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:

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 

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.

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

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

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


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.

 

 


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