PRO’s and CON’s of Fighting Book Piracy

The CON in Publishing

The Verge reported a year ago: “Google received just over 75 million DMCA-related takedown requests in the month of MARCH, representing a new high. The rate at which requests to take down these sites have grown is truly staggering. Compare that to 2014, when Google handled 345 million requests for the entire year.”

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Scam Sites
This Year, the numbers might be even higher… Alone in the United States, publishers are losing sales in the vicinity of $80 to $100 million thanks to book piracy.  David Kudler wrote in an article:
“It’s amazing how much money some people will risk getting a $2.99 e-book for “free.” Essentially, it’s the Nigerian Oil Scam using “free” e-books as the lure. The scam counts on the scammer knowing that they’re doing something dishonest and therefore taking chances they wouldn’t take on a legitimate site. The site requests a credit card number but assures you that it won’t be used. Then you find out that you not only can’t get the content you wanted to download, but now you can’t stop your credit card from getting charged — sometimes a few dollars a month (so you don’t notice), and sometimes thousands of dollars.”  Or they use the site to spread viruses to the internet.

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Fighting, Suing – Or Just Let Go?
There are many “real” piracy sites – unfortunately, there is not much you can do — they are mostly operating out of countries where US and European intellectual property owners are not bound, e.g. China, India, Russia, Vietnam, or some exotic islands.  They can create hundreds of URLs that seem to offer your book, often linking to other sites.
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Seeing it as Book Exposure?
Someone downloads your e-book may end up buying one of your other books later on. After all, using Amazon’s KDP Select, allowing people to download your title for 5 days in a 3-months period is technically almost the same as getting your book downloaded via pdf free download. It gives your book and you as an author exposure

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David Kudler: “You can take some solace in the thought that your fans are showing enough interest to track down your book. If you’re feeling particularly daring, you can use P2P sharing and file-sharing forums to distribute promotional freebies — free excerpts, prequel stories, etc.  Include links and other promotional calls-to-action in the e-book to drive readers toward your site, where you can give them incentives to sign up for your email list by giving them more freebies.  You’ll turn these erstwhile pirates into fans by creating a relationship with them.  There are some incredibly successful authors doing just this, among them Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow and Guy Kawasaki.”
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Helen Sedwick,  author and copyright lawyer in California suggests in her article:
“Sooner or later, every writer or blogger will find her work reposted or republished without permission.  Those sites, offering cheap or free PDF’s, are typically scams downloading malware or stealing credit card numbers. Anyone who clicks through on those sites was unlikely to buy your book anyway…
Don’t get caught up in a game of whack-a-mole.  While it’s upsetting to see your work stolen, the theft may have very few economic consequence to you.  You could waste a lot of time chasing these low-lives.  As soon as you deal with one, others may pop up.  Your energy may be better spent creating new work and finding new readers.”

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Here Are Some Useful Tips From WikiHow:

Preventative Measures

Encrypt Your eBooks and Manuscript Files
There are encryption programs, such as LockLizzard  or EditionGuard available for e-books that will only allow the file to be read by authorized users.  This can help prevent a transfer of the original file because the file wouldn’t be readable to anyone but the original purchaser.
This method wouldn’t protect your book because anyone can make a screen photo of each page and sell that as a pirated copy.  There may be some e-book retailers that don’t support encryption, which could limit the availability of your book.

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Track Your Books, Using Watermarks
Trade publishers are protecting their e-books with invisible watermarks and you may have similar security available as a self-publisher. While the watermark technology doesn’t prevent anyone from pirating your book, it does allow you to track the copy of your book. The watermark isn’t visible and is more like a tracking code embedded in the book code. Anti-piracy services scan the internet for the code and report when a pirated copy of your book is found.
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Don’t Allow File Sharing
Readers who purchase your e-book can share it with a friend. If you turn this option at online retailers off, people won’t be able to share your book. Prohibiting file sharing is a double-edged sword because you are losing the opportunity to gain a new reader! Someone who borrows a book from a friend may end up buying one of your other books later on, so if you have numerous titles planned, allow file sharing on your early books.

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Here is What You Can Do If Your Book is Pirated:

It’s YOUR Copyright!
As an author, you are responsible for uncovering pirates and enforcing your copyright by filing a lawsuit. Set search alerts for your name and your book’s title, and for unique text strings that appear in the first 10% and last 10% of the book through Google Alerts.

