Friday, September 20, 2013

Are pirates giving away your book?

Know what DRM is? Digital Rights Management is an software encryption system that is suppose to make ebooks, digitized music and even videos safe from digital pirates.

Amazon, via its Kindle Digital Publishing division, gives authors a choice. Want to help Amazon to keep pirates from selling or even giving away your book(s) without your permission? Then allow Amazon to insert some DRM code into your ebook and viola! It's piracy-protected!

Or is it?

Some disgruntled authors have googled the titles of their precious offsprings only to discover them being sold/given away via obscure websites. And they are more than a little tiffed about it!

A few months after uploading Betrovia to Amazon's KDP servers, I thought it would be interesting to search the Intrawebz for it. And yes, even though I allowed Amazon to attach DRM code to the ebook, I found a few websites offering it for free.

So what could I do? What did I do?

I knew that anything placed within the insecure confines of the Intrawebz would someday end up in the hands of those hoping to make a quick buck from it. For me, writing has become a fairly impersonal activity: I slap stuff onto my blog, my Facebook page, even my Twitter feed without much reservation about what someone might end up doing with it. And I have hardened my conscience to the feel the same about my stories.

But what about getting official, US government copy-writes for my stories?

I read a few weeks ago that over 500k ebooks will be uploaded to Amazon within the next 12 months. That's over 1/2 million ebooks! And how many of those will be copy-written by the US federal government? How many have been copy-written in the last year? The last five years?

How about not getting all worked up over somebody "stealing" my story and think of it as "spreading the word"?

Let's check out what the fine folks 
who frequent The Writers' Cafe think about this problem!

Send a DMCA notice to the place hosting the PDF (works everytime). Though you will find some sites state they have it in PDF ( other formats ) but they dont. Their end goal is to get people to their site and click on their adsense ads. Nothing more. Crazy but it happens.

Double check to see that they really have your book.  Most of these sites just 'scrape' the publicly available info off of Amazon (cover, blurb, reviews) and package that as the book.

DMCA takedown requests won't necessarily be honored. The Pirate Bay, for example, would laugh in your face (if they bother to reply at all). Reputable sites like Scribd should honor such requests within a few days, but that won't necessarily prevent your work from being pirated there again in the future. It's also very possible that the sites have simply scraped your metadata to lure people into clicking useless links. A shocking amount of the internet is worthless garbage written by robots. Personally, I would encourage you not to worry about this sort of thing. My belief—and I say belief because I can't point to any empirical studies, but it's a belief shared and encouraged by luminaries such as Neil Gaiman and Hugh Howey—is that the visibility is helpful, and you're likely to gain more than you lose from being pirated (assuming you lose anything! I wouldn't assume that you do). Setting that question aside, you would probably have to work on this every day or every week just to keep up, and there's no guarantee that you'll gain anything from that effort—you might simply be wasting your time, or even be losing readers who you could've sold to otherwise. People will still be able to share your work for free, without your permission, if they're determined to do so. The only way to prevent piracy with certainty is to never publish at all.

If it's a torrent and you can't get it taken down, one alternative is to upload your own, better-formatted, version with links to your other books. These people are rarely your customers/readers anyway, and you might convert some along the way.

Every author should have a 'Pirate-Friendly' version and seed the internet with them. A kind note, thanking people for 'borrowing the book from the grand library that is the internet' with a note on where to paypal if they enjoy it and links to other works.

Pirates are in the minority, and they're never likely going to buy your book in the first place, so I think trying to engage with them, and perhaps *give* them a reason to buy from you in the future is better than worrying about it, because realistically, it can't ever be stopped.

Most of those sites do not actually have your book. They tend to be bots scraping data off Amazon or Books in Print. They scam is to get people to sign up for the site and provide their contact information, which is then sold to spammers. Often, they include having you jump through hoops before you can 'see' the book (sign up for three newsletters, watch two videos, sign up for this free 30 day trial, and then stand on your head and sing America the Beautiful). If someone is actually stupid enough to go through all of that, they usually end up with spyware installed on their computers.

"Dear white-collar pirate,
Attached please find my latest contemporary fiction book..."  

While I don't go out of my way chasing pirates because I don't like playing internet whack-a-mole, I sure as hell am not going to go out of my way to reward scum for their behavior, either. I'm not going to grovel at the feet of selfish, entitled punks and beg for donations when I have honest, legtimate customers who actually respect authors. I think it disrepects honest customers who play by the rules to give scumbags books for free. I don't reward bad behavior.

One other point that may help as a salve: People who are committed to getting all their entertainment free in pirated form aren't your potential customers anyway. They're not buying anything from anyone.

There's a difference between pirates and scrapers. Pirates just want to get stuff for free for a variety of reasons, from just not wanting to pay to avoiding DRM related problems (including DRM that hacks your freaking computer or makes the product unusable), to digital product ownership issues that have not been and will not soon be addressed. They're not evil or scary monsters, they're just folks. Whatever harm these people do to creators is negligible, limited mostly to ego. Scrapers on the other hand are people who take other people's work and then try and turn a profit on it for themselves. They're a kind of pirate, but not the end-all and be-all of pirates and they are both malicious and a detriment to creators because they really are stealing paying customers from them.

I once posted my free KDP giveaway on Reddit, and one guy came out of the woodwork to spit in my face and brag about how he can get any book he wants for free. He actually acted as if he were offended that I'd shown my face in there, trying to make a living from my hard work. So yeah, there are plenty of entitled morons in the pirate community. That said, I was in high school when I discovered MP3s. I made 2 bucks allowance every first week, and 5 bucks every second. So in my case, the notion that I wouldn't have bought the music anyway was absolutely true. I had higher pursuits (pop and chips) than spending a month's worth of cash on a CD, on which there were 2 or 3 songs that I actually liked. MP3s actually allowed me to cultivate a love of music where I wouldn't have before. Once when volunteering in the library at the homeless shelter, a down-on-his-luck guy held up his smartphone and proudly showed me all the books he had downloaded from Pirate Bay. I don't know what happened to him since, but I think it's safe to say he wasn't going to buy anything anyway. And I won't begrudge his reading. Becoming an author gave me more insight into this kind of thing than I had previously. And I do take measures to safeguard my work. That guy on Reddit still stands out in my memory, but I have to assume he doesn't represent the majority.

Write more. Worry less.

No comments:

Post a Comment