We all know how Harry Potter has been pirated. But how about The Last Unicorn?
It’s a beloved story that millions of young people and others might read online someday if it were there legally—which it isn’t now, due to piracy fears, just like the Potter series.
My search for illegal Unicorns
I decided to find out after Beagle recently appeared on the podcast of TeleRead contributor Chris Meadows. Beagle’s publisher Connor Cochran also was on the show along with novelist Diane Duane. Among other topics, people discussed piracy, DRM, and fears that pirates could circumvent electronic safeguards.
Connor Cochran said he had just discovered a pirated Spanish e-book edition of The Last Unicorn available on the Web. “You make an e-book edition and you greatly increase the chance of that happening,” Cochran said of piracy, “at least currently.” He also said that he was “theoretically in favor of” e-book availability but was “waiting for the economics to shift.” Chris Meadows stated that “if somebody wants an electronic copy of The Last Unicorn, the only way they can get it right now is to go to peer-to-peer network and download it illicitly.”
A timely issue
So was he right? Could you actually find The Last Unicorn on P2P? Speaking more broadly, does the non-existence of an official e-book edition in English reduce the prevalence of pirate copies? This same general topic has been discussed in the past and recently at TeleRead. Fans have implored mega-bestselling author J. K. Rowling to allow e-book editions of the Harry Potter Series. Apparently the author and publisher are afraid of pirate copies and have blocked legal e-book editions. To sway Rowling, the posters suggested the innovative gambit of giving a Sony e-book reader to her daughter to sway the mother.
The results of the Unicorn search
But how about Beagle’s situation with his Unicorn? Below are the results of performing searches at several pirate conclaves and swapping spots. These locations are not really hidden. In fact they are widely known and are used by millions of Internet connected individuals. The searches were not narrowly restricted to e-books.
1) Beagle’s The Last Unicorn is indeed available in e-book form. At one venue the e-book is packaged together with several classics of children’s literature, e.g., The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White, and The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
2) The Last Unicorn audiobook is available. The format is a collection of MP3 files.
3) “Two Hearts” by Peter S. Beagle is available as an e-text. This highly-praised sequel story just won the Hugo award.
4) The Last Unicorn animated movie from 1982 is available. This beautiful film has been converted to DivX format and has been ripped from a DVD with English and German tracks.
5) The Last Unicorn movie soundtrack album is available. It is based on the German import edition.
Searches done within the law
I have not downloaded these pirate items, and the descriptions given are based on information that may not be reliable. Also, the e-book was probably created by scanning a paper book. The scanning process usually introduces large numbers of glitches that look like typos and misprints. I do not know if proofreaders have attempted to remove these problems.
Nevertheless, it appears that the lack of an official edition has not been a powerful deterrent to piracy in this case. Also, I think one can safely conclude that the pirates are certainly busy.
Important: As should be quite clear, this article is not meant to condone piracy and no details on searching or downloading will be provided here. If you enjoy Peter Beagle’s work please support him. Here are links to the Conlan Press website and Peter S. Beagle Web site.