Piracy

‘We’re told to be grateful we even have readers’: pirated ebooks threaten the future of book series

7 November 2017

From The Guardian:

According to the Intellectual Property Office’s latest study of online copyright infringement, 17% of ebooks read online are pirated – around 4m books.

Ebook piracy is “a very significant issue and of great concern” to publishers, said Stephen Lotinga of the Publishers Association, which works to take down and block pirated ebooks links and sites. “As an industry we’ve not had the situation that the music and film industries have gone through,” Lotinga said. “But that obviously is 4m ebooks that authors and publishers aren’t getting paid for, and should be getting paid for, and it’s a particular worry for publishers at a time when ebook sales are slightly in decline.”

. . . .

Shannon wrote on Twitter that “the thing that’s really exhausting about piracy is that authors are often not allowed to be upset by theft of their work. If we ask people not to do it, no matter how courteously, we’re told we should have more compassion or be grateful we even have readers. Outside the creative industry, people broadly dislike theft. Within the creative industry, it becomes a grey area where people aren’t sure.”

“Authors who ask you not to pirate are not attacking people who are too poor to afford books, or people who genuinely can’t access libraries,” wrote Shannon – but Lotinga at the Publishers Association said that those people were not often the perpetrators. Ebook pirates “tend to be from better-off socio-economic groups, and to be aged between 31 and 50-something. “It’s not the people who can’t afford books,” he said. “It’s not teenagers in their rooms.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Nate at The Digital Reader for the tip.

An Objective Analysis of Piracy Site Blocking

3 November 2017

From Brett Danaher:

Arguments against piracy website blocking seem to mostly take one of two forms:  there are arguments about it violating freedom speech or potentially “breaking the Internet” (to use a popular phrase), and there are arguments of the form “it won’t have any impact, you can still find ways to pirate any content you want, so why do it?”  I’m not a legal scholar, so I don’t have any special expertise on freedom of speech.  I’m also not an expert on the technical side of the Internet – although I do know that site blocking has been implemented in over 40 countries and in studying site blocking in several of those countries I’ve seen no evidence of a “broken Internet” or even a serious challenge to net neutrality.  But I would leave the arguments about this to those whose expertise lies in the area of Internet policy regulation.

That said, I can offer my expertise on the argument that website blocking won’t have any impact because pirate content can always be found somewhere.  I’ve been doing empirical research on this claim for the better part of a decade now; specifically, I’ve been looking at whether supply side antipiracy policies – enforcement actions that target piracy sites or protocols – can influence consumers to turn from illegal channels to legal ones.  And I’ve been keeping an eye on the research of colleagues asking this same question.  My findings are summarized in a peer-reviewed article published in Communications of the ACM.

. . . .

Basically, there is no evidence of a supply side antipiracy action that completely removes popular content from the Internet – you can always find it somewhere.  And there is evidence that antipiracy actions that do not make piracy sufficiently difficult have no meaningful impact on legal sales or total piracy, because consumers can either find other sites from which to pirate the content or circumvent the enforcement actions.

. . . .

However, research also shows that taking actions against piracy sites can sometimes make piracy so inconvenient that a meaningful group of marginal consumers will turn their behavior from illegal sources to legal ones.  For example, Mike Smith and I found that when Megaupload.com and Megavideo.com (the two largest piracy cyberlockers in the world) were both shutdown, many sites that linked to their content stopped working and many cyberlockers shifted their policies to be less tolerant toward copyright infringement.  The result was a causal increase in revenues from digital movie sales and rentals of about 7.5%.  Later, along with Rahul Telang, we found that even though the UK blocking the thepiratebay.org caused little decrease in total piracy and no increase in legal consumption, the UK blocking of 19 major video piracy sites in November 2013 caused a 12% increase in legal consumption and a large decrease in total piracy.  Later, when 53 more piracy websites were blocked in November 2014, we found a similar effect.

The point is that supply side antipiracy actions fail when they only slightly raise the difficulty of pirating content, but seem to succeed in nudging consumption toward legal channels when they sufficiently raise the cost/inconvenience of pirating content.

