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Avast Ye Matey: What to Do if Your eBook is Pirated

Lots of talk about piracy these days and much discussion about whether it's worth the effort to try to take down pirate copies or whether it's simply a whack-a-mole undertaking. IMHO, I think the answer as to whether trying to reduce or eliminate piracy of your work is worth the effort depends on the author and his/her body of work.

For an author starting out or with only a relative few books to his or her credit, piracy likely will not cause harm and may actually be a net benefit. Yes, you read that correctly: a net benefit. Some authors spend a considerable amount of time, money and resources giving away free copies of their books and a limited amount of piracy could be seen as one way to get free copies of a book into the marketplace.

For other authors, such as those with many works or some modicum of success, some piracy is part and parcel with being an author. However, too much piracy can derail success.

I've been a professionally published author since 1995 and have over 150 books to my credit (William Stanek for technical works, William Robert Stanek for learning books and compilations, and Robert Stanek for everything else I write). My books have generated well over $100 million in sales at retail. Or put another way over 7.5 million people have purchased my works, $59.99 at retail x 2 million = ~$120 million and the other 5.5 million+ sales at other price points were gravy.

I've been researching the impact of piracy on sales of my books for many years. Part of this research has been tracking the number of illegal downloads, which runs into millions of copies, and the sites where these downloads are/were available. Many of my most valuable properties were made available for illegal downloading, including audiobook and book products that retailed for $29.99 to $59.99. The total value at retail of the stolen: $100 million+.

I have no illusions that my sales would have been twice what they were if my work hadn't been illegally downloaded by the millions. I do, however, believe a considerable portion would have. The exact portion is unknowable, but even if only 10% that's tens of millions of dollars in sales.

How many content creators have been impacted similarly? My thoughts are that thousands have been. Maybe not as considerably as myself, but certainly collectively this pirating represents billions of lost sales annually.

For authors concerned about piracy, there are an increasing number of tools. You can try sending a DMCA Takedown notice to the site owner, such as the following:

VIA Email at [[ISPHosting[at]]]
Re: Copyright Claim
To [[ISP Hosting Company Where Your Work Is Being Infringed]]:
  I am the copyright owner of [[BOOK] in contract with [PUBLISHER]] being infringed at:
 [[http://www <list the exact link or links to where the infringement is taking place>]]
 This letter is official notification under the provisions of Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") to effect removal of the above-reported infringements. I request that you immediately issue a cancellation message as specified in RFC 1036 for the specified postings and prevent the infringer, who is identified by its Web address, from posting the infringing photographs to your servers in the future. Please be advised that law requires you, as a service provider, to "expeditiously remove or disable access to" the infringing book downloads upon receiving this notice. Noncompliance may result in a loss of immunity for liability under the DMCA.
 I have a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of here is not authorized by me, the copyright holder, or the law. The information provided here is accurate to the best of my knowledge. I swear under penalty of perjury that I am the copyright holder. Please send me at the address noted below a prompt response indicating the actions you have taken to resolve this matter.
 [[Your Name]]
 [[Your Email]]
 [[Publisher and Publisher email <if you have a publisher> ]]

Several services also have been started recently to help authors fight piracy. One of those services is offers a free trial period and then acts as a paid monthly service.

I've tested out the Muso service for some time to see how it worked and whether it was useful to me. For me, the free trial was the most useful aspect of the service as it quickly identified all the locations where my books were being pirated (as opposed to me manually performing searches of all my titles, variations of title names, my name, variations of my name, etc).

If you use the monthly service, you can have them send out takedown notices for you. Once you have these locations, you also can send your own DMCA Takedown Notices where there were instances of actual piracy. However, you still need to check each location. For example, about 1/3 of the sites identified weren't actually pirating my work and about 1/3 weren't actually full pirate copies of my work--they were simply samples. For those remaining that were actually pirated copies, I could have specified that I wanted the service to send automated take down notices.

You also can set up Google Alerts for your books and your name to help you track where your books are appearing online. Notifications from Google Alerts will include information about all locations the tracked books appear, including those that are legitimate and those that are illegitimate. Because of this, you'll need to go through and identify which are legitimate and which are illegitimate. Once you've done that you can issue takedown notices as appropriate.

Hope this information helps you,

Robert Stanek

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