stolen taco. The value you put on this taco is irrelevant. You ate it. No shame on you, if you didn’t know, but an ethical person would say no, if they knew. I mean someone thought it valuable enough to acquire without the Restaurant’s consent and thought you may want it enough to get and you took it and ate it and smiled. The argument that had you had to pay for the Taco you may have declined and got Pizza instead is irrelevant.

On that notes, pirates don’t go and find you and offer you a free Taco. People who pirate have to go out of their way to find the sites and they don’t pirate one book or two, but pirate almost EVERYTHING they get their hand’s on. They are like the looters who go into an electronic shop during end of the world disasters and fill up their cart with everything they can carry.

Not only that but big occult piracy sites often maintain their operation by donation. These donation often exceed operating costs and in effect means the sites make money and that the pirates prefer to pay the piracy website then the authors to read their books.

Let’s face it, good books get pirated first, crappy books get pirated last, if at all. This means that pirates and those who participate in piracy acquire content that is deemed highly valuable or worth acquiring they just prefer to get it free instead of having to pay a cent for it. It used to be called the five finger discount and now it is called the p2p-click discount.

“instead of inventing wild justifications that you own and are owed money for copy that didn’t exist until somebody else created it.”

These wild justifications are the foundation of Intellectual Property Law agreed on by almost every nation in the world and enforced by agencies like the FBI.

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on September 29th, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

Harold, I’d like to present a couple of things for consideration. You wrote, ” I know that it’s actually impossible to be an expert in this many fields.”

In response I’d ask, how many fields can a person be an expert in? Four? Two? Or is it just possible that maybe some people can be an expert in more areas? Sometimes we look at our own perceived limitations and put them on others: “I can’t run a mile in under four minutes so nobody else can do it. I can’t be an expert in all those areas so nobody else can, either.” I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

You write, “I always look specifically to see which areas the author has written on, and if I see they are scattered like this, I know they are not experts but simply making a living by writing books.” You “know?” Respectfully, you’re actually making a guess based on your experience (we all do that). However that’s still a guess, not knowledge. It’s important to differentiate between true knowledge and guesswork, don’t you think?

On the other hand, you’ve found a system to help you determine whether you want to buy a particular book. If that works for you, it’s great…for you.

I fully agree with you that there are people who claim to be experts on topics and who are not. See my comment above about “IROBs.”

I remember many years ago attending a lecture on the Kabalah being held at a Synagogue. The lecture was to be given by a rabbi who was “an expert.” He came in 45 minutes late, never apologized for his tardiness, and spent another 45 minutes talking about a cat in a dark alley. To this day, I have no idea how that related to the Kabalah. Later, someone asked him about the Golem (which, IMO, is more folk magick that uses some Kabalistic elements) and the rabbi’s response was that he should forget it and just go to temple services regularly. I was quite disgusted and didn’t consider him an expert at all.

Just recently I attended a festival where a person with “decades of training and experience” gave a workshop on gem magick. She spent several minutes talking about sympathetic magick and showed me that she hadn’t even bothered to look up the actual meaning of the term.

Not only are there people who claim to be experts but who are not, there are also people who are acclaimed as experts, but who do not deserve that title.

Some time ago a well-known occultist wrote a book claiming that the word “Witch” came from a root meaning wicked or evil. I wrote to the publisher, telling them that this was untrue. The publisher sent my letter to the famous occultist whose response was “Who the hell is this guy?” and that he knew what he was talking about. I pointed out the error of his idea by quoting the O.E.D., and the publisher actually made a change to the book.

I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. I think another reason for the “everything belongs to me” attitude is associated with the internet and the assumption by many people that “if it’s posted, it’s free.” I’m a moderator on a forum about hypnosis, and too often people have simply copied pages from other websites even though the other website clearly states “may not be copied without written permission” or something similar. I have to delete the post with the copied material, and the person who posted it often ends up getting offended!