Link to the rest at Brett Danaher

A Story About Piracy

31 October 2017

From author Maggie Stiefvater:

I’ve decided to tell you guys a story about piracy.

I didn’t think I had much to add to the piracy commentary I made yesterday, but after seeing some of the replies to it, I decided it’s time for this story.

Here are a few things we should get clear before I go on:

1) This is a U.S. centered discussion. Not because I value my non U.S. readers any less, but because I am published with a U.S. publisher first, who then sells my rights elsewhere. This means that the fate of my books, good or bad, is largely decided on U.S. turf, through U.S. sales to readers and libraries.

2) This is not a conversation about whether or not artists deserve to get money for art, or whether or not you think I in particular, as a flawed human, deserve money. It is only about how piracy affects a book’s fate at the publishing house.

3) It is also not a conversation about book prices, or publishing costs, or what is a fair price for art, though it is worthwhile to remember that every copy of a blockbuster sold means that the publishing house can publish new and niche voices. Publishing can’t afford to publish the new and midlist voices without the James Pattersons selling well.

It is only about two statements that I saw go by:

1) piracy doesn’t hurt publishing.

2) someone who pirates the book was never going to buy it anyway, so it’s not a lost sale.

Now, with those statements in mind, here’s the story.

. . . .

It’s the story of a novel called The Raven King, the fourth installment in a planned four book series. All three of its predecessors hit the bestseller list. Book three, however, faltered in strange ways. The print copies sold just as well as before, landing it on the list, but the e-copies dropped precipitously.

. . . .

I expected to see a sales drop in book three, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, but as my readers are historically evenly split across the formats, I expected it to see the cut balanced across both formats. This was absolutely not true. Where were all the e-readers going? Articles online had headlines like PEOPLE NO LONGER ENJOY READING EBOOKS IT SEEMS.

Really?

There was another new phenomenon with Blue Lily, Lily Blue, too — one that started before it was published. Like many novels, it was available to early reviewers and booksellers in advanced form (ARCs: advanced reader copies). Traditionally these have been cheaply printed paperback versions of the book. Recently, e-ARCs have become common, available on locked sites from publishers.

BLLB’s e-arc escaped the site, made it to the internet, and began circulating busily among fans long before the book had even hit shelves. Piracy is a thing authors have been told to live with, it’s not hurting you, it’s like the mites in your pillow, and so I didn’t think too hard about it until I got that royalty statement with BLLB’s e-sales cut in half.

. . . .

Floating about in the forums and on Tumblr as a creator, it was not difficult to see fans sharing the pdfs of the books back and forth. For awhile, I paid for a service that went through piracy sites and took down illegal pdfs, but it was pointless. There were too many. And as long as even one was left up, that was all that was needed for sharing.

I asked my publisher to make sure there were no e-ARCs available of book four, the Raven King, explaining that I felt piracy was a real issue with this series in a way it hadn’t been for any of my others. They replied with the old adage that piracy didn’t really do anything, but yes, they’d make sure there was no e-ARCs if that made me happy.

Then they told me that they were cutting the print run of The Raven King to less than half of the print run for Blue Lily, Lily Blue. No hard feelings, understand, they told me, it’s just that the sales for Blue Lily didn’t justify printing any more copies.

. . . .

I was intent on proving that piracy had affected the Raven Cycle, and so I began to work with one of my brothers on a plan. It was impossible to take down every illegal pdf; I’d already seen that. So we were going to do the opposite. We created a pdf of the Raven King. It was the same length as the real book, but it was just the first four chapters over and over again. At the end, my brother wrote a small note about the ways piracy hurt your favorite books. I knew we wouldn’t be able to hold the fort for long — real versions would slowly get passed around by hand through forum messaging — but I told my brother: I want to hold the fort for one week. Enough to prove that a point. Enough to show everyone that this is no longer 2004. This is the smart phone generation, and a pirated book sometimes is a lost sale.

Then, on midnight of my book release, my brother put it up everywhere on every pirate site. He uploaded dozens and dozens and dozens of these pdfs of The Raven King. You couldn’t throw a rock without hitting one of his pdfs. We sailed those epub seas with our own flag shredding the sky.