It’s a good idea to search for yourself once a month – not only for your titles but also for significant expressions in your manuscript. And if you find pirated copies of your book, do not click any links or the download page, you might get a virus. These pages can be moved or deleted easily. Gather evidence of the piracy. Type the main page of the seller in a separate search, and try to get as much information as you can about the website, make screen shots, and bookmark the page.

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Collect Evidence of the Pirated Work.
Monitor the internet for your work and immediately report pirated copies you see. Pirates also will scan print books to make digital copies. Take screen shots, write down direct web addresses, and get web archive copies if possible. Research the site’s visibility, how much traffic does it get? Run a search for the website’s main URL at
https://www.prchecker.info/check_page_rank.php for Google PageRank, and for Alexa Rank.
These sites will give you information on the site’s traffic and how high up the page would appear in search results and an idea of how many people potentially have downloaded a pirated copy of your work.

Find the owner of the domain through the WHOIS domain registry at https://whois.icann.org/en. It will tell you who has registered that domain. If the owner hasn’t enabled identity-blocking, it will give you their address, phone number, email address, and IP address.
If the domain owner has an identity-blocking service enabled, the information you get will be the address and contact information of the domain registrar, not the individual owner. However, you can still use this information to contact the registrar regarding the pirated copies.

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Send a Cease-and-Desist Letter
Here is a template for such a letter:
https://jux.law/cease-desist-letter-template-example-sample-forms/#copyright
If you were able to find the owner of the domain, write a polite letter informing them of the pirated copies of your book available on their website. Take the attitude of assuming that they were unaware of the piracy, and will be willing to work with you.

In your first communication avoid accusing them of stealing your work, and don’t threaten a lawsuit.  Simply provide information about the piracy you’ve found and ask them to work with you to rectify the situation.  Give the owner a deadline to respond, but remain informal. You may get a response that is less than helpful. They may blatantly refuse or they may ignore your letter.  In that case, you may want to talk to an attorney and send a more formal letter.

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Google Can Take-Down the Web Link
Send take-down notices to search engines, such as Google and Bing. Ask them to stop linking to your pirate book on those sites. Include information that proves that you are the copyright owner of the intellectual property in question — and you need to do it for every single pirate link.

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Get Help from Social Media
Social media sites like YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Facebook have online forms for reporting infringement and sending takedown notices. Look under links titled Legal, Copyright, Report a Problem, or Help.

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Contact Their Web Host
In the U.S., the law requires web hosts, such as WordPress or BlueHost, to have a DMCA agent who can be notified regarding pirated content. Find the link to their copyright page. You’ll find a form you can fill out to notify the site’s DMCA agent. You must provide your name, address, and phone number, along with your copyright information, as well as about the pirated content. The DMCA agent will review your notice and if they agree with you, they’ll remove the content themselves. You’ll typically hear back from them within a day or two.
Contact the domain registrar and hosting company.  If you can find the name of the company that registered the domain or provides hosting services for the website, they also may be obligated to take down pirated content.  Companies located in the United States are required to remove pirated content if they are notified of it.  Send copies of your takedown request to the domain registrar and hosting company.

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Amazon Will Compensate You
According to the Kindle Direct Publishing Terms of Service
5.7 Rights Clearances and Rights Dispute Resolution:
“ If you notify us through the procedure we provide on the applicable Amazon Property for making claims of copyright infringement that a third party has made a Digital Book available for distribution through the Program (or for distribution in a particular territory through the Program) that you have the exclusive right to make available under the Program, then, upon your request and after verification of your claim, we will pay you the Royalties due in connection with any sales of the Digital Book through the Program, and will remove the Digital Book from future sale through the Program, as your sole and exclusive remedy.”
But you need to file a notice of copyright infringement through Amazon’s online form or through written communication with Amazon’s legal department. Their rules, addresses, and contacts can be found at their dedicated website for copyright infringement of digital books.
However, their subsidiary company CreateSpace does not!

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PayPal Might Help Too
WikiHow: “File a report with the payment processing company.  Some payment processing companies, such as PayPal, will ban or suspend users who receive money for pirated content. If the website you found is taking money for pirated copies of your work, you can potentially take away their ability to make any money off of it while you evaluate your other options.
Look on the website for logos of payment processing companies they use. Go to that company’s website and look for a legal or copyright link that will give you the information you need to file your report.”

