Ahoy mateys … you’ve got your book; you have happily declared yourself a “published” author; sales are coming in; you are promoting it in every channel you can think of; and then an online OMG moment hits.
Some jerk or jerkette is now offering your book for sale and you are clueless about how it got in his or her coffers.
- Have your words been lifted … gulp … plagiarized and are now being published with someone else’s name?
- Has your book been snagged and is being sold with all the money going to “someone” you have no idea about?
- Is it being used as a “hook” to lure in an unsuspecting book buyer to pitch something else, even directing them to naughty sites?
Most likely, what has happened is that your book has been kidnapped … pirated: it has walked the infringement plank.
The last thing that most of us want to think about is that we need to “police” our work—to be on the lookout for someone (person or company) that has lifted our work and is using it for their benefit. Yet, all of us need to be on the alert. Think of this as one of those post-publication duties added to the authoring to-do list once the book is out.
If you’ve taken the steps to register your work, enforcing your copyright through the court system is a little easier–if it becomes a necessity. One of the challenges is identifying which part of your work has been copied.
Years ago, I took back the right of my book GenderTraps from a traditional publisher (one of the biggies). One Saturday AM, I was doing a search on Google with a link I had been given to see what libraries my titles were in. The squirrel that I can be, I’m now wondering where else my books are and I started putting in Amazon Europe and other places. And aha … there was GenderTraps.
Through Amazon Canada, I ordered a copy … yep, here my book was in French. Now, I had never placed the book there; I had no information about foreign rights from my now former publisher, no delightful email or letter saying that rights had been sold to France, Belgium, Germany or anything connected with the UK—in fact, I never got a dime from the publisher for any foreign right sales (typically an author would get 50%) … but golly, here my book was with a new cover, the same title and yes, my name was clearly on the cover and available in those countries. And printed in other languages. I was not happy.
The letter I had clearly reverted all rights back to me from the publisher and was dated prior to any of these new publications. I had a decision to make.
No, I did not sue the publisher—what I did do was have my attorney send a cease and desist letter. Why? To go down a copyright infringement suit takes bucks—often very big bucks. In my case, I was dealing with a major publisher that had deep pockets and could sink me in legal fees. And, I would have to prove my damages—actual money lost and/or not received based on book sales in foreign countries and any advances to the publishers. As someone who had already published a dozen books with traditional publishers by that time, I knew that royalty statements could be challenging to figure out—previous experiences with publishers had occurred where not all sales were reported and I had to work hard to get what was due me. Sometimes, I didn’t succeed.
In other words, skulduggery exists. A suit could suck mega thousands of my money; the time involved plus the emotional drain wasn’t a path I wanted to go down.
Discovery of Infringement
Interestingly, it’s often a “fan” who will bring it to your attention that your work has been zapped and an infringement is in play. What do you do next? Good question. Here are four steps to take to protect you and your book:
- Notifying the author/freelancer/publisher that your work has been infringed upon and that you are protecting your copyright.
- You may want to contact an intellectual property attorney if a significant amount of your work has been lifted and discuss the best way to proceed with the “alleged” words.
- If your work has not been registered yet with the U.S. Copyright office, and the alleged infringement is significant, get it done pronto—if you do choose to pursue legal action, having your book formally registered with the Copyright office will increase the amount you can collect on damages if awarded.
- Deal with book piracy. Matey … you’ve got a problem. You need to either start putting your own energy into tracking your book and where it lands, or work with someone who will do it for you.
Book piracy costs publishing over $200 million a year–don’t let you or your book become a victim. Get help. Earlier this year, I did a podcast on this topic. Listen here. (Please note: Clicking this link will download the podcast to your device.)
Discover Piracy Trace.
“Piracy Trace is an automated platform that searches the entire web looking for copies of your work. With an always-on scanning approach, you can rest assured if it’s been copied we’ll find it.”
There is a free 30 day trial… after that, to track one book, its $1 per month; up to 5 titles, $4. Your book may be on the plank with pirates! Do a search with the Piracy Trace tool and see if your books are floating somewhere they shouldn’t be. Bet many of you will be surprised.
Create a Take Down Notice for Pirated Books!
One of the critical notices to send to any website hosting company is the DMCA (stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act). Go to IPWatchDog.com and download the sample letter.
Do a copy and paste with your information (do not change any wording in the sample letter—just sub in the title of your book and other related info for it; use the rest of the notice as is), then submit it to any hosting company that is carrying your books and shouldn’t be. The clock starts to tick with a 24 hour window to remove your material.
As always, we authors need to be proactive: in marketing our books and in protecting them.
Have you had an experience with someone pirating your books? Let us know in the comments.
Photo: pixabay.com. Amazon link contains my affiliate code.