Paulo Coelho destroys piracy myths

Paulo Coelho, hotography by Xavier González.

Writer Paulo Coelho has yet again expressed his positive opinions on file sharing, now more than ever before, in a recent blog post.

”As an author, I should be defending ‘intellectual property’, but I’m not. Pirates of the world, unite and pirate everything I’ve ever written!”

Coelho is right on every point he makes in the post. Let’s check off the list with common piracy myths, and see what Mr. Coelho has to say.

Piracy myth #1: Books would never be written if the authors couldn’t expect to make money.

”In the former Soviet Union, in the late 1950s and 60s, many books that questioned the political system began to be circulated privately in mimeographed form. Their authors never earned a penny in royalties. On the contrary, they were persecuted, denounced in the official press, and sent into exile in the notorious Siberian gulags. Yet they continued to write.

Why? Because they needed to share what they were feeling. From the Gospels to political manifestos, literature has allowed ideas to travel and even to change the world.

”[W]as it the desire to make money that drove me to write? No. My family and my teachers all said that there was no future in writing.”

Not Coelho's drawing, but it could as well have been.

Piracy myth #2: Piracy equals to stealing.

”When you’ve eaten an orange, you have to go back to the shop to buy another. In that case, it makes sense to pay on the spot. With an object of art, you’re not buying paper, ink, paintbrush, canvas or musical notes, but the idea born out of a combination of those products.”

Piracy myth #3: If people can download books or music for free, they won’t pay for them.

”The more often we hear a song on the radio, the keener we are to buy the CD. It’s the same with literature.

The more people ‘pirate’ a book, the better. If they like the beginning, they’ll buy the whole book the next day, because there’s nothing more tiring than reading long screeds of text on a computer screen.”

”In 1999, when I was first published in Russia ( with a print- run of 3,000), the country was suffering a severe paper shortage. By chance, I discovered a ‘ pirate’ edition of The Alchemist and posted it on my web page.
A year later, when the crisis was resolved, I sold 10,000 copies of the print edition. By 2002, I had sold a million copies in Russia, and I have now sold 12 million.”

Bravo. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

(my added bolding of the quotes)

Chinese idiom of the day: 噤若寒蝉 – as quiet as a cicada in winter

When thinking of Chinese turns of phrase or idioms, 噤若寒蝉 (jìnruòhánchán) is probably of the type that springs to mind. It literally means ”as silent as a cicada in winter”. Comparisons with plants or insects (like the cikada) is fairly sterotypical of East Asian languages like Chinese and Japanese, while they’re practically non-existent in most Western languages.

The last two words (寒蝉) put together mean ”a cicada in winter”, but as with many Chinese words they can mean several related things. In this case they cold also refer to the sound of cicadas in winter, as well as any mournful sound that is reminiscent of it (this is fairly common, the same is done with the sound of geese). The word 蝉 alone means ”cicada”, while 寒 means something like ”cold”.

The idiom is fairly clear in its meaning – to be dead quiet, for whatever reason. This especially covers being too scared to speak, for example because of hiding.

PS. Half way through the article I realised ”cicada” is spelt with a C and not a K. I’m still very disappointed, cikada looks much cooler than cicada. DS.


This is part three of my series on Chinese idioms, read more here or check out all previous idioms here.
If you enjoy the idioms and want to read more, please go buy Pan Weigui’s book, it’s fairly cheap and definitely worth it.