Protect yourself from book pirates: They’re more common than you think and they’re out to steal your work

This is a post by Pavarti K. Tyler

Thar Be Pirates in These Internets!

Avast thar maties, 'tis the hour to start payin' attention. Th' Internet be swimmin' wit' sharks ‘n others who would pillage ye! Whether it be actual band ‘o pirates stealin' ye work or conglomerate “lendin'” sites that slink under th' legal line, ye need to be aware ‘o ye rights, what ye can do, ‘n how ye can stop it from happenin'.

*cough*cough* – sorry about that…

There are two types of sites popping up all over the Internet: piracy sites that are selling your books without your permission or paying you royalties and Conglomerate Lending Sites, which are pulling together books from Amazon and offering “free” reads by lending them en masse. They are also linking back to Amazon for sales, by using an affiliate code, so they are making money off of having your book on their site. One is legal, one is not. But ethical questions arise from both.

Let's start with the Pirates.

Piracy is wrong. It's illegal under copyright law, and you have the right to take action. Although some sites think that being based outside of the US will protect them from prosecution, they are wrong. While there are no “international copyright laws” there are entire law firms that specialize in international copyright law and practice. The international waters are deep; however, most countries offer protection to foreign works under certain conditions by international copyright treaties and conventions. There are two principal international copyright conventions: the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Berne Convention) and the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC). [i]

I am NOT a lawyer and nothing in here should be taken as legal advice, but you do have rights. If you feel out of your element there are copyright lawyers you can contact, however, in most instances, knowing a few easy things will make a big difference.

1. Join other authors! Some authors have no issues with piracy. Many big names have come out and said they don't care because it just gets them more readers. While I'm inclined to give away free books for readers, personally I want the CHOICE. These sites are not seeking or receiving permission, they are stealing, this is wrong. If you want to join forces with other authors committed to fighting piracy, there are a number of groups online. I have found the Facebook group “No Pirates” to be extremely well educated and effective.

2. Know thy enemy! Look around for pirating sites others have already identified and see if your book is there. See if your friends' books are there. Well-known pirates are TUEBL and FranTech. I won't post links as I don't want to add to their SEO; however, the owner of TUEBL publicly admits to the piracy and is proud of it. He is located in Canada and thinks himself above the law.

3. Familiarize yourself with 17 USC 512(c)(3)(A)[ii]. Basically, if you cite this in a letter requesting your book be removed, the site is required to comply. Websites are supposed to have a page with their legal terms on it. Most of the time they will have the steps you need to take in order to have your book removed. Unfortunately most pirates ignore these requests. Nonetheless, go through the steps, document your actions, and then move forward from there.

4. Be professional! Do not, I repeat, DO NOT negotiate with pirates. Send your letter, notify the correct authorities, perhaps even notify local law enforcement where the site is located, but do not get yourself so upset that you behave in a way that could hurt you. I've seen people stalk pirates and even go so far as to contact their employers and relatives. Yes it's upsetting to have these things happen, but there are legal and reasonable ways to handle it, don't become a pirate yerself. Once ye do that thar's no goin' back.

How is a Conglomerate Lending Site different?

As far as I can tell a Conglomerate Lending Site (CLS) is not technically illegal. These sites pull together listings of books on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and either allow members to “lend” books to each other or link to the lending libraries of the originating sites. This is not like a library. Libraries have to purchase the books they lend and have certain criteria for how they are run (I am not an expert on this but I know there are rules and contracts with publishers and distributors about library distribution). It is also NOT like lending a book to a friend. It's like lending a book to 5,000 friends who don't have to pay for the book. There is a huge difference.

1. Decide how you feel about lending through Amazon. Amazon allows you to decide if you allow your books to be lent. The terms are that it can be lent for 14 days once a month and while it is lent the original reader cannot access it. On the surface, by individuals, this seems fine to me. However, if you allow lending, you are opening yourself to your book being legally used by a CLS. They take advantage of this by getting thousands of “lenders” and “borrowers” together or maximize how the books are shared. By doing this they are skirting the ethical line of Amazon's lending terms. Remember, you are getting NO royalties by this.

