In the past couple of months, I’ve noticed an uptick in book pirating complaints from indie authors. Unfortunately, I don’t think this trend is going to subside anytime soon. Why, you ask? Because according to Author Earnings, self-published books make up almost 33% of all ebooks sold on Amazon. So if we indies command a piece of the market that large, we also share the attention of book pirates. This is a problem many authors are going to have to face soon or later, so let’s educate ourselves on the various ways our work can be stolen and what to do about it.
Types of Pirating
There are several ways pirates make money from stolen work, some create websites where they sell books directly, and at these sites there can be anywhere from hundreds, to thousands, of stolen books. Oh yeah, and here’s the kicker: some of the more sophisticated sites not only make money with books but also with ads and affiliate links. Welcome to 21st century publishing!
The second type of pirate will upload your book to a retailer like Amazon and pretend to be you. Often they will change the book’s cover and create some fake pseudonym. They’ve even been known to take public domain works and charge for them.
Then there’s the third kind of pirate that does a combination of both, selling direct as well as selling stolen books on sites like Amazon.
So how do we deal with this?
Step 1: Get Your Book Protected
Before you even click the publish button, you need to register your work with your government’s copyright office. The copyright office will assign your book with a number which links you to your work. This number will be important if someone asks you to prove you are the owner of the intellectual property (book) in question. Which leads me to my next point…
Step 2: Start Sending DMCA Take Down Notices
In 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was enacted in the U.S. to protect digital properties from being stolen and distributed. This means if someone takes any material that is copyrighted elsewhere, the owner of that property can take legal action against them.
In compliance with the law, many sites like Amazon, Google and Barnes & Noble all have departments that deal with DMCA complaints. However before you start there, try contacting the pirate site yourself (if possible) and give them ample time to respond to your complaint. Be professional, and let them know you are the owner of the intellectual property they’re selling and would like it removed from their site. Some authors have even gone as far as to send invoices to pirate sites, so feel free to charge them whatever you think is reasonable. :) But if they do not respond, you’ll need to move on to step three…
Step 3: Start Reporting Them To Their Web Host
If this is a website that has stolen your work, your best bet would be to find the host of that particular site and report them. You do that by going to Who Is Hosting This and typing in the pirate site’s URL into the search engine. Most hosting companies like GoDaddy and BlueHost will happily take down the site if they get enough complaints. It goes without saying, that it would help, if you teamed up with a few authors on this one and barraged them with complaints. But what if that doesn’t help?…
Step 4: Make Them Invisible
You can report a pirate site that has stolen material to most of the popular search engines. Many sites like Google, will either take away their ranking, or remove them completely from their search engines. Below are some links to get you started:
Step 5: Report Them To The Retailers
This step is for the pirate who steals your book and posted it to an online retailer’s site. Most retailers have official channels that need to be used in order to get a timely response, so be careful to follow the instructions about filing a DMCA.
- Barnes & Noble
- Kobo: or email directly at: Help@KoboBooks.com
- Smashwords: or press the Question mark button at the top of any page.
Trolling The Pirates: Social Media Blasts
I’ve seen journalists and freelance writers have success calling out the people who steal their work on the thief’s own social media page. Yes, there are pirate sites with Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts! Again, just one complaint may not be enough, you may have to join forces with others to get attention. Think about it, internet trolls, often attack in groups, because it’s effective. However unlike them, you can’t start any flaming wars, just call them out and request they take down your book. If it’s a social media site like Facebook or Google, you can post your entire DMCA complaint right there on the page or in the comments section of their post.
Well there you go, just a few examples of what you can do to fight back against a pirate. Though you can’t put everyone out of business, you can do some damage. It’s well known that most of the major publishing companies don’t bother with pirates unless, they’re making lots of money. They can afford to do that however, we indies can’t afford to let that kind of money fly out the window. Granted, I don’t believe you should waste your life hunting pirates but when something comes to your attention, you should at least try to deal with it. You might not win, but hey, at least you put up a fight.
*Stepping down from soapbox*