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Contact Their Advertisers
Jennifer Mattern, a top blogger on freelance issues, suggests you contact the site’s advertisers as well. But you have to be 100% certain the site is actually infringing your work, otherwise it could backfire.

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Follow-Up on Your Infringement Reports
Just because a website or host removes a particular link or page, there’s no guarantee that the pirates won’t simply repost your content.  It also won’t stop them from going to another website and uploading the same content there.  Keep up with intense monitoring of the internet and revisit sites periodically to make sure the pirated content doesn’t return.
Without proper protection, work you have created could end up making money for someone else. Photographer Jeremy Nicholl wrote: “Some time ago I began registering all my photographs with the US Copyright Office.  Like all photographers, I have witnessed a massive increase in theft of my work in recent years.  And, like others I have found it difficult, if not impossible, to get reasonable compensation for these infringements, especially if the infringer is in a foreign country.  But one country, the US, provides very hefty penalties for copyright theft – so long as the work has been registered prior to the infringement in question”.

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However, this is all theory – if the theft is committed in a country where suing is very difficult and costly – or the criminals cannot be caught, or don’t have the means to pay penalties. Read more about copyright registration here

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Register Your Copyright
If you still aren’t able to get rid of pirated copies of your book on the internet, you can sue the pirates for copyright infringement. The registration of your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office has to be before you find out about the criminal actions. Be aware that it can take as long as eight months to process! Better start as soon as your e-book is available in .pdf, .epub or .mobi version – even before it is uploaded to online retailers.

To file your copyright, you can find registration applications and instructions at the Copyright Office website at and you don’t need an attorney to register a copyright. The application is simple and you can complete it online in a few minutes. If you’re the only author of your book, the filing fee is only $35 (by credit or debit card), provided you complete your application online. The copyright registration application must be accompanied by electronic copies of your work, which will be filed with the Library of Congress.

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Legal Proceedings
If you’ve exhausted all other options, such as take-downs by Google, Amazon or the web host of the pirate’s site, you may want to consider suing in court. If you lose considerable amounts of book sales, hire an attorney who specializes in filing copyright infringement lawsuits, and get their opinion on your case. K eep in mind: Federal court proceedings are time-consuming, expensive, and stressful.  Think about it: Is it worth the effort, suing pirates for copyright infringement?  It means you could spend thousands of dollars on legal fees before your case even gets a trial date.  Consider it as a last resort, or if they’ve been selling thousands of pirated copies of your work and made a lot of money.
One law firm that is specialized in copyright law is Hoffman in NYC, but you will find them in almost every state. There are websites, such as Findlaw.com that sort them by cities too. Some lawyers will even work for you on a contingency agreement for a percentage of any settlement; as long as you have registered your writing or your image correctly.
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How Much Can You Charge:
What’s An Infringement Worth? Attorney Carolyn E. Wright who is a specialist in copyright law has an interesting graphic on her website that shows the average amount of damages the perpetrator has to pay:

  • Actual Damages
  • Statutory Damages
  • Ordinary Licence Fee
  • Profits
  • Fine
  • Attorneys fees & costs

If you are an author in the U.S.A.: copyright laws allow punishment for removal or alteration of copyright information a substantial statutory damage – $2,500 – $25,000 – for each image or text.

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Don’t forget: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. And: copyright infringement can even be a source of income for you if you charge the thieves : )

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Resources:
http://johndopp.com/writers/amazon-will-compensate-victims-of-piracy/
http://inkwelleditorial.com/prevent-ebook-theft
http://www.savvybookwriters.com/why-registering-your-copyright/
http://www.wikihow.com/Combat-Book-Piracy
http://www.toptenreviews.com/software/security/best-encryption-software/
http://www.toptenreviews.com/software/security/best-mac-encryption-software/
http://www.savvybookwriters.com/outsmart-thieves-of-your-content-part-1/
http://www.savvybookwriters.com/outsmart-thieves-of-your-content-part-2/

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To learn more about professional book marketing and publishing,
please read also “111 Tips on How to Market Your Book for Free”
https://www.amazon.com/Tips-Market-Your-Book-Free-ebook/dp/B018RA72LY

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