Greetings, SE’ers! Beem Weeks here with you again. Today, I am going to expose those dastardly book pirates!
Pirates! They are fine for stories told within the pages of the books we read. But book piracy is another story altogether. Illegal book consumption accounts for 17% of all downloaded ebooks. This is stealing. Those who download and read books for free are just as guilty of theft as those who offer the books on hundreds of illegal sites scattered across the internet.
If you’ve ever Googled the titles of your own books or your author’s name, you’ve probably found your work being offered for free on one or more of these sites.
But now that you’ve made this discovery, what can you do about it? It’s your work. You own the copywrite.
Unfortunately, trying to stop this illegal activity completely is much like playing an intense game of whack-a-mole; the moment you get your work off one site, another pops up. It’s the consumers who feed this industry. We live in an era when too many readers feel it is not a big deal to download free books from these sites. Many are of the opinion that it’s not really stealing. They view the internet as different from real life. But this is indeed stealing. It is no different than walking into Walmart and taking a book or a shirt or a bar of soap without paying. When consumers download books from these illegal sites, they are taking money out of the pockets of those who have poured months—or even years—into creating their stories.
As writers, we are entitled to just compensation for our time, effort, and product. And it doesn’t matter if we’re an established brand name with millions in revenue or an unknown still seeking those first few sales. We did the work. It belongs to us. The work represents our blood, sweat, tears, and passion.
I first became aware of this industry while doing a Google search for my novel Jazz Baby a few months after its release. I stumbled upon a message board where the topic was Recently Read Books. One individual posted that he wanted to know where he could score a free copy of Jazz Baby. At first, I was pleased that somebody had shown interest in my work. But the messages coming from others on the board gave me another perspective. Three others chastised this man for seeking to steal from the author. They were hardcore in their stance against book (and music) piracy. “This author deserves to be paid for his work,” one of them said.
I began Googling my work on a somewhat regular basis from that day forward. I’ve found my books on numerous sites, offered free of charge, to anybody wanting to download the pdf.
When I discovered the first site, I sent an email ordering those behind the website to cease and desist in giving away my books. It worked. A few hours after the message was sent, my work vanished from their library. But then, another popped up and it started all over again. I sent this one an email as well. It worked. Then another popped up . . . Well, you get the idea.
As I said, there are hundreds of sites scattered across the internet, offering your books or your photography or your music for free. We all deal with it. Even Stephen King must deal with this theft. And while Mr. King isn’t hurting financially from piracy, he still deserves to collect on every single copy of his work sent into the world.
So, what can be done to curb this theft?
Remain vigilant. Google your work and author name on a regular basis (every three or four months). When you find your work on any of these sites, send an email demanding your titles be removed.
If this doesn’t work, contact the FBI or whatever agency is in charge of copywrite infringement in your country. If you own the copywrite, you are entitled to its protections. In the United States, the FBI is quick to deal with pirate DVD movie rings. This is most certainly because Hollywood has the financial means to make their voices heard. But that same protection applies to all material that is under copywrite. Call—and keep bothering—until something gets done.
Expose those sites to other authors you meet online. Make the entire author community aware of these pirates. Make them feel nervous about what they are doing. Keep what rightfully belongs to you!