Last week, I caught wind that an author I’d met long ago had their books stolen and put for sale on a pirate site. They had the situation well in hand, but the question for us writers coming up, is do we know what to do? I researched and collected links to help you protect your work. Let’s do this!
How Will I Know?
There’s always a place on the internet you forgot to check for copies of your book. Don’t sweat it. The goal is to put in a good effort. Use at least two search engines (ex. Google and Bing) to search for your author name, book titles and distinctive character names. If you notice anything come up as a “download” or “Buy” link at a place you aren’t selling from, that’s a good suspect. You can also turn on Google Alerts for those keywords, and it will let you know when and where they pop up. This might not cover the Dark Web, but there’s less people there than the well lit side of the street.
What’s In It For Them?
In the recent case, the evil site didn’t honor sales. Even if they did, or were handing out files for free, odds are good it’s a data scooping or identity theft risk. No good will come of getting a book from one of those illegal sites. Heck, I would use an isolated browser and computer just going to one of those sites to investigate. There’s no trust.
You found a site with your book on it. The law that covers this is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and your or your legal representative (aka lawyer) need to send a DMCA Take Down notice. What I hate about this is that a fan can’t help here when they find an illegal seller. Best they can do is email their favorite author. But once you found it, it’s time to attack. With research and form letters.
This has all been written about before, so I’ll sum up, and then include links to other articles. The first step is finding where to send the first Take Down letter to the site itself. You’re looking for a Contact Us or Abuse or Report function. Even better, a DMCA page. I doubt illegal sites have one of those, but the rules require you to hit them before you contact their ISP.
Step One: The First Letter
Author RJ Blain shared a template for the letter and gave permission for me to use it here (I asked). You should buy a book from her from the link at the end of this article. Here’s her template, just fill in the spots she tagged:
I am the copyright owner of <list of books> written by <author name.> You are selling illegal copies of my book. Remove all copies of this title from your web server, as you do not have copyright permissions to use these titles in any fashion.
Here is a list of all infringing URLs on your site.
<Provide list of the URLs.)
Here is references to the legal copies of these books for sale.
<Provide a list of links to the books in question on Amazon.>
Thank you for your cooperation. Should you fail to take down the stolen materials, your web server will be notified and legal proceedings will begin.
As an alternate, this handy site includes a form to fill in that generates a similar letter:
Step Two: The Hunt For the ISP:
The next step, assuming they do not take down the content (they’ll ignore it, they’re crooks), is to contact their ISP. There’s two sites for getting to the bottom of that. http://www.whois.net/ and http://www.domaintools.com/research/dns/ which gives more information.
Step Three: Another Letter
It’s possible the ISP is unaware of the vileness of the site they host. Then next stem is a different letter to them informing them of the evil festering in their domain and your attempts to fight it. Again, RJ has supplied this template as well:
I am writing to you in regards to the theft of my intellectual property on <site name.> They were mailed with a DCMA notice on <date.>
They have not honored my DCMA takedown requests, and they are selling illegal goods using your server's resources.
I request that you remove their website from operations until it is proven they are no longer selling illegal material.
Here is a copy of the correspondence sent to <site name.>
Thank you for your cooperation.
Step Four: There’s More?
The NPAA has document the process with links and diagrams of the process. It’s possible these emails won’t be enough. They might even make a counter claim. You’re gonna need a lawyer. You also must register your copyright, to take it to court. Up until this point, that’s not a requirement.
Here’s a link to the NPAA’s excellent walkthrough:
Should You Bother?
My experience with intellectual property lies in the technology and business end. But the base lesson remains. You have to defend your IP or you will lose rights to them. Consult an IP lawyer for some mumbo-jumbo that will leave you confused because they didn’t give you an absolute path or convinced you need their services. I’ve seen science and articles that reveal that the theft of your IP isn’t a significant loss of sales because they were never going to buy it. That’s a reason to not meltdown when you find out your work has been stolen. Do the process. Read these articles on why it’s not that damaging.
Step Five: The Big Guns
It can feel lonely trying to tackle this problem. You’re not alone. Here’s who I found is helping to fight the battle:
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
Romance Writers of America
Consider joining one of these organizations to help them fight for all of us writers. Yes, join the FBI. We need more stories of the FBI kicking doors in and arresting book thieves in their seedy dens of digital inequity.
Today’s article is a bit link heavy. I wanted to raise awareness of how to tackle copyright infringement. At my current level, that’s a slim risk. But somebody’s on the cusp of getting there and when it happens, hopefully this article leads them to the rest. In the meantime, until the people of the world spontaneously fund and support artists and writers so they can give it away, please visit their websites and buy their stuff.
Here’s some people whose stuff was on that site or contributed to the making of this article:
Here’s more links on sites that explain all this.