Written By Rose W
on September 29th, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

As an aside, I’d like to point out the “Fair Use” clause in the copyright laws. As long as any work, in whole or in part, is not reproduced for commercial purposes, Fair Use is in play unless expressly prohibited within the copyright statement on the work (may not be reproduced in any form, in whole or in part). There are different levels of copyright and the laws have been modified due to the digital age.

P2P sharing falls under “Fair Use” since no commercial purpose is being served.

Written By Kyle
on September 30th, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

I understand the frustration of buying crappy goods or crappy products, but as we really have so many resources today, (e.g., online book reviews, e-book lending, inter-library borrowing systems, etc.), the onus is really on the consumer to research to the best of his/her ability. Caveat emptor. If you get a crappy book, try returning it or selling it. If I don’t like my meal, I can’t tell a restaurant I won’t pay for it. Just don’t go back. If you’ve been burned by an author or publisher too much, take your money elsewhere. I was in college when the music downloading phenom hit big. It was very controversial among politicians, industry leaders, and talking heads, but most students I know did it. It was just too easy to click “download” and not feel the guilt the average person would feel sticking his hand in someone’s purse or snatching someone’s wallet when he wasn’t looking. I imagine it’s the same for stealing books. Now, yes, one can lend paper books and that’s ok, and libraries are now lending e-books. Yet, it’s the reproduction of it which becomes troublesome. If I lend a paperback book to a friend, that’s it, it goes no past him. But if I photocopy the book and give it out, that’s a different scenario. I was a college student, too, with no money, so I am sympathetic to poverty’s effect on buying costly books. Yet many students (or others) who justify downloading pirated books because of tight funds will still go out and spend money on other luxuries (food, drink, etc.) that might not be as easily “stealable.” (Not saying this student is spending his funds on that, but many who plead lack of funds as a rationale for stealing aren’t necessarily holding on to their money for “higher” reasons). Sometimes, we just waste money, and it’s a fact of life. The meal at the restaurant that wasn’t that good. The vacation that wasn’t that fun. Or the theft whose impact we have to grudgingly endure. Hey, we don’t like people taking our stuff…so why should we do it to others? Just ask yourself, if you spent the time and energy to pen a book, how would you feel when you found it being traded online for free after you’ve put a price tag on the back cover?

Written By Al
on October 1st, 2012 @ 1:03 am

Hey Don,

You’ve completely ignored the argument a number of times, I assume on purpose, that people don’t buy into the idea that duplication (legal or otherwise) of a digital work is the same, legally or morally, as the theft of physical objects from a person or persons.

If I steal your car (or a physical book), you lose the use of it. I’ve take the item and run off with it. If I (or anyone) duplicates a digital copy of your book (and it took me all of two seconds on a Russian site to find your books if I wanted them, which I don’t), you haven’t lost the use of anything. I haven’t taken anything from you except the *potential* for a sale, which I may or may not have done anyway.

That’s where the taco remarks above come from, of which you completely missed the point.

You can say “copying is theft” until you’re blue on the face but a sizable part of the public doesn’t agree with you and I’m not entirely sure that they’re wrong.

This is an infringement issue of copyright and intellectual property but there are quite a few folks (including some rather respectable philosophers) who reject the notion that there is any such thing as “intellectual property” that is of the same status as “physical property.” The conflation of the two, as has been pointed out, is normally done at the behest of certain legal entities but that doesn’t mean that just because people have set the law to be that way that people actually believe it.

Whether or not you “allow” people to copy your works, or those of others, it is going to be done. As Cory Doctorow has said more than once, it is never going to be MORE difficult than now to copy works. It only gets easier. Rather than whining, you need to start adjusting to the reality or do you think you can actually stop it from happening? How? By magic?

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on October 1st, 2012 @ 3:04 am

Hi, Al.

