From small fries to world renown authors, pirating and plagiarism go hand in hand. Some “writers” take snippets and weave it into a story while others just straight up copy an entire book and claim they wrote it. Thousands of readers flock to pirating sites that remind us of Napster or LimeWire (for those too young to remember Napster in the 1990s https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napster).
Both are illegal. Both can be dealt with similarly. I’m going to focus mainly on the pirating side, but feel free to apply the knowledge for plagiarism.
Before you’ve done anything, go to https://www.google.com/alerts# and set up alerts in various combos. You want titles, series, name, website, etc. that covers you as a brand and you as in your products (books). Google will send you emails when sites trigger these key phrases. Now, this isn’t perfect—occasionally I get things like “Lady Gaga Laughing” in place of my Laughing P series, but the great thing about this is you might discover blogs and reviews about your works that you never even knew were happening. It also sends you URLS that could very well be pirating sites.
There are two trains of similar thought that covers pirating sites, and I’m going to post both below.
Another group I’m in 20booksto50k mentioned another very useful site.
So, Go to SFWA and file with their legal team. As part of their 501(c)(3) structure, they have to help everyone regardless of whether you are a member or not. Here are a couple useful links.
It’s true, most pirating sites don’t have your book. And if you’re with a traditional publisher, they should already know how to do this and do it for you if you discover them by chance—readers are the number 1 way we find pirating sites, because they tell us; that fact should fill you with joy, but don’t think that makes this any less important.
For companies like Amazon, if your book is in Kindle Unlimited, and they even suspect a site has your book, they have been known to threaten and cancel KDP accounts. Sometimes they give a slap on the wrist and remove the book from distribution or from KU, but they swing the “hammer” in such ways that there’s no telling which way they might go if their AI system discovers your book “breaking” their Terms of Service.
Now they have a page to report an infringement, I don’t know if that buys you time. (https://www.amazon.com/report/infringement). From the looks of it, you can report issues that are self-contained on Amazon or books found on pirating sites. Amazon may be the biggest bookseller, but they aren’t the only company having issues with illegal copies.
Apple (iBooks) has been caught with copies of actual books the author did not uploaded but by scammers (https://www.jongriffinauthor.com/apple-store-and-pirates); plagiarism and pirating go hand in hand. If you discover your book on iBooks illegally, contact Apple via https://www.apple.com/legal/internet-services/itunes/applebooksnotices And I would suspect that Kobo, Google Play, Nook, etc all have a similar system.
First, screen shot your book and make sure you have the URL visible. While you don’t submit the screenshot, keep track of these places; not all places play fair and they might re-upload your book within a few weeks or you might have to show proof at a later date.
Next, draft your C&D letter (goes to the website owner) and DCMI letter (goes to the hosting site and search websites). https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/stock-letters/
To find the hosting site, enter the URL (https://whois.net/) and the info should appear giving you the host, the URL, email address to report abuse, etc. Tons of valuable stuff. While you can pay to have some of this information hidden (like your name), you can’t hide who is hosting the website. Copy the email address and send the DCMI or use the website’s report feature (some sites have an input box so you don’t have to actually email them.)
Next, we move on to reporting the pirating to search engines. Google makes it super simple. https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/dmca-dashboard Put in the URL and follow the instructions as Google walks you along. Now, if you haven’t registered your copyright, you cannot take these assholes to court and recoup money over the lost revenue. That doesn’t mean you can’t take them to court, you just will not get a payout from it. File your copyright notices.
If you’ve filed your copyright, and the sites haven’t taken down your books (regardless if they have the actual book or not), within 48 hours, contact a lawyer. Here’s the part where networking can make a hell of a lot of difference.
First, I highly recommend this FB group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/344502312649026/). All genres are welcomed. The group is quiet mostly, but when a pirating site is discovered, there is nothing in this world more dangerous than writers who know what they are doing. Then notify the FBI. https://complaint.ic3.gov/ If enough notifications come in about this, it’s a criminal crime that can be in the thousands of dollars in stolen wages/lost revenue. One site was estimated at nearly a million dollars in the short time it was online by the time the FBI was notified. For their form, you’ll need the info provided by the hosting site. Even if the website is hosted out of country, notify the FBI. They are part of the federal government and work with various areas including other countries.
If you are looking at trying to cut down on piracy of your books, you could try a program like Bookspout (http://booksprout.co). Booksprout has a code inserted on every eBook given out. If you find your book on a pirating site, you can submit it to Booksprout’s form, and they will ban the user from the site. You can also code your ePubs and Mobis with a similar code. I use Sigil and I place the code in various spots—it’s usually the person’s email address or FB page URL—, and if I find a marked copy on a pirating site, I block them. Same thing for copies I give away in giveaways. You can also code for where you upload copies.
The DRM doesn’t stop pirating. There are websites that unlock it in about 30 seconds, and most of my pirating copies have come from Amazon while a few have come from ARC members and giveaway winners.
It’s a lot of work. I’ll never argue that. Networking with authors gives you a security net of what’s going on outside our individual bubbles.
The culture of the internet has thousands of readers who openly support pirating sites. Some argue books are too expensive for their reading habit—though people will spend $20 to go to a movie for two hours and lament about $4 on a book that will last them the same allotment of time.
Libraries have eBook programs. You can sign up to some libraries in different states without ever stepping foot through the doors, and most counties have a library that is part of a larger system. Libraries pay for the rights to use the book. You can read it for free, and the library foots that bill for you.
Some people believe everything on the internet is free, not realizing they are literally making writers have to find other avenues to make ends meet. Yet those people couldn’t go a whole day without watching TV shows, reading magazines, articles on Buzzfeed, etc. Things written by creative people who need to live too.
The craziest thing is, I’ve seen writers validating pirating sites.
“At least someone is reading them.” If you want to give a book away for free, how about do it in a way that benefits you? Newsletter builder (gets people to join your newsletter), permafree on Amazon (helps your rank which helps your visibility), serialized on your blog or FB page (helps draw people to your page/website, helps with visibility, and those people might buy other works). There are dozens of ways to make free work for you.
“But what if it goes viral like 50 Shades.” You are not an exception. No matter how “special” your family and friends say you are, reality is only about .001% of anything goes viral, and that is usually because it’s funny as hell, cute as shit, heart wrenching, or stupid. Are you one of those things?
Stop undervaluing your work. Stop letting others benefit from your hard work. You wouldn’t expect to work for free in any other profession, why do you think that’s how it works as a writer?
It doesn’t matter if you are a small-time writer or a big time writer, stand up for justice, support other writers the honest way, be the wall that we can stand next to each other and say “We aren’t your rug. We aren’t your floor mat. We aren’t your boot brush. And we deserve to make a living like anyone else. And we will fight together to squash those who steal.”