The effects were instant. The forums and sites exploded with bewildered activity. Fans asked if anyone had managed to find a link to a legit pdf. Dozens of posts appeared saying that since they hadn’t been able to find a pdf, they’d been forced to hit up Amazon and buy the book.

And we sold out of the first printing in two days.

Link to the rest at Maggie Stiefvater and thanks to Barb and others for the tip.

Here’s a link to Maggie Stiefvater’s books (hopefully all legit). If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

PG loved Maggie’s strategy. Since she’s the owner of the copyright in her books, she can put up legal versions of the first four chapters of her book.

Depending on the wording of her publishing contract, it’s probably not a violation of the contract. If it is a technical violation, PG doubts any publisher would complain about her use of a portion of the book for anti-piracy purposes, particularly since it proved to be an excellent sales promotion strategy.

PG wonders if there’s an anti-piracy/sales promotion business to be created out of this strategy. The basis for the business would be to flood fan forums with incomplete copies of a book in the manner described in the OP in order to boost legitimate sales. If a pirate uploaded a complete copy, the anti-piracy business could respond by posting warnings on the forum that the pirate copy was another defective one.

PG hasn’t thought through the legal implications of polluting the pools where pirates swim, but he’s in a mood today. As Maggie clearly demonstrates in the OP, piracy does steal ebook sales from from legitimate online stores and definitely harms authors.

PG doesn’t advise escalating the strategy further by implanting a harmless virus in an incomplete pdf copy of a book and uploading that to forums where illegal copies are circulated, however. However, a flurry of antivirus program warnings that were triggered when a pirated copy was downloaded might further discourage the use of illegal copies.

Or, perhaps, simply posting messages on the pirate forums warning that some illegal pdf copies on the forum contained a virus might serve the same purpose.

While he doesn’t claim to be a programmer, PG suspects writing a simple program to at least partially automate this anti-piracy strategy would not be terribly difficult.

For clarification, this is not the lawyer’s side of PG’s brain producing these thoughts. PG has an anarchist section of his brain that he keeps carefully separated from the attorney section.

The lawyer side of PG’s brain does say that filing suit against the operators of forums devoted to ebook piracy is another possible approach. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides some protection to owners of such forums, but PG suspects an inventive attorney could find some ways to make the lives of the organizers and hosts of such forums uncomfortable.

So, for a final warning, PG is not making recommendations here, only speculating about possible anti-piracy strategies and giving his anarchic self a bit of morning air. He’ll stop listening to the voices in his head for the rest of the day.

‘Pirate’ EBook Site Refuses Point Blank to Cooperate With BREIN

26 October 2017
Comments Off on ‘Pirate’ EBook Site Refuses Point Blank to Cooperate With BREIN

From Torrent Freak:

A site focusing on eBooks is being pressured by Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN. Among other things, Eboek.info says it provides digital versions of comics to people who’ve already bought a physical copy but BREIN insists this is illegal. The site says it won’t be giving in to BREIN’s demands, adding that Cloudflare’s services offer no protection against copyright groups.

Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN is probably best known for its legal action against The Pirate Bay but the outfit also tackles many other forms of piracy.

A prime example is the case it pursued against a seller of fully-loaded Kodi boxes in the Netherlands. The subsequent landmark ruling from the European Court of Justice will reverberate around Europe for years to come.

Behind the scenes, however, BREIN persistently tries to take much smaller operations offline, and not without success. Earlier this year it revealed it had taken down 231 illegal sites and services includes 84 linking sites, 63 streaming portals, and 34 torrent sites. Some of these shut down completely and others were forced to leave their hosting providers.

Link to the rest at Torrent Freak

People who Pirate eBooks Do Not Buy Them

12 September 2017

From Good Ereader:

There are millions of pirated ebooks online and many publishers have begun to go after the pirates and either shut them down or block access to websites via an ISP. New research suggests that this might be futile, removing ebooks online does not influence sales. That is it say, pirates are not suddenly buying the book from an online retailer such as Amazon or Kobo.

