I saw the other day a post about book piracy in Anastacia Moore’s blog. She was rightly fuming, because, while checking out her video trailers, she noticed that someone was advertising on You Tube a link to receive free copies of said books.
A few days before that, my friend N.N. Light had kindly emailed me to let me know that she had found her book, “Princess of the Light” on a similar website, and that she had seen my work there as well.
Then came the news that Australia’s Copyright Agency has welcomed a decision by the British High Court requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to websites hosting millions of pirated e-book titles. The decision means Britain’s five major ISPs – BT, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk and EE – will be asked to block seven offshore-hosted websites within 10 working days.
The sites – AvaxHome, Bookfi, Bookre, Ebookee, Freebookspot, Freshwap and LibGen – host download links to full copies of e-books, including from best-selling Australian authors such as Tim Winton and Fiona McIntosh.
The British Publishers Association said about 80 per cent of the 10 million or so titles hosted on the websites named in the case – and in some cases as much as 90 per cent – were found to be infringing copyright. Publishers had already issued 1 million take-down notices relating to infringing material on the sites.
Just Ignore Them
And I know that all this sounds awful, but in most cases it’s not. Contrary to what you might expect, my advice is to just ignore these “pirates.” To understand why, all you need to do is try to download your book from them. You’ll soon realize that they don’t actually have it. After an annoying merry-go-round, you’ll either be taken to a dead link or to Amazon…
You see, most of these people only pretend to have free books, just so they can lure unsuspecting victims to their websites. The reasons vary. In the most innocent case, they are looking for eyeballs: they sell advertising, and get paid for impressions – i.e. how many people see the ads. The more people visit their website, the more money they make.
Or, the reasons may be sinister. They may be looking to lure you into a subscription or an address verification. In Charles Yallowitz’ case, any authors demanding their books are removed from the site are asked to fill in a form. Only, that form is designed to get author information and deliver some brutal malware once the send button is hit. So there are sites out there that are designed to prey on an author’s desire to protect their work instead of going after readers. The real aim, of course, is to steal your credit card or personal details.
I’m not saying that all pirate websites are phishing. Piratebay, for example, traditionally has good content, delivered to your computer hassle-free. But why take the risk?
Piracy vs. Obscurity
So, should you be worried should you find your book there?
Well, since it’s usually the bigger authors that make it to places like PirateBay, the first thing I’d do is pat myself on the back. You see, I’m convinced that the Indie’s enemy is not piracy, but obscurity.
Neil Gaiman says it best, in the interview below:
In this sense, it may actually be good for your sales if a book were to be pirated and given away for free, therefore generating interest in the rest of your titles. This is why I allow people to read my children’s book, Runaway Smile, for free on my blog, and give away Pearseus: Schism, the first book of my fantasy series.
It’s also why I’ve decided to allow lending of my books, and distribute them DRM-free. I strongly believe that DRM only annoys people who have bought my books, while doing nothing to deter thieves.
In 2010, book piracy surged after the introduction of the iPad. Although some publishers and authors fear that this will cause their revenues to dwindle, there are plenty of signs that the opposite will happen. Comic book writer Steve Lieber said that his sales went through the roof after pirated scans were shared on 4Chan.
So, sure, if you’re a big publisher, go ahead and worry about piracy. For us smaller fry, though, I believe it’s pointless to do so 🙂
5 Common Myths About Piracy
Justine Tajonera debunks 5 common myths about piracy. This is what she has to say on the subject:
1. Myth #1: You can’t compete with free
While it sounds true, Michael D. Smith, Professor of Information Technology and Marketing, Carnegie Mellon University disagrees. His research shows that people would actually rather pay for content. It’s only when the content is not available that they turn to piracy.
2. Myth #2: DRM or Digital Rights Management is about stopping piracy
Determined pirates will get what they want. Those who have the technological knowhow will find ways to pirate content, whether books, videos, or music. However, what DRM does is deter over-sharing says Ursula Mackenzie, Little, Brown, UK CEO and UK Publishers Association president. DRM represents a social contract between the buyer and the seller. It simply means that people cannot lend your book to their friends, thus severely limiting the power of word of mouth.
3. Myth #3: Pirated books are lost sales
According to authors like Neil Gaiman and Olivia Waite, this is simply not true. Don’t treat pirated books as “lost sales” but rather “money never received.” That’s because many of the people who downloaded that book for free would never have bought it if there had been a price tag.
4. Myth #4: Delaying the release of the e-book edition will decrease piracy
This is a common trick by publishers. However, according to Michael D. Smith (cited in #1), that’s a wrong assumption. The opposite is true. Delaying a digital release might actually increase piracy. Smith cites how a publisher delayed its release in e-book format to push hardcover sales. This resulted in a 0.4 percent increase in hardcover sales and a 52 percent decrease in e-book sales. Now, what do you think happened to the customers who couldn’t get the e-book? They didn’t buy the hardcover, that’s for sure.
5. Myth #5: Pinoys prefer the black market
In Russia, commercially sold e-books were unheard of. Only the black market was available. However, LitRes, an e-book website started selling e-books and was clearly anti-piracy. The effect? In 2013, Russia took over the UK to be become the third largest e-book market. That’s because piracy thrives where there is no other option.
Don’t get me wrong. Piracy does affect business. However, there are two great ways to fight it:
- making e-books easily available, and
- pricing the e-book right.
This debate is raging, of course. The thoughts above are just my 2c, and I respect anyone’s right to be incensed by pirates. So, I advise you to read on by visiting these people and listening to their arguments:
Dr. Skippy has an interesting analysis on why people illegally download books.
Celine Kiernan explores the perceived ethics of piracy and condemns it in no uncertain terms, as does Rachelle Gardner. The latter has a great list of additional reading, both in favor and against piracy:
- Free Ride: How Digital Parasites are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Backby Robert Levine.
- Book Piracy: Less DRM, More Data (O’Reilly)
- The Millions: Confessions of a Book Pirate
- A Book Author Wonders How to Fight Piracy
- Fighting piracy is the dumbest thing you can do
- E-book business should take a page from music industry and go DRM-free
- Authors demand drive to raise readers’ awareness of book piracy’s cost
- Ebook piracy – one author’s opinion
- ISPs Fight Piracy: Meet the Six Strikes
- Last but not least, if you find a place that gives away your book and want to do something about it, here is a PDF that gives explicit instructions on how to follow up on obtaining the information needed to report and shut down these thieves.