I’ve already written about piracy. Twice, in fact: in Har! How to Deal with Book Piracy and in Should I fear Piracy? Insights from the PWC report. In both cases, I advised people to keep calm about it.
There is a kind of piracy that ticks me off, though. That of people copying your book and passing it off as their own. The Digital Reader recently posted about an author, Scot Schad, who discovered that pirates had been ripping off freely available and open source digital textbooks, and then using Amazon’s POD service to sell print versions on Amazon.
Here’s how it works
The scammers identify a popular textbook, copy the name, and then start selling the paper copy of a pirated book under that name. They’re hoping to sell the pirated book to an unwary buyer who might mistake the knockoff for the legit textbook.
Schad only learned of this problem when the scammers copied the name of his graduate paper:
I only noticed the problem when two clones of my M.S. thesis appeared on Amazon. My title, Hydrocarbon Potential of the Caney Shale in Southeastern Oklahoma, is about as obscure as it gets. Amazingly, the two bogus books pretending to be mine boasted that they were the second edition!
Schad complained directly to Jeff Bezos, and those books are gone now, but Amazon continues to sell other pirated textbooks. And Amazon isn’t just selling the pirated textbooks; it’s also advertising the textbooks through its ad network:
The common thread here is that all of the textbooks were distributed through Createspace. And that is a problem, because Createspace doesn’t just distribute to Amazon’s website. These books are available through every online book retailer that has a contract with Createspace.
A quick check on BookFinder shows that the “author” in question has a half dozen other books to his name, all of which were distributed by Createspace, and all of which are widely available.
Amazon has a well-deserved reputation for keeping pirated, public domain, and spam ebooks out of the Kindle Store. They earned that reputation by keeping a close eye on ebooks uploaded to the KDP portal and discouraging or deleting undesirable books. That’s why the pirated textbooks mentioned above are not available in the Kindle Store – the pirates know that Amazon would catch on quickly.
I hope it’s only a matter of time before Createspace becomes as vigilant.
A similar kind of piracy is mentioned on John Doppler’s blog.
When Vancouver attorney and author Rebecca Merry Murdock checked Amazon listings for her debut book, she found that the listing for her ebook version was not linked to her author page or the print version of her book. Amazon’s support team remedied the problem.
So far, nothing unusual; the same thing has happened to me a couple of time. However, a few weeks later, Rebecca noticed that a search for her book brought up an unfamiliar ASIN (Amazon’s unique catalog number).
It turns out that an imposter had stolen the content of her book, uploaded it to Amazon, and created an exact duplicate of her real sales page. That imposter had been collecting royalties for the sale of Rebecca’s book. Even worse, their sale page was indistinguishable from the real one – and linked to her official author page.
How can I tell if my book’s been pirated?
First of all, these cases made the news because they’re still petty rare. Before you file a complaint, be sure that you’re actually dealing with a counterfeiter.
When I first published Pearseus: Rise of the Prince, I found it on sale on Amazon (used) for a mere 999 GBP (some $1,500). I joked that this would make it the best investment ever: buy now for GBP 2.99, sell a couple of weeks later for 500 times as much! Sadly, this was not the case, and I’m not filthy rich. Sigh…
You see, authors often become alarmed when they find listings for their books at inflated prices, or listings for a book that hasn’t been released yet. Understand that third-party resellers often use automated systems that generate listings for books at slightly above or below the official sale price. Generally, these sellers don’t actually have possession of the book; when they receive an order, they simply order a copy from the official source, then ship it at a profit.
The product being sold in these cases is the legitimate product with the correct ASIN, and these third-party resellers are legal and permitted by Amazon. Don’t mistake them for counterfeiters. Also, be sure to check out Rich Meyer’s post on the Choosy Bookworm, When is Piracy NOT Piracy before you panic.
A counterfeit book will show an unfamiliar ASIN, and that’s your tip-off to a possible fraud.
What to do?
Victims of piracy need to ask for the pirated copy to be removed, through a take-down notice known as a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice. Here’s a great link to get you up-to-speed on how and when to use a DMCA.
If your book has been pirated on Kindle Direct Publishing, you may be able to claim the royalties from the pirated works.
Don’t bother contacting customer service for copyright issues; go directly to the legal department. Amazon provides an online form for filing a copyright infringement notice, or you can email your own DMCA notice to Amazon’s legal department, via firstname.lastname@example.org.
You cannot prevent counterfeiting, but you can be proactive about detecting and disabling infringing content:
- Assemble a list of the ASINs for each version of your books.
- Search retailers regularly to ensure that only legitimate copies with your ASINs are present.
- File a copyright infringement report immediately when counterfeits are discovered.
Victims of the first kind of piracy must direct their DMCA to Createspace. While sending Amazon a take-down gets a book off Amazon’s main properties, the order is never forwarded to Createspace, so the book will still be available from other sales channels and action won’t be taken against the uploader. Not having Createspace pull the book on its end can result in a pirated book landing back on Amazon.
Apologies for the tardiness of my response, my narration schedule’s been crazy lately. Now, if I was only making money from it.. *sigh!*
Anyhoo… unfortunately – if you manage to annihilate all the ‘stoopid’ pirates, that only leaves the clever ones to breed! 😀
I did find my Silver Lightning on in the legal, secondary market for a phenomenal amount of money. I laughed until I fell off my chair, then I took a screenshot of it.
