Mobilism

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.