Sunday, March 22, 2015

ebook Piracy

Pirate Clip Art
I’ve been doing a bit of research into ebook piracy, and I have come to the conclusion that any author who is worried about their book being pirated should worry about something they can actually do something about. It seems just about every published ebook is being pirated on multiple sites right now. Spending time trying to track down all those illegal download avenues will just waste an author’s time. An author might have success having their book taken down from one website, just as it pops up for free on another website.

Warning on Google+

My initial research into this topic was prompted by a post I saw on Google+. The post had a link to a website and said something along the lines, “my ebook is illegally posted here for free, check if yours is.” I have not published any ebooks but I was curious, so I went to the site and searched for books from a few local authors who are yet to become big names. In all cases, the search provided links to free copies of their books.

I thought I would do the right thing and message the authors, just in case they were unaware. Which I started to do, but then thought maybe I should add a link to the pages concerning their books. When I went back to the site, their books no longer came up in a search, so maybe the initial post on Google+ had resulted in so many take down notices, that the site had given up. Or maybe Amazon threatened them.

General ebooks

I did not copy down the sites name, but since then my research has come across similar sites such as general.ebooks. Once again I found many of those yet to become household name author’s books for free on them. Including a book written by a friend which I helped edit. General ebooks is clever in the way it is presented because it has links to paying and legal downloads of the books, but then down the bottom it has a big GET BOOK icon, which links to one of at least three illegal download sites. The General ebook page for each book even has a big red Report Copyright Violation tag on the page in an attempt to make it look like a legitimate site.

One of the sites linked to General ebooks is There I found three files for one author’s books. I did not download them because I was unsure of their safety. Another of the sites that general.ebooks linked to was Before accessing the ebook, registration is required. It says registration is free but a credit card number is needed to ensure that the user is from an acceptable country. I did not register because if a company is involved in illegal downloads who knows what use my credit card details might be put to.

Authors like Molly Greene have had success with getting General ebooks to remove their copyrighted work. But how many other sites link to sites like fat-games? Probably hundreds, maybe thousands, and how many sites contain the actual illegal downloads? Again probably hundreds. There are enough such sites for companies like MUSO who are hired by publishing companies to track down copyright violating websites.


And then there is pirating from peer-to-peer networks. Rightscorp is a big anti-piracy company in the US and it estimates 500 million ebooks were distributed by peer-to-peer networks in 2013. In an attempt to fight back publishers are now watermarking their ebooks to track illegal downloads.

At the moment the publishing industry says it is not concerned with ebook piracy. Companies like HarperCollins and Hachette says that piracy doesn’t hamper sales to any discernible degree, so maybe individual authors should not worry either, at least for the moment.   


graywave said...

It seems to me there are three kinds of people who acquire books online. One kind is the decent law-abiding type who buys them from legitimate outlets. I love these people because they actually support my writing habit.

The second kind is the type who only ever downloads free books. They do it legitimately from legitimate sources and they hoover up vast numbers of books, most of which sit on their ereaders forever unread. I like these people too because some of them, if they ever do read the book, will write a review and perhaps even recommend it to those wonderful people who actually buy books.

The third kind are the thieving scumbags who illegally steal my books through sites that illegally distribute them. I thoroughly despise these creatures not just for what they do but for the pathetic moral pygmies they must be. However, I feel they have so little effect on my livelihood (they are not and never would be paying customers) that it isn't worth pursuing them. Not that I wouldn't gladly see them doing hard labour in one of the state's many gulags, I just know that, as you say, the seedy little world they inhabit has no economic influence on the real world of decent people.

Graham Clements said...

I totally agree Graham. I pay money for just about all ebooks I download. I do have some free ebooks on my Kindle - mainly to help authors who plead on social media for people to download their currently free ebook in an attempt to make it rise up Amazon's rankings. But I will probably read very few of them. The average price of an ebook I buy is around $5, the vast majority of people who could afford to buy an ereader should easily be able to afford $5 for an ebook.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Anything digital can be easily shared so guess shouldn't be surprised. Always thought piracy is a double edged sword - potentially good for new artists, bad for the more established.
All I know, is what you discovered already through your research is that it doesn't really affect the bottom line for the big companies - if it did, they'd do a helluva lot more to tackle it, which they don't.

People see a freebie, they'll take it, no matter the cost at the other end.