I did wonder though, if we could use this legit channel to our advantage? How many of us DON’T happen to have a box of our own books lying around? Maybe we could advertise them, signed by the author? Maybe even admit that we ARE the author and we’ll write them a personal note in the book? Could be worth a fortune one day!
If you try it, do let me know how that goes!
Will do, Nicholas! I think it’s worth experimenting. 🙂
Nick, this post is terrifying and brilliant in equal measure. What a mess, though. As if indie authors didn’t have enough to do, they have to become copyright lawyers, too. I hope Createspace get off their arses and start to care.
I’m sure they will. Then, the pirates will just come up with an even more nefarious scheme 🙂
Selling counterfeit textbooks is just wrong. Textbooks are so crazy expensive already; college students shouldn’t need to worry about buying the wrong thing on top of already having to scrape together the hundreds of dollars they need to actually purchase it in the first place.
I know, it’s crazy 🙁
That’s alarming, particularly as one can’t get hold of such culprits and ring their necks! I’ve just shared this very important post on Facebook in a closed writers’ group I belong to there, as well as on twitter and google+.
Thank you so much, Sarah! 🙂
Great comprehensive information in this post.
Thank you, John! 🙂
Thanks as always NIcholas, for sharing such great and important info with us. I’ve bookmarked and shared! 🙂
Thank you so much, Debbie! I’m sure it’ll never happen to you, but it’s best to be aware of these things.
Well, I’d never say never Nicholas, but certainly I hope it won’t. 🙂
Sounds like the Wild West, doesn’t it? Scary. Thanks, Nicholas.
It does, rather! Can I be Sheriff Pat Garrett?
Sure. Why not? 😀
More good information Nicholas. Thanks. (Doesn’t make sleeping better though.)
Lol – I’m sure it’ll never happen to you, but it’s good to know these things 🙂
The digital world makes everything so much easier to steal from pirating books to hacking bank accounts and everything else. Sad..
The digital world is just a mirror of the physical one. In my experience, 99% of people are honest folk. It’s the 1% that gives the rest of us a bad name 🙂
Hmm. Food for thought. Cheers for sharing – I’ll keep a closer eye on things from now on.
I’m pretty sure it’s not common, but it can’t hurt to be aware of it 🙂
I had no idea this stuff went on! Thanks for the informative post.
As a book buyer and reader, is there any way I can know which book is original and which is pirated?
An excellent question! I can’t think of any way for a reader to know which is which. Anyone else have any ideas?
If you’re suspicious, maybe contact the author or if they’re trad pub then find the publisher via the author’s page. Odds are that if one book has been pirated then others have as well and the author either needs to know or already knows, and has strategies in place to deal with it.
Thanks for that 🙂
Excellent post, Nicholas. I’m favoriting for the fateful day…I hope it never comes.
I’m sure it won’t. Still, can’t hurt to be aware of these things 🙂
Thanks Nicholas. Shared this on my Facebook group, Coloring Book Author Support. This also seems to be actively affecting authors of coloring books.
Thank you so much for sharing!
That’s shocking, actually. I thought it was mostly ebooks and textbooks that suffered…
Interesting and informa
Looks like the pirates got you, mate… 🙂
Shiver me timbers, Nicholas! What will they think of next? Nothing is sacred in the electronic world, it would seem.
Best wishes, Pete.
Indeed, my friend. Thanks 🙂
Dastardly definitely seems to fit here. I always wonder what these cunning people would be like if they used their powers for good.
They’re just like comic book villains, right? 🙂
And not the good ones either. Talking Calendar Man instead Dr. Doom.
Ha ha ha – I’m actually compiling a 2016 calendar as we speak, so I could kinda use the former 😀
Pretty sure he’s free. Batman hasn’t used him as a bad guy in a long time.
Thanks! I’ll check with the local villain chapter, then.
If they offer you The Monarch, just say no.
I don’t know. I hear he’s a blue light special this week.
He’s also discounted.
Wow. I can’t imagine, and hope I never find out what it feels like. Thanks for this important information, Nicholas.
I doubt you’ll ever need it, but it can’t hurt to be aware of it 🙂
Thanks for the article. I have it pinned to my Twitter page @firstbluelucy
That is wonderful; thank you 😀
Scary stuff! Thank you for sharing – bookmarked!
I’m sure it will never happen to you, but it’s good to keep it in mind just in case 🙂
So depressing! As if self-publishing wasn’t difficult enough without having to turn policeman and daily step a beat! Congratulations on the clarity of advice and generosity of links.
Aw, thanks 🙂
It’s pretty rare at the moment, but I figured it might be worth knowing just in case you spot something iffy with your account.
It seems like the Pirates will always find a way to evade and dodge. But you’re right Nick, being proactive should impede them. You know what they say about the best defense.
Indeed! Still, it’s pretty rare at the moment, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it. It’s a good thing to know, though, just in case.
Well, that’s pretty scary! Will be checking mine today. I know when I published through Createspace I chose my distribution channels, and only chose Amazon – however, I’ll be double checking it hasn’t gone anywhere else.
I wouldn’t worry about it, but it can’t hurt to keep it in the back of your head 🙂
Thanks Nick. I did do a Google search, and found my books listed for free on a few websites, but thankfully all under my name. I was annoyed, but wrote it all out in a blog post and feel a bit better now. Writing – it’s cheaper than therapy! 😀
Lol – words to live (and write) by 😀