Dealing with eBook Piracy

So, it’s been a bit quiet here lately, a fact I will attribute to some post-release burnout and a new book I started last week. (Not Twin Magic 3—I’m letting that percolate in my head for a bit). But I wanted to relate something I’ve been dealing with for the past couple of months.

If you’ve published any ebooks, especially if they’ve sold well, there’s a pretty good chance they’ve been pirated somehow. If they’ve sold well enough to get on a bestseller list, they’ve almost certainly been pirated.

Pirating ebooks is not difficult, since it’s a matter of pulling the .mobi or .epub file off your reader, something that is easy if you know what you’re doing. The various forms of ebook DRM that exist are basically worthless and can be removed easily with the right software.

What happens then depends, but most often the files get uploaded and shared much like pirated movie and song files. In my experience, the worst offender is a site called Mobilism, where people can share pretty much any kinds of files: videos, songs, apps, books, and so forth. The quirk of Mobilism is that it doesn’t actually host the files. Instead, people upload them to various file sites and post links. This, you might guess, is supposed to get Mobilism off the hook when it comes to accusations of piracy.

The ebook section claims to host somewhere around 2 million ebook files. Just glance at the front page, and you’ll see a long list of obviously pirated content. What happens is usually that people will post requests for one book or another, and someone else will post it. There is a mechanism by which you need credits to download things, but we don’t really need to go into it.

I first came across The Wizard’s Daughters on Mobilism in February. I wasn’t terribly surprised, but it was still annoying to see that more than 300 people had downloaded it. I’ve been in the publishing/copyright field long enough to know that 90% of these people (at least) likely would not have bought the book anyway, but still.

What can you do when this happens? Well, fortunately, the download sites that host these files are used for hosting all sorts of things, many of them legitimate. The people who own them are in the business of making money from banner ads and such things, not to get sued. So every one I’ve come across has a straightforward DMCA takedown process. If you follow their instructions, the file will get yanked, sometimes in minutes.

The bad news, however, is that as easy as it is to get your files removed, it’s even easier to put them back up again. In my case, I’ve been playing a game of whack-a-mole with the person who uploaded TWD to Mobilism. The links in the post are currently dead, but they’ve been changed twice so far and I suspect will be replaced again. I check every day or so to see what’s going on.

If you’re wondering about sending a DMCA notice to Mobilism, I’ve tried, twice. They seem to have ignored them even though they claim to accept such requests.

There are plenty of other places that host ebooks, often as torrents. I’ve been successful getting them removed from everywhere I’ve found them except The Pirate Bay, which, if you’re familiar with it, you’re aware is a lost cause in that respect. But you’ve got to find these files, and Google is not always the best approach because some of the worst offenders (like Pirate Bay) have been removed from Google’s search results.

Still, unless you’re prepared to give up and let people steal your books, you’ve got to do the grunt work to protect them.

[Update 4/9/15] I finally heard from one of the mods at Mobilism and that post is now gone. But in true whack-a-mole fashion, I found that someone has posted a request for The Witches’ Covenant. I asked for that to be taken down as well; we will see.

6 comments

    1. I appreciate the concerns of Michael and others – but here is my take on the situation.

      Just like CNN and the news in general – I IGNORE IT!

      Why?

      Because, I can’t expend the time and energy to fight what to me is a pointless war.

      I can’t do it, because I already struggle with completing basic tasks, such as writing, editing, marketing, shaving my legs. Who’s got time to chase down DCMA’s? I don’t.

      And – I rationalize my lack of willingness to protect that which is mine from those who would rob me blind in the night because I believe that the readers who download books from these sites, are not the readers I want.

      They’re the kind of people, that if they didn’t have these sites to go to, they’d become serial refunders or leave one-star bombs for kicks. I say – ‘keep the scoundrels far away from legit sites like Zon or Goodreads,’ and as such – I’m glad they have their little black-hat oh look at my fifty million downloads world to go play BRAGMEISTER in.

      These are not the readers I want.

      People I want as readers are not likely to steal my books.

      And besides. This theft is so automated, and so prolific, it will never stop happening. So, even if you are successful with the take down notices, etc. How long will your content be off their sites, what about the other sites that do the same thing, do you have time to chase them down as well? And even if they are not longer on these sites, how does that really help? Does it increase your sales? Would that person who wanted your book and couldn’t find it on the torrent site say, “Oh gosh, it’s not here anymore, and look I can’t find it on any other ‘get-it-free’ site. I guess, I’ll just have to go over to Amazon and buy it.” Unlikely!

      So what good did all that effort create?

      Was the whole exercise a waste of time to begin with?

      I believe the answer to that last question is YES!

      Just about anything anyone creates is instantly made available on these types of sites. Or Rule 32 – they make a porn out of it.

      And despite the rampant thievery going on in the black market, I still have the opportunity to sink or swim as an author in the real mainstream world, providing my content to those who go through normal (paid) channels to purchase their books.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jules, thanks for all that. That is certainly a defensible position, and I agree that very few of these downloaders are likely to pay for the books. My background in publishing colors my view of this stuff in that I’m used to dealing with it at work and thus used to the mechanisms for fighting it. So it’s not a big deal to me. And, I probably devote no more than 20 minutes a week to checking where my stuff might be.

        Piracy is certainly never going away—if Sony et al. can’t kill it, you and I certainly can’t—so if dealing with it is a distraction from your writing, then let it be.

        Like

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