2. Play nice. In general CLSs are not run by the criminals who run pirate sites. Consider your interactions with them differently. Usually a simple letter is enough to have your books removed. These sites ARE legal (although ethically questionable) and your behavior should be in accordance with asking a business to comply with your reasonable request.

3. Same as Above: Familiarize yourself with 17 USC 512(c)(3)(A)[iii]. Basically, if you cite this in a letter requesting your book be removed the site is required to comply. Websites are supposed to have a page with their legal terms on it. Most of the time they will have the steps you need to take in order to have your book removed.

4. Follow the Money. Although CLSs may be legal, they are also a money making scheme. Books not available for lending are still listed, linking to you book on the sale site with their affiliate code embedded. Again, not illegal, but done en masse a great way to rake in a lot of buried treasure.

So what can you do?

Send a copyright infringement letter requesting that your book be removed. By legal terms, as I understand it, this should be all you have to do for any legal, illegal, domestic or international site. We all know criminals aren't likely to comply easily when there's money to be made, but your best first step is by following the rules. Here is a sample letter you are welcome to use and customize for your book:

[jbox]Copyright Agent of COMPANY
LEGAL ADDRESS

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to 17 USC 512(c)(3)(A), this communication serves as a statement that:

(1). I am the duly authorized representative of the exclusive rights holder, AUTHOR'S NAME

FULL BOOK TITLE

  • Format:
  • File Size:
  • Print Length:
  • Simultaneous Device Usage:
  • Publisher:
  • Sold by:
  • Language:
  • ASIN/ISBN:

FOR MORE THAN ONE TITLE COPY AND REPEAT THE ABOVE

(2). These exclusive rights are being violated by material available upon your site at the following URL(s):

POST URLs HERE

(3) I have a good faith belief that the use of this material in such a fashion is not authorized by the copyright holder, the copyright holder's agent, or the law;

(4) Under penalty of perjury in a United States court of law, I state that the information contained in this notification is accurate, and that I am authorized to act on the behalf of the exclusive rights holder for the material in question;

(5) I may be contacted by the following methods at the email address this email is sent from. Here is my representatives information:

INCLUDE MAILING AND EMAIL ADDRESS

I hereby request that you remove or disable access to this material as it appears on your service in as expedient a fashion as possible. Thank you for your kind cooperation.

Regards,

FULL NAME 
[/jbox]

As with everything, we Indies have to do all these things ourselves. My friends with publishers are able to get other people to send these letters and deal with the ethical lines between Pirates and Conglomerate Lending Sites. As I have heard from my published author friends, most publishers do not support CLSs. However, the time it takes to track down your books and take care of these issues is just one more thing in the giant pot of work Indie authors have to do instead of writing. It's a huge frustration and time suck. Hopefully by joining together, watching out for other authors, and dealing with these sites as they pop up, we can work to eliminate them.

It's amazing to think anyone would steal from us. My first royalty check back when I released Consumed by Love was $0.32. Fortunately my royalties have grown since then, but I'm not raking in millions (or thousands, or most of the time even hundreds). The idea that anyone would be stealing my $0.32 is infuriating and so unfair it makes me want to scream. I'm sure it does for you too. So let's stay together on this, it's a long road but we have to be vigilant. Post any pirates you find on the Novel Publicity Network or Author Karma groups on Facebook, and let's make this amazing community work to protect all of us.

[jbox][i] http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl100.html

[ii] http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap5.html

[iii] http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap5.html
[/jbox] Pavarti K Tyler, Marketing Department DirectorAbout this post’s author:

Pavarti K Tyler is an artist, wife, mother and number cruncher. She graduated Smith College in 1999 with a degree in theatre. After graduation, she moved to New York, where she worked as a dramaturge, assistant director and production manager on productions both on and off Broadway. Later, Pavarti went to work in the finance industry as a freelance accountant for several international law firms. She now operates her own accounting firm in the Washington DC area, where she lives with her husband, two daughters and two terrible dogs. When not preparing taxes, she is busy working as the director of marketing at Novel Publicity and penning her next novel. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.

 

 

Vanessa

This post inspired me to add a board to our forums where users can share details of pirate sites, so the rest of us know to avoid them. Thanks for a great post!

