The British novelist, who is president of the Society of Authors, has signed a joint letter to Business Secretary Greg Clark alongside 32 other concerned writers – including Doctor Who screenwriter Malorie Blackman, historian Sir Antony Beevor and playwright Sir Tom Stoppard.
“The growth of online book piracy has the potential to damage the legitimate book market and make it even harder for authors to make a living from their work,” the group said.
“This will harm writers and readers alike – if authors can no longer afford to write, the supply of new writing will inevitably dry up.”
The letter mentions research carried out by the Intellectual Property Office, which indicated that a sixth of ebooks read online in the UK in 2017 – the equivalent to around four million books – were pirated, as well as a survey last year that put the average earnings of a UK author at just £10,500 a year for their writing, according to the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society.
The writers warned that lack of efforts to tackle the problem could also have an impact on libraries which are already facing cuts and closures across the country.
“The UK’s great literary heritage has also been underpinned by a robust copyright regime,” the letter went on.
“Unfortunately this regime is not respected by online pirates, who flagrantly infringe copyright law by both copying our books and offering them for download.”
Sir Philip described piracy of books, music and other material “an offence against moral justice”.
“It’s the very opposite of freedom of speech, because it acts to prevent those who create beauty, knowledge, consolation or delight from earning even a modest living from their efforts,” he said.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said it has been working to find voluntary solutions to help reduce the amount of pirated material online.
A spokeswoman responded to the letter, saying: “This Government takes infringement of copyright very seriously, and we understand the damage this can do to authors’ livelihoods.
“The IPO will continue to work with authors, online market places and social media platforms to tackle this unacceptable behaviour, and agree ways of reducing this infringement.”