Three researchers from Poland’s University of Warsaw conducted an analysis that covered some 240 books  in the Polish market in 2016, with a range of genres represented by titles published by 10 companies that agreed to take part in the program.

“We signed an agreement with a professional agency that deals with such research activities,” Krawczyk told Ludwika Tomala from Poland’s news agency PAP. The agency removed pirated copies of some 120 books” from the Internet, Krawczyk said to Tomala. “Whether pirated copies were easy or difficult to obtain turned out not to have an actual impact on the sales of a given book.”

“While most of the publishers suspected a negative impact of piracy on legal sales,” the researchers wrote, “we find no evidence of a significant shift in sales because of pirated copies being available online.”

. . . .

It is estimated that pirated content costs the publishing industry over $315 million dollars in 2016.

Link to the rest at Good Ereader

Australia Blocks Dozens of Pirate eBook Websites

21 August 2017

From GoodEReader:

Authorities in Australia have ordered internet service providers to block over 50 different piracy websites. These companies have 15 days to comply and it will be a blow to people who are downloading digital comics, ebooks, magazines and newspapers for free.

Graham Burke, Village Roadshow’s co-CEO and the head honcho of anti-piracy group Creative Content Australia (previously known as the IP Awareness Foundation), said: “This is a historic moment for Australia to have what is effectively 95% of the criminal trade blocked. The thieves who run pirate sites contribute nothing to Australia — they employ no one and pay no taxes here. Of the enormous profits they earn, not one cent goes back to the original creators of the content.”tent.”

. . . .

Earlier in the year a new study was published that looked into the type of people who pirated books the most. The study suggests that people aged between 30 and 44 years old with a household income of between $60k and $99k are most likely to grab a book without paying for it. Overall, the majority of illegal downloaders are relatively well-educated, with more than 70% having either graduated from college or in possession of a post graduate degree.

Link to the rest at GoodEReader

Why Authors Shouldn’t Worry About Piracy

24 February 2017

From The Creative Penn:

About two years ago, I was on a panel at a writing conference with another author who had self-published a cookbook. I listened while this author declared that she refused to make a digital version of her book available until “they do something about piracy.”

When it was my turn to speak, I pointed out that bestselling author Cory Doctorow was a few rooms over, on another panel. Doctorow has sold millions of books, despite making all his books available free on his website. Getting one of his books is as simple as going to his website and clicking a download button, and yet tens of thousands of people still pay up to $9.99 for digital copies of his book. Clearly, the availability of free copies is not hurting Doctorow’s sales.

. . . .

The publishing industry has attempted to discourage piracy by implementing DRM on ebook files.

DRM, which stands for Digital Rights Management, is an umbrella term for various digital copy protection technologies. DRM is supposed to prevent unauthorized copying and sharing of a file, which sounds like a swell idea, except for two things: First, any form of DRM can be cracked, usually very easily. That’s because there’s a fundamental flaw in any copy protection scheme: publishers can encrypt files all they want, but if buyers are going to read the book, the publisher has to allow them the ability to unencrypt the file.

DRM is a thorny, complicated subject, but the key point here is that there is no magical technological solution to this problem. If you’re waiting for “them” to “do something about piracy,” you’re going to be waiting a long time. If somebody really wants to get your book for free, you really can’t stop them, no matter what kind of protections you put on the file.

. . . .

Studies have indicated that piracy actually increases sales, both of ebooks and other media. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that making content cheap and easy to download increases profits. Take, for example, the case of Monty Python increasing sales by 23,000% by releasing free videos on YouTube, or the case of comedian Louis C.K. releasing a DRM-free recording of his performance for $5.

. . . .

As a relatively unknown author, the worst thing that can come from someone sharing your book illegally is that you might reach a few more potential readers, some of whom might actually pay you for a book someday.

Link to the rest at The Creative Penn and thanks to Felix for the tip.

The One Where An Author Steals Text From My Book To Sell Pirated Software

13 January 2016

From David Gaughran:

In today’s episode we are going to out a two-bit huckster who tried to put one over on yours truly, take a quick detour through the verdant fields of copyright law (and the slightly plainer meadows of moral rights), and then end with an example of how to handle a scammer.

