Since the development of the e-book and its growing popularity, the problem of piracy has become pervasive. The reason is that it is easy to copy and pass on ebooks, and a growing number of piracy sites have made these available. And many other sites which sell ebooks for authors and publishers have pirated books uploaded by others and they remain there, until the site owner is made aware that the material is pirated and is asked to take it down.
Even using digital rights management (DRM) does little good, although it is designed to prevent a user from transferring a file from one platform to another or sharing that file with others.
However, pirates can easily break that code. Also, it is now relatively inexpensive to scan a print copy of a book to make a digital file. I had a series of books scanned for only $2.50 a book, since the cut up pages can be put through an automatic feeder; there is no longer any need to scan them by hand.
Another difficulty in stopping piracy is that the dedicated pirate sites are often located in other countries, and the owners of these sites can easily put up new sites under another name. Moreover, once a book is pirated by one site, it can easily be spread to multiple sites – making the problem of getting one’s books off of pirated sites like a game of whack-a-mole – hit the mole down at one site, and it quickly pops up in another.
So what can you do to protect yourself from piracy? While you probably can’t overcome the problem entirely, here are some things you can do.
1) Register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, which is easy to register online for only $35 for a single application; $55 for two or more authors. This registration will give you the authorization to send out takedown notices, though trying to enforce a copyright through legal action is unlikely.
2) Inform your publisher to send out a takedown notice or send out this notice yourself to the website owner. If the owner does not respond in a reasonable time, say 10 days, send the takedown notice to the service hosting the website. Normally, the hosting service will take down any infringing material within a few days, since if it doesn’t the service can risk being shut down or being blocked by search engines. You can also send a notice to Google about the violation of your copyright, since Google will lower the search rankings of websites that sustain a number of complaints, and if they get enough complaints, they will block those sites entirely. There are specific requirements for what to include in these notices which you can find online or in my book THE BATTLE AGAINST INTERNET BOOK PIRACY.
3) Find ways to adapt to this piracy to promote your writing or sell other materials, such as by including information in your books that direct those reading them to your website where you have other protected materials for sale or you are selling your writing services to others. Some writers also use piracy as a way to spread their name generally so they have a higher profile in selling other books to publishers.
While it is probably futile to pursue any litigation against the pirates yourself, since any action is extremely expensive and time-consuming, and only the bigger publishers acting individually or with other publishers can afford to do this, as did John Wiley in suing a pirate site in Germany for one of its Dummies books, at least there is some consolation in the risks of obtaining pirated books. In some cases, individuals obtaining these books end up with malware that opens up their computer to identity theft or corrupts some of their data. And sometimes pirates are targeted by a larger publisher or by law enforcement when their actions are especially egregious or they are involved in uploading or downloading material to one of these targeted pirate sites.
In sum, make sure your book is copyrighted by your or your publisher, send out takedown notices as you can, do your best to use the piracy to promote or sell your other work, and feel some satisfaction in knowing that many pirates will suffer their just deserts in the end.
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GINI GRAHAM SCOTT, Ph.D., is a nationally known writer, consultant, speaker, and seminar/workshop leader, who has published over 50 books on diverse subjects, including business and work relationships, professional and personal development, and social trends. She also writes books, proposals, scripts, articles, blogs, website copy, press releases, and marketing materials for clients as the founder and director of Changemakers Publishing and Writing and as a writer and consultant for The Publishing Connection (www.thepublishingconnection.com).
She has been a featured expert guest on hundreds of TV and radio programs, including Good Morning America, Oprah, and CNN, talking about the topics in her books.