Thanks for your comment. I have on numerous occasions pointed out that some people believe that if they see something on the internet it is free to copy. I have explained that, as a moderator on another forum, I’ve had to delete pages that people copy, without authorization, from other websites. I do encourage them to put up links to those other websites, so I’m not trying to hide the information, just operating within legal limits.

So as I wrote, some people don’t know that pirating is illegal. Others know it and don’t care, as you put it, they “don’t buy into” it and “a sizable part of the public doesn’t agree with you.” Actually, most people do agree that theft is wrong. Just because some people feel they have no responsibility to the person who created something, the people who put in hard work publishing it, printing it, and don’t care that they’re stealing money from them and their families doesn’t make it right.

The disagreement I have with your argument is the same as with those who make the claim that “information wants to be free.” I agree with that. But there is a big difference between information (i.e. specific ideas), and the presentation of that information (words, pictures, etc.).

If you want to read a book and write a large paper analyzing it, revealing all of the concepts that it contains, I would encourage you to go for it. Further, I would encourage you to do that with as many books as possible, including mine.

That way you really can help the information to be free.

Just don’t steal someone else’s words.

Right now, with the proliferation of guns in the U.S., it’s getting easier and easier to kill people. That doesn’t make it right, nor does it make Doctorow’s comments valid.

More importantly, IMO, is the fact that a large part of magick is accepting personal responsibility for one’s actions. Failure to do so is the sign of a person not wanting to learn or practice magick, or be a magician.

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on October 1st, 2012 @ 3:15 am

Rose W., unfortunately your understanding of the “fair use” doctrine is not accurate. For those people interested in finding out the truth as to what type of copying falls under “fair use,” please see: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html

Fair use is NOT in play simply because you’re not making money from distribution of something. Nor is copying “in whole” ever covered under fair use. P2P is not covered under fair use unless such sharing of information falls under fair use terms.

I know some people feel that if they give away a hundred or a thousand copies of someone else’s work without paying for those copies, it’s okay.

Sorry, it’s not.

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on October 1st, 2012 @ 3:22 am

To all of the great people who have made comments on this thread, even if you disagree, I thank you very much!

Unfortunately, some comments are simply restatements or repetition of what was already said. If an argument (in the philosophical sense of making premises leading to a conclusion, not simply yelling “You’re wrong!”) has been made, there’s no reason to publish its repetition. As moderator of this blog I have made the decision that some comments have simply been restatements, so we haven’t posted them.

Thanks for your original comments and thanks to everyone for understanding. We want to keep this interesting!

Written By Al
on October 2nd, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

Once again, without acknowledging it, you attempt to reframe “copyright infringement” (aka “illegal copying”) as theft.

You haven’t proven that it is theft. Theft is when I steal something physical from you and remove it from your use. If I copy a file, it is an infraction of the law because of copyright laws. That doesn’t make it theft, even if you call it that over and over again.

The same goes for intellectual “property.”

If you can’t honestly admit that there are intelligent people that disagree with your fundamental biases, there isn’t much room to talk.

You really didn’t address my final point either. Given that it is NEVER going to be MORE difficult to copy files/books/music/etc. how do you plan to adjust to this reality? You can’t stop it with a blog post (nor with new laws, as it turns out).

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on October 2nd, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

Thanks for your comment, All.

I’ve never denied there are people who disagree with me. I don’t know why you invented that.

If you can copy a file without using something physical, including the chips it was on, the data stream that it is on, and the chips that store it, and if you can view it without using something physical such as a monitor, go for it.

I never denied that people are going to steal. What I am saying is that stealing other people’s work is still stealing. If you’re going to steal, that’s up to you. Rationalizing theft, of course, is what criminals frequently do.

More importantly, for magicians, self-responsibility and integrity are important aspects of understanding how magick works. Acknowledging that there are results from our actions is an important part of magick. Stealing things, including the words or sounds of others, from people who do not want them taken without people paying for them is still stealling.

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