Sound fun? Strap yourselves in!

A helpful reader – who will remain nameless for reasons that will become obvious – emailed me yesterday morning. I was just about to start work but the subject line caught my attention: Did You Give Permission For This?

Uh oh. I started reading the message he had forwarded.

It had originated from a domain called IndieWriterSupport.com (you can cut-and-paste that address or Google it, but I’m not linking directly and giving them an SEO boost). And it appeared to be a straight cog from my book Let’s Get Visible.

What was going on here? I kept reading.

At the end of this considerable (2,411 word!) chunk from Let’s Get Visible some text had been added promoting a product called KDSPY – which is the new name for what was previously known as Kindle Spy.

There was then a bit.ly link to purchase KDSPY, which suspiciously went direct to a PayPal purchase page rather than the site of KDSPY, followed by another call-to-action asking people to visit IndieWriterSupport.com – the same domain as the one which had sent the email.

To be clear: I have never used Kindle Spy, let alone endorsed it, and I certainly didn’t write about it in Let’s Get Visible – I think the product wasn’t even launched until a year after I published that book – and I hadn’t written about it anywhere else for that matter. I’d also never heard of the website sending the email, nor given them permission to use my work.

. . . .

What I do have is a layman’s familiarity with legal concepts pertaining to my profession and knew straight away that this guy was breaching my copyright, and probably my moral rights as an author too. The first should be obvious, although there is an interesting wrinkle worth pointing out in case you find yourself in a similar situation.

When I released Let’s Get Visible, I did a few guest posts to promote the launch. One of those was on the blog of ALLi – the Alliance of Independent Authors. The post was essentially an excerpt from Chapter 4 of Let’s Get Visible, the one dealing with Amazon’s category system and explaining how to optimize your category metadata.

ALLi had permission to run that excerpt, but that doesn’t stop that work (and those words in particular) being protected under copyright, and doesn’t give carte blanche for anyone else to use it either.

And, while the definition of “Fair Use” is regularly debated, and defined differently by different jurisdictions and, it seems, different judges, it’s quite clear that this doesn’t fall under any definition or interpretation of Fair Use, especially given that they excerpted the entire chapter and were using it for clear commercial purposes.

. . . .

This “publisher” appears to have been operating since 2013. I found a complaints online dating from then, slamming it for being a crappy vanity press which charges reading fees.

. . . .

The Kindle Spy team were great. I emailed them via their contact page and got a response right away. They were extremely helpful and in a position to confirm two surprising things. First, this guy wasn’t a Kindle Spy affiliate. Second, they reckoned this was the same guy they were already chasing – someone had pirated their software and was selling unauthorized copies of same.

. . . .

[M]y personal favorite where he actually trots out the E word:

Request granted!

Link to the rest at David Gaughran

David also points out a discussion of this organization on Absolute Write.

Here’s a link to David Gaughran’s books. If you appreciate his work in pointing out scams targeting authors, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Scammers Are Using Createspace to Spam Amazon With Pirated Textbooks

12 September 2015

From The Digital Reader:

A reader has tipped me to the news that Amazon’s own website is a great source of pirated books.

Scot Schad discovered that pirates had been ripping off freely available and open source digital textbooks, and then using Amazon’s POD service to sell print versions on Amazon.

Here’s how it works.

The scammers identify a popular textbook, copy the name, and then start selling the paper copy of a pirated book under that name.

They’re hoping to sell the pirated book to an unwary buyer who might mistake the knockoff for the legit textbook, and it must be working because they keep doing it.

. . . .

Three pirated textbooks might not sound like much, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Schad identified a half-dozen other pirated POD textbooks on Amazon, and I found at least dozen other titles sold by the same “authors” of the pirated books.

For example, there’s a copy of Linear Algebra and Its Applications by the aforementioned Ben Ward. This book was pirated from a Linear Algebra textbook published by Bookboon.

I also found dozens of books from those “authors” which were no longer available but also showed every sign of having been pulled because they were pirated.

. . . .

