I've been trying to blog about this for several days. It is one of the few times I've been truly ashamed to be an author. I do feel like someone on the day after a lynching, wondering how something quite innocent could have gone so terribly wrong and who was to blame.
It started last week when someone (and it's hard to pin down the first post or tweet) started sending out messages and posting on forums and tweeting that LendInk was a "pirate" site with pirated novels on it. I took a brief look, saw that this was incorrect and didn't pay much attention to it at first.
So what WAS LendInk doing and why wasn't it piracy?
Well, when you buy an eBook from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, you are allowed to loan it one time for up to two weeks. While it is on loan it is not available on your Kindle or Nook. So a number of sites out there put together someone who has an eBook they are willing to lend with someone who would like to borrow it. The sites do not have the files; they act as, in effect, matchmakers. There is nothing either illegal or immoral about this. Hell, it's not even fattening!
On several of the popular writers forums, some of us such as Amanda Brice, Victorine Leiske and I amongst several others, were trying to explain this to fellow writers--and our explanations were falling on deaf ears. In the meantime, on Twitter the accusations went viral. Without bothering to check, author after author tweeted accusations that the site was pirating. It turned into a virtual mob (no pun) going after this business man. (I'm not naming names but it doesn't take much research to know the biggest offenders.) According to the LendInk owner, things even went so far as having threats of violence made against him and his family.
Then to make things even "better" as a response to the heavy influx of angry traffic and DMCA notices, the service providers took down the site. The fact that there was no truth to the accusations and no copyright violation anywhere on the site didn't matter. Not only were they NOT pirating, the site had links to Amazon and B&N where the novels could be purchased if they weren't available for a borrow.
In fact, having your book listed there was a GOOD thing, just as it is a good thing to have neighbors lending your book because they enjoyed it or people checking it out of the library. First: It was perfectly legal. Second: It is how people find new authors.
But what upsets me... What has me really angry is that there are still authors out there defending what they did! They put the man who owned it out of business by what is basically a mob action and they have NO shame. The worst I saw was on Critique Circle forums where some of this mob action was formed and where I WAS a long time member.
Not any more. I do not want to be any part of the writers' community that behaves in this fashion.
Addendum: I read on the site owner's Facebook page that the site hosts have offered to restore LendInk. After the threats to himself and his family as well as the stress of the last week, he apparently has decided not to restore it. I can hardly blame him.