E-books are all well and good, some new authors say, but what about piracy? Wouldn’t it be too easy for someone to steal my book if it’s out there in electronic form?
After all, you can look at the music and video industries and see the important commercial damage done by people illicitly copying and spreading songs and videos. The music industry is making a lot less money now than it was 20 years ago, partly because of copyright infringement. Why couldn’t the same happen to books?
It’s a fair question, and it has concerned even large book companies. In 2012 a group of large publishers and other related companies went to court to stop what they said was illegal sharing of book files (mainly PDF files) online by two websites, Library.nu and iFile.it. That effort reportedly shut down those sites.
There haven’t been many other reports of large-scale book piracy cases since. Piracy doesn’t seem to have become nearly so big a problem for book authors and publishers as it has been in other industries.
When a podcast on book marketing recently opened the topic to discussion, one commenter suggested, “I think the market for pirated books is pretty small compared to music. People listen to dozens of songs (or albums) per day, and collect them just to collect them and have them at their disposal. I don't see that with books.”
Another pointed out that many e-books are already available either free or at a low cost. And, “Who would use a Napster for books?”
A study released last month by the United Kingdom’s Intellectual Property Office found the numbers of book pirates are indeed small. While the numbers of music and video infringers remain significant, it said, “The e-book category has the lowest level of infringement with only 6% of category users accessing illegal content.” That’s about a quarter to a third the rate of music piracy.
Pirated books may increase sales more than dampen them. In 2009 publishing consultant Brian O’Leary looked at sales figures for several books (for the technical books publisher O’Reilly Media) after they had appeared on pirate websites, and found that legal sales actually increased. The economic theory behind free copies driving sales is what has encouraged, in more recent years, the rush of many indie publishers to offer their e-books for free, on dozens of websites devoted to the practice, in hopes of generating larger sales down the road.
Indie writers probably have less to worry about in this area anyway than, say, authors of bestsellers whose legal prices for e-book and print versions remain considerably higher.
Still, if you see your book’s electronic file being offered for free by someone who has no right to do that, you probably should take action. One of the benefits of free offerings by indie publishers, for example, is being able to control and analyze the results, which pirates wouldn’t let you do.
If you spot one case of copyright infringement, run a search through Google or other search engines to see if you can find others – either of the same book or a different one you wrote. Record where they’re located.
Check on the web page for a link to either the webmaster or copyright policy, or reports of abuse. Contact through that link and report the abuse, and save your email in a record. Often the “take down” request is enough to kill the link from the site. If you see a link to the specific person who has posted the pirated material, send a “take down” notice, warning that they have no right to disseminate the book, to them too. That warning may be enough to get them to quit. Then, check a few days or a week later to see if the link is gone.
You have the option, as the book companies did, of taking the matter to a lawyer and heading to court. But as in so many other kinds of disputes, everyone (the lawyers excepted) probably will be happier if it doesn’t come to that.
(piracy image at top by ben1804 on DeviantArt)
Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear every other week.
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