It is difficult to say how long this operation has been going on (months? years?), but I would say that we are looking at industrial scale pirates second only to the ones that used to infest Google Play Books (it looks like Google has fixed the problem).

The only real difference is that these scammers are targeting POD textbooks, rather than ebooks, and that the POD scammers are going after even the most arcane title.

. . . .

This isn’t just a problem with pirated books on Amazon. What you see here are signs of a fundamental problem with one of Amazon’s platforms.

All of the textbooks mentioned above, as well as all the other textbooks published by these scammers, were distributed through Createspace.

And that is a huge problem for everyone because Createspace doesn’t just distribute to Amazon’s website.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Stephen for the tip.

Rousting the Book Pirates From Google

30 August 2015

From The New York Times:

The Haggler will now don his professorial tweeds because he starts this episode in teacher mode. All of the action below revolves around the Google Play store.

. . . .

In Forbes recently, Erik Kain called Google Play “an ugly, poorly organized store filled with myriad knockoffs, dubious ‘games’ and other apps.” That sounds a bit harsh to the Haggler, a Google Play regular who has had mostly positive experiences.

That said, the site has problems.

Q. Book piracy has taken a new form. Someone scanned my entire e-book, “Graphic Design Solutions,” created a new cover and is selling it on Google Play. It is the same e-book, verbatim, and inside are the same images, same layout and the same interviews. The only difference is the name of the author. A person named Jazmin Bonilla gets the credit.

My royalties have plummeted, which affects my ability to donate to scholarships for my university students. Both my publisher and I have notified Google, but no action has been taken. Maybe the company will listen to you.

ROBIN LANDA, NEW YORK

. . . .

[The Haggler’s] first thought was that if e-book piracy were a serious issue on Google Play, there would be other examples. There are many. A quick search led the Haggler to a site called The Digital Reader. There, the writer Nate Hoffelder detailed “rampant” e-book piracy, as he put it in a May post, in Google Play. He found that one shop was selling more than 100 pirated versions of best sellers by authors like Malcolm Gladwell, Sidney Sheldon and Ellery Queen.

They cost $2.11 each. But even these oddly priced bargains were kind of a rip-off. Mr. Hoffelder downloaded a few and found they “were clearly inferior copies with missing formatting, generic or outdated covers, and other problems,” he wrote.

. . . .

Mr. Hoffelder said that Google was aware of the problem but responded slowly to complaints from authors and publishers and sometimes did not respond at all. As bad, when the company acted, he stated, it would often remove pirated e-books but allow e-book pirates to remain on the site.

. . . .

So the Haggler contacted Google. He included a link to both the authentic “Graphic Design Solutions” in Google Play as well as the fake. A guy named Matt McLernon immediately got in touch. Like many members of Google’s public relations staff, Mr. McLernon was exceptionally pleasant — and hamstrung. Google is forever worried that the details of its inner workings will be used to game its algorithms and filters and secret sauces by an assortment of miscreants. So its P.R. team is filled with really bright, really friendly people who dearly wish they could be more helpful.

That said, we have enough light to see what happened. About 18 months ago, Google Play started selling self-published e-books. Any author could post and sell his or her work on the site. But in February — and why this started then is a mystery that Mr. McLernon did not explain — a wave of piracy was spotted by book publishers.

“It was mostly e-books in the science fiction genre,” said Chantal Restivo-Alessi, chief digital officer at HarperCollins. “So we had a number of calls with Google.”

It emerged that the pirated books were being uploaded by people using Google Play through its self-publishing channel. People were opening accounts, ostensibly to publish their own work, and then selling digital copies of popular, and not so popular, e-books that they had not written.

“I don’t know if it is my immense power,” Ms. Restivo-Alessi said, “or if they were having similar conversations with other publishers at the time, but they listened to me, and they shut down the point of entry for these pirates.”

Mr. McLernon confirmed this. In May, Google stopped enrolling any new self-publishing authors. At the same time, a team of employees went through all of the complaints filed by publishers. Pirate accounts were deleted. (The company eventually plans to restart the program.)

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Stephen for the tip.

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