    Pavarti K Tyler

    Great! Thanks for looking out for other authors and doing that!

      Vanessa

      I’m glad to. Close friends of mine have had their work stolen, and it’s really more devastating than others realise. If enough of us look out for each other, it’ll reduce this type of theft quite a bit, IMHO.

Grace Burrowes

Many thanks–hadn’t seen a good summary of the CLS to date. And maybe it’s obvious but somebody had to tell me: To find these sites, you set up google alerts for your pen name and titles, and many of them will pop up.

    Pavarti K Tyler

    Grace, yes! Thank you for the reminder, all authors should set up google alerts for their names and titles.

Karleene Morrow, Author

Well done, Pavarti. Thanks for the heads up on this one.

Peter Koevari

As a fellow author, I faced this same question myself when I found that my book was not only requested to be pirated, but being pirated.

I could have reacted like you have above… and I have seen people do that. First of all, we would be fighting a war that cannot be won. RIAA have been trying for years, and people have been taken to court and had their lives ruined for downloading a game from the internet.

Does it stop piracy? No. It ruins the lives of random individuals to make an example. Heck, those companies may as well have been living in medieval times and putting heads on spikes.

Many pirate news sites and torrent sites would not give a damn about us sending them letters, or to their admin. They host their sites in countries where they can get away with it. What it does do, is make pirates want to target us more. If they ignore the demanding letter with our rights on it… then what?

I don’t agree with piracy or like that people pirate our books, but it’s going to happen… whether we spend all of our time on fighting something we can’t win, or not. I mean, seriously, what are you going to do? Invest your time into taking some random person in some random country to court for downloading your $3.99 eBook?

I ended up with a very different take on piracy and how to deal with it… you can read it here: http://peterkoevari.com/blog/authors-and-piracy-ebooks-on-the-high-seas/

My take on piracy is not for everyone, but I accept that the world is the way it is and I cannot change it. There will always be people will pirate, and have done so since the invention of the photocopier and VCR. I am trying to remove the *need* for pirating my books… after all, if there is no need to pirate, why would they do it?

I have also heard (and some readers had commented on my site) that taking a positive spin on pirates has got them far more sales, reviews, etc.

Having said that, if someone re-published my book with their name on it… *that* is something worth spending all my time chasing and fighting.

Peter Koevari

    Vanessa

    Not to be offensive, but if the women of South Africa (just a few decades ago) thought about their lack of rights the way you feel about being ‘unable to stop piracy’, South African women would still be mere objects and possessions, not real people with real rights, and the same would apply to dark-skinned South Africans of both sexes. I disagree that piracy cannot be stopped – it’s just that not enough of us are fighting it at one go.

      Peter Koevari

      Vanessa… No offense either, but comparing human rights of Africans and women to a battle against piracy, they have nothing to do with each other.

      Feel free to spend your life waging war on piracy. I don’t defend piracy, I just choose to handle it differently… Which is my human right to choose how I want to respond to it. We all have our own choices to make.

      But let me ask you this… When you battle these pirates and wave the banner of rights to take them all down, have you looked yourself in the mirror and put your hand on your heart and can honestly say that in your life, you have never copied a single thing, never downloaded anything considered pirated, never photocopied anything copyrighted, never downloaded a copyrighted song, never copied a VCR movie, never recorded anything off TV (check their rights, if you did… You are actually committing piracy), and are whistle clean?

      If you can honestly say that, you are a modern day Mother Theresa and power to you… But if not, then the question of hypocrisy comes to mind. A lot of people are fine with what they copy and pirate until their ebooks suffer the same fate.

      You can choose to react how you want to, but I wouldn’t compare sending letter to stop ebook piracy to liberation of women and African rights.

      Each to their own about how they handle this and all power to you. I hope you take down pirate sites… But considering that multi billion dollar organizations can’t do it, I have no idea what vision you have to get it done.

      I shared my opinion honestly and felt that I was attacked for doing so and offering an opinion that differs to yours. Is your opinion the only right one?

