Are There Pirates in Your Book’s Midst?

by | Aug 3, 2016

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.

Copyright Protection

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.

My Disclaimer

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:

  1. Notifying the author/freelancer/publisher that your work has been infringed upon and that you are protecting your copyright.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)

Piracy Trace

Piracy Trace logo

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!

IP Watchdog logo

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.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit

17 Comments

  1. acer support

    OMG! Disgusting work.A big thanx to you for sharing this news, it aware all the writers all over the globe.

    Reply
    • Judith Briles

      Another item that we authors need to have in our radar screen. Wish it wasn’t so. Judith

      Reply
  2. chris

    Definitely as a writer we need to be very proactive to someone copying our contents or do we need to upgrade the contents of our book?

    Reply
    • Judith Briles

      Chris … YES to being proactive to anyone using/reselling your book without you in the loop. Now, upgrading contents… that’s an entirely different matter. Is your book ready to do that? Are you positioned now to make a new book or revised edition. If revised, it might mean you need a new ISBN.

      Reply
  3. Terry Gilbert-Fellows

    Worrying Judith, The more people are aware of the problem , hopefully more actions will be taken. It is so heartrending when an author has laboured maybe for years and then to have the work hi-jacked. I hadn’t considered the possibility of the work being used as a bait for malware transmission. that would even more of a crime.
    I will post your piece on our group’s information channels if I may.
    Please let me know.
    Terry Gilbert-Fellows. Blackheath Dawn Writers

    Reply
    • Judith Briles

      So agree Terry–the more we all create chatter about the pirating issue, the better–please share with your followers. Judith

      Reply
  4. Trish LeSage

    Another issue that authors must be aware of is that some of the pirating websites are now linking malware to pirated books. I found out that one of my books was being pirated. The web hosting company was in Brazil. Thankfully I studied four years of Portuguese from 1997 – 2001 so that I could at least communicate enough via email to explain the situation to them. The web hosting provider told me that the pirating website was offering my book on their website, but when people clicked on my book to download it, their computers were then infected with malware. So, some of the pirating websites are now enticing people to download books. The people probably never receive a book, but instead, malware is downloaded onto their computer.

    Reply
    • Judith Briles

      Trish … gads … so this is an ALERT that all of us need to put out in our own feeds, blogs, website … to make sure that if the book is order online that it is done through Amazon, BN.com, Ingram, your website … in other words … a credible site. Thanks for the heads up Trish. Judith

      Reply
  5. Trish LeSage

    I have written five books, and they have all been heavily pirated to the point that I don’t sell ebooks anymore. I only sell print books. In the month of April alone, more than 11,000 copies of one of my books was pirated.

    I contacted an attorney, and I was told that he would need a retainer fee of $10,000 just to get started on my case. So, it costs big bucks just to get started in filing a lawsuit. I was also told that it would be nearly impossible to sue the pirating websites, because they hide behind their user agreements. Individual users upload the illegal copies of the books. When the users join the pirating websites, they have to agree to the pirating websites’ user agreement which usually states that the users will only upload books that they own the copyrights to. Unfortunately, the users take it upon themselves to upload anyone’s books. I was told by the attorney that I’d have to sue the individual users since the pirating websites hide behind their user agreements, and suing the individual users would be virtually impossible, because the pirating websites will not hand over contact information of their users. I was told that the only thing that I could probably do is try to get the pirating websites to take my books down off from their websites. I’ve been successful in some cases and not so successful in others. I have since changed my approach. I now contact the web hosting providers and have them or their attorneys contact the pirating websites. This approach has been successful. You can visit the following websites to find out who the web hosting provider is of a pirating website: https://www.whoishostingthis.com/ and https://www.webhostinghero.com/who-is-hosting/?id=a1c2eeb729a0a617b928743da55d49a0

    Reply
    • Judith Briles

      Holy moley Trish … what a mess … the $10,000 fee was the beginning of what my attorney told me … I opted for the cease letter … and now I use the already made letter from IPWatchdog when I see something …

      Reply
  6. Judith Briles

    Ernie … there’s no question that other countries “lift” work. I’ve always felt with foreign rights–I’ve had my books sold in 16 countries–that whatever I got upfront at signing of the contract would most likely be it–I always referred to it as “mailbox money” … even if it sold mega thousands of copies. Interesting, I just resigned contracts with Saudi Arabia for my book, The Confidence Factor for another check. It amuses me–a book on confidence, written for women by an American woman.

    What we all must realize is that when a pirate is in play–the motive may not be one to your liking–you don’t know what your book–the one that has been highjacked and now used as “bait” to lure others in–is being used for. You may not like it.

    Reply
  7. Michael N. Marcus

    My copyrights have been violated more than 100 times. I don’t know the exact number because I stopped counting. Although copyright violation is a Federal crime, any time I’ve complained to the FBI I was told to hire a lawyer and sue the thief. The Feds are too busy to help authors but will help music publishers.

    Here’s an easy, free method to find unauthorized use of your work: Do Google and Bing searches for distinctive phrases in your books. You can even set up “Google Alerts” to automatically inform you when the phrases show up online.

    Reply
    • Judith Briles

      Absolutely Michael… I use both Google and Tech Talk for alerts. Once you get the “alert” … what’s the plan to do next? Authors and Writers should have one if there is a pirate in the midst.

      Reply
      • Judith Briles

        whoops .. meant TalkWalker.com for Alerts.

        Reply
  8. Ernie Zelinski

    You ask: “Have you had an experience with someone pirating your books?”

    I have had many cases. In fact, I am too scared to use the above resource to discover more.

    Let me share one case: Many years ago a Chinese publisher was interested in publishing one of my books in Chinese simplified characters. We were about to finalize the Agreement when the publisher indicated that it discovered that the book had already been published in Chinese simplified characters by a pirate publisher. This killed the deal but I eventually found another Chinese publisher to publish that same book.

    Here is the bottom line: If you write great books, your books or parts of them are going to be pirated by many sources.

    The good news is that if you write great books, you are still going to be very successful and prosperous regardless of lost sales due to piracy.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    International Best-Selling Author, Innovator, and Prosperity Life Coach
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 300,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
    (Over 295,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Top Picks Thursday! For Readers and Writers 08-11-2016 | The Author Chronicles - […] Judith Briles discusses how to find and handle the pirate in our literary midst. […]
  2. Are There Pirates in Your Book’s Midst? -... - […] Are there pirates in your book's midst? Has your book walked the infringement plank? Here are steps to take…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *