What To Do When Your Book is Pirated

Authors should be more concerned about obscurity than piracy. This is the conventional wisdom. However, piracy does happen. When it happens to you, do you know what to do about it?

Not too long ago, I received a Google Alert that my books had recently been listed on some websites I had never heard of; so I checked it out. It turns out that the websites were pirate sites that allow free PDF downloads of books.

Lo and behold, my books had been pirated. They were being offered for anyone to download free-of-charge on these sites.

Fortunately, I knew what to do and flew into action. I immediately sent each site a DMCA Takedown Notice. Both sites responded—surprisingly—quickly to my notices and reported that they had removed the books.

Do you know what to do if your books are pirated? Here are my suggestions.

1. Sign up for alerts.

To stay on top of where you and your books are appearing on the world wide web, you should subscribe to an alert service. Alert services include:

These services search the Internet for the words you give them and let you know where these words are showing up online. These sites will send you an email notifying you each time a new listing is found.

If you use your name or the title of your book, the alert service will send you a notice when it finds a new listing of the phrase on the web. These alerts allow you to know who is talking about you and your books, and they allow you to monitor if your books are being pirated.

2. Send a DMCA Takedown Notice.

If you find a site that is listing your books as a free ebook download, you need to take immediate action. The best thing to do is to send a DMCA Takedown Notice to the site administrators. DMCA stands for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

To make it easy for small publishers and independent authors, Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) offers a free downloadable Reference Guide on DMCA Takedown Notices to our Members. This Reference Guide includes a DMCA Takedown Notice template to follow when sending such notices.

If you write and publish Christian books, you can join Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) for just $90 for the calendar year. Then you will have access to this Reference Guide and the many other supports and guides that the organization offers its Members.

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Napster vs. eBooks

At the turn of the century, during the digital music revolution, Napster appeared on the scene. Napster was an online music service that allowed people to easily share their MP3 files with others. The music industry sued Napster for copyright infringement and the original service was shut down by court order.

A decade later, we are in the midst of a digital publishing revolution. Google made digital copies of books available for the public to browse without permission from the copyright holder and were sued by publishers and authors. But that story is not yet finished.

The story continues in more ways than one. Sites that allow readers to share ebooks have sprung up. Sites such as Lendle.me, BookLending.com, and eBookFling.com have appeared on the scene. These sites allow ebook readers to loan and borrow ebooks from each other.

Lending books on these sites is similar. Users and lenders swap books for Kindle and Nook formats. The borrower is allowed to have the book for 14 days. When the loan time period is up, the book disappears from the borrower’s library and returns to the lender’s library.

Not quite a Napster, but still a thorn in publishers’ sides. But the problem persists.

A recent study by a British law firm surveyed 1,959 consumers. The survey found that 29% of e-reader owners of both genders and all ages admit piracy. For tablets the figure rises to 36%.

These figures average out to one in every three people downloading ebooks on their e-readers illegally. That’s a lot of books having their copyright infringed upon and a lot of lost revenue for publishers.

The bottom line is that it is easier to lend or steal a digital product than it is a physical item. This is and will continue to create problems for publishers and authors as we move into a digitalized world.

The big question is: What is the best way to protect copyright—which is meant to ensure that authors get rewarded for their talent and expertise and that the publishers who support them see a return on their investment—in the digital age?