      Peace

      Peter Koevari

      P.s. 😉 I do respect your opinion and live and let live. Life is too short to spend it arguing and equally, complaining about things we can’t change. What we can change is how we adapt. I would rather spend my time promoting my books. Be it to pirates… So be it, they are still human beings, not animals, and i don’t consider them criminals. They are obviously doing something “wrong” though. But this is solely my opinion and individual approach to it all, I don’t expect everyone to agree.

        Vanessa

        I agree that life is too short, but I disagree that nothing can be done about it and that we should sit back and take it. Why should I adapt? Why should I allow people to steal my hard work and make money from it while I sit here battling to make ends meet? Should we do the same with rapists and murderers, since we can do nothing to stop their actions either? There is always something that can be done if enough people are passionate enough about it. They are law breakers and that makes them criminals.

    Pavarti K Tyler

    Peter, I know a number of authors who feel the say you do. Neil Gaiman for example is fine with pirating. I think this is one of those things where yuo have to take stock of what’s important to you, how much time you have, and how much energy you can invest. The decision about whether to pursue a pirating site or not is then really personal. Thanks for sharing the other side of the coin.

Vanessa

It’s actually a perfect example – if you think you can, you can, and if you think you can’t, you can’t. It’s a fact, and it’s that simple.

I love the assumptions you make about me to ‘prove your point’ – you don’t know me and have no right to make those assumptions, and that is all they will ever be. This type of attitude is what keeps the pirates going.

    Peter Koevari

    I love that you agree with yourself and aren’t open to anyone else’s opinions. I see this conversation as pointless from herein. I will spend my time elsewhere rather than respond to trolls… Don’t know why I bothered. You don’t know me either, do you?

    Cya

      Vanessa

      Your last comment is proof that you have no respect for my opinion and are more interested in changing it than listening to it. I won’t be wasting my time reading any more of your silly judgements. Cheers and thanks for wasting everyone’s time promoting THIEVES.

        Peter Koevari

        Lmao telling me I am judging and then judging me to be promoting thieves. Do you listen to yourself? Or are you just too caught up with the sound of your own voice?

        Of course, anyone who doesn’t think like you is wrong and promoting thieves, right? What a single minded attitude. You comment on this blog as if you own it. You are just some random person to me, but you did waste enough of my time along the way.

        I listened to you.. You only listen to yourself.

        I have wasted enough time, go find someone else to enjoy arguing with. Or better yet, why even have a conversation if you are the only one with an opinion that matters.

          Vanessa

          Look at yourself insulting me just because I have a different opinion. Shame on you. I’ve now marked this blog as spam thanks to your presence on it. Go be judgemental somewhere els – you’re far too full of yourself to be any sort of accurate judge of others.

          Vanessa

          Look at yourself insulting me just because I have a different opinion. Shame on you. I’ve now marked this blog as spam thanks to your presence on it. Go be judgemental somewhere else – you’re far too full of yourself to be any sort of accurate judge of others.

        Peter Koevari

        Oh you know what? I finally get it. It’s okay for you to insult someone else, but how *dare* they reply back. It’s okay for others to have an opinion, but not if it differs from yours…

        Thanks for marking the post 🙂 I am glad the site owners can see what is going on here. Don’t worry, my presence will be very much gone from this site…

        For anyone else who thinks to comment on this blog… Lord help you if you have an opinion that differs. If so, you are obviously promoting thieves! (facepalm)

reebokfred

Peter, I understand what you are saying but unfortunately the pirates are counting on your “Oh well, can’t do anything to stop them” attitude, and they interpret it that most writers don’t really care *that* much if their work is pirated. Thus, the pirates divide writers into the “cool ones” who are tolerant of piracy, and the “villains” who actually expect to be paid for their work. If that is allowed to continue, it will not be long before pirating is the MAJORITY and books are *expected* to be free. Writers will become like musicians, where there is essentially no way to earn a living at their craft unless they are one of the very few A-listers. Pirates need to learn that they don’t have a right to be “offended” by writers who refuse to be cheated out of their royalties. Only DRAMATIC consequences (such as the over-the-top, life-ruining lawsuits) actually do anything to frighten anyone. More of these are necessary, as appealing to reason and decency clearly doesn’t work. It’s unfortunate, but fear is the only thing that makes any sort of impact.

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