How to Fight E-book Piracy

From Publishers Weekly:

How often do you worry about your paycheck getting stolen? Probably not too often, because we have strong laws that deter and punish theft of money, banking systems in place to protect you and track down the thief, and law enforcement that will step in to help.

But authors don’t have this security when their royalties are siphoned off by e-book pirates. Day after day, authors find stolen copies of their books on multiple platforms and pirate websites, and there is nothing they can do about it. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the law that regulates copyright liability on the internet, allows authors, publishers, and copyright holders to send takedown notices in response to copyright infringement. Pirate sites, however, whose operations are usually based outside the U.S., ignore the takedown notices, and companies that provide online services in the U.S. (such as web hosting services, search engines, social media sites, and user-generated content sites like YouTube) take down only the e-books posted at the specific URLs listed in a given notice, leaving other pirated copies online and doing little to prevent new ones from being posted, even by the same users. As a result, piracy flourishes unabated, diverting income from authors’ pockets to those of pirates.

. . . .

In July, the Authors Guild organized a lawsuit against a notorious Ukraine-based network of piracy sites called Kiss Library. The named plaintiffs in the suit are 12 Authors Guild members, as well as Amazon Publishing and Penguin Random House, whose generous financial support made the lawsuit possible. Kiss Library, which operates,,, and other websites, illegally sells pirated e-books at very cheap prices. Its sites were designed to look like legitimate online bookstores, complete with elaborate descriptions of how they help authors, while they actually exploit authors by drawing unwary readers away from legitimate, royalty-earning copies. Going into the lawsuit, we were fully aware of the costs and challenges, including the improbability of getting restitution for authors, let alone delivering sturdy consequences for the sites’ operators. Our primary goals were simple: to shut down the criminal enterprise and to raise awareness about the challenges that authors and publishers face in combating rampant online piracy.

Our lawsuit against Kiss Library illustrates the importance of cooperation from third parties in fighting piracy, particularly that of internet service providers (ISPs), payment processing services, and other utilities that pirate sites rely on to operate. An earlier temporary restraining order directed domain registrars to disable Kiss Library’s domains, taking the sites offline, and ordered payment processors Kiss Library used to freeze their assets. Two weeks ago, the court converted the restraining order into a preliminary injunction, allowing our lawyers to obtain and investigate records relating to the individuals involved in operating the site from their ISPs. Additional sites that were distributing pirated comics and cartoons as part of the larger Kiss Library scheme have also been identified and disabled as a result of discovery and the injunction.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

4 thoughts on “How to Fight E-book Piracy”

  1. There are two main schools of thought about piracy, but the one I adhere to is to let the traditional publishers, with the moneybags (if any), go after the pirates. It is not likely to affect my bottom line, and they seem to believe it affects theirs.

    Which it probably does, because of their excessive prices for ebooks, and the ease of duplicating anything electronic.

  2. In seeming conflict with logic, books that are pirated and then released to people on pirate sites do not steal money from you. Sure, they’re getting your book for nothing and you receive no royalties or sales income but think it through – those people would never have paid for your book in the first place. There was NEVER going to be a source of income from those people. They took a non-physical item and duplicated it. It’s not like I lost manufacturing costs from that theft so I never realize a loss in net worth from the piracy. Railing against the pirates is as silly as complaining if someone buys my paperback for $4.99 and then sells it on Amazon for $1,000.00 – the income they just made is something I was never going to see anyway.

    Now if the pirates tap into my sales channel and funnel the funds destined for me to themselves, THEN they’re stealing the money from me but pirated downloads are just money I was never going to ever see in the first place, hence, I lose no sleep over pirates. I hope deep down that someone who read a pirated copy would tell a friend who would go buy it but then again they probably only know other thieves.

    I’d like to hope that right-thinking people would avoid pirate sites and go buy books legally, but one can never know if someone has the moral fiber to stand on the side of the angels when stolen merchandise presents itself.

    • People pirate content for a variety of reasons, few if any substitute for an actual (versus theoretical) purchase.
      Some are hoarders, who get everything they can because they can expecting to maybe some dy actually consume it but rarely doing it. Somebody downlading USENET flood or 2500 book torrent isn’t likely to read more than one or two much less everything they pirated.
      Some are ideologues who refuse to pay for any IP.
      Some are “protesting” high prices by pirating what they might have bought at a lower price. Or pretending as much.
      Some, typically students, are actually poor and might later become customers.
      Some are curious about the book/author and not satisfied with an ebookstore sample, some of which are little more than the indicia and index. Those might actually buy soonish.
      Once upon a time the SCAN-AND-OCR pirates rationalized their deeds by saying they did it because there wasn’t a digital edition. Some even meant it and quit when commercial ebooks hit the mainstream.
      And some just don’t give a darn.

      Some authors shrug off piracy as petty shoplifting, some see it as free promotion no different than free promos ( “obscurity is a bigger threat than piracy”), and some agonize that somebody somewhere is reading their work without paying.

      It takes all kinds.

    • Pirate sites operate in a different segment of the demand curve. They are lower and to the right of the retail market. The two segments don’t overlap.

      Those consumers in the retail segment are also willing to purchase for less, but there is a significant transaction cost for pirated books that is rarely mentioned. It’s not nearly as easy to find and buy from such sites, getting the file onto an eReader is beyond many, and there is a cost in the risk of credit card fraud. And then, there are all the sites that list a title and have nothing behind it, or they download a nonsense or dangerous file.

      Are there people who actually get the pirated book and read it? Sure, but I doubt anyone knows how many.

      I suspect it’s a bit like DRM. Strong emotions from a small group, and pro forma actions by some big guys to show how much they care..

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