Pub Rants

Piracy—All Too Real

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STATUS: Besides that fact that it’s snowing again in Denver, I’m good. The keyboard and the mouse dried out and are working fine. Yea! And don’t worry, I know that there are plenty of mighty and wonderful librarians who fight for free speech etc.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? COOL CHANGE by Little River Band

This isn’t the first time it has happened and I’m certain it won’t be the last. Piracy. Illegal eBooks being offered for sale via a website. Last time one of my author’s series of books was offered for sale in the Philippines. A quick email to the publisher got their legal team on it and within 24 hours, the webhoster had pulled the site.

It was probably up again a week later under a different hoster but hey, you do what you can.

This week, it’s a file sharing culprit right here in the U.S. (or I think it’s the US, the origin isn’t clear) A website called eSnips. Funny enough, sharing books isn’t an obvious part of the “community.” You need to go here to see what is being offered. Deliberate? Hum…

First off, if you are an author, you might want to check the site to see if your book is featured there. If so, contact your agent and your editor. We need to speak up in the face of copyright violation.

After all, this is how writers make their living–by selling books and earning royalties. If the books are posted (in full) on a site that allows free downloads, then the author is not earning money they are owed for their work.

Even if the books are being made available by misguided fans who think they are simply boosting the fan base of their favorite authors, it’s just plain wrong. (Besides, nothing like dissing an author you like by not allowing them to earn a living.)

And even if the author is already super millionaire, they still have a right to earn that money from their work (and to dispose of those earnings how they choose–even to charities etc.). Being a bestseller doesn’t matter for this issue.

Just imagine if it were your work being made available so casually—especially if you’re eyeing your bills for next month and wondering just how creative you’ll need to be to pay them…

24 Responses

  1. Tessa said:

    Also, what about public libraries? A lot of public libraries are making ebooks available for download. How does that work? In the US, authors don’t make a library fee.

  2. Pepper Smith said:

    First, Google supposedly only makes a few pages available of any given work based on what you ask for. I think they’re not supposed to make more that 20% available, in total. But it remains to be seen if that truly works that way.

    Public libraries loan ebooks for a certain period of time, usually around 3 weeks. The file is designed to stop operating after the expiration date. And no, US authors don’t earn royalties on library books, but if someone likes your work enough after reading it in the library, they may buy a copy for themselves.

  3. Yasmine Galenorn said:

    I am one of the authors that was being pirated. My book is off their site for now, but I did a lot of poking around and there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of titles up there. I’m feeling jaded and cynical as of right now, and I’ve decided to try to educate my readers about just what this means. Most of my loyal readers would never do this, but some may not realize how much this hurts not only my livelihood, but eventually their reading selection when authors are no longer offered contracts because sales dwindle.

    But for now, as I said, feeling jaded and grumpy. I’m just glad the folder with my work in it was pulled, but I’m not holding my breath. There are a lot more than esnips out there, and I’m pissed off.


  4. Anonymous said:

    The CEO of esnips has a blog. We need to inundate her with comments.

    I noticed the number one poster of books wants to be a librarian, says she loves books. Maybe she needs to be made aware of how damaging her actions are to authors.

    I suspect she’s an author wannabe who got burned by the industry, and this is her payback.

  5. Pepper Smith said:

    Hmmm. Well, I think it’s safe to say that most of the people who are aware of the piracy issue are the writers and publishers of the books. The vast majority of the public think nothing of copying and sharing files. Many think they’re doing others a favor when they pass on those ebooks. (I have a friend who did that with one recently, which I deleted unread.) Most folks don’t realize it’s illegal. We as writers with material in electronic format have to be the ones helping to educate our readers about that.

    The folks who do know it’s illegal and keep doing it anyway usually justify it by claiming the publishers are immoral for charging so much. All we can do is keep trying to shut them down, and educate the public to get them not to buy from these people.

  6. Anonymous said:

    I am torn about this because although of course I believe that authors should be paid for their work, I’m barely scraping by financially and I never buy new books unless I already know and love the author. Never.

    So if I downloaded an ebook from an unknown (to me) author for free, sure the author wouldn’t get paid, but I wouldn’t have bought that book in any case. And now I might fall in love and buy future books. So, would it be OK in that scenario, or still wrong? How is it different from borrowing from a friend or using a library?

    (This is all theoretical anyway, I don’t read e-books.)

  7. Anonymous said:

    To Anon, above me.

    The main difference in borrowing a book from a friend or library and downloading an illegal file is that you can’t attach the borrowed book to an email and send it out to everyone you know.

    Even moderate spread of a work would directly damage sales for the author. Viral spread could be devastating.

    Unlike a library book, everyone who downloads the file now “owns” it. The number one reason people buy books they’ve already read is the need to own the material and continue to collect the author. As the illegal file does not erase after a set time or have to be returned it has the “owner” factor built in and hurts author revenue.

    I’m not saying that some who download the file won’t in fact later buy the book. I’m saying the majority won’t and the result would keep new authors and mid-listers from rising in sales, and make top sellers more reluctant to share their work in new forms.


  8. Angelle Trieste said:

    So if I downloaded an ebook from an unknown (to me) author for free, sure the author wouldn’t get paid, but I wouldn’t have bought that book in any case. And now I might fall in love and buy future books. So, would it be OK in that scenario, or still wrong? How is it different from borrowing from a friend or using a library?

    Because if you borrow a copy from your friend or library, you have to give it back. If you really love it and want to keep it, you have to buy a copy.

    Maybe someone might say that piracy is like buying things used or borrowing them. But in order for you to buy them used or borrow from friends or libraries, someone had to buy them new. Meaning, in order for a used book store to have seven used copies of Jane Doe, someone had bought seven NEW copies. Some for the libraries. They had to buy these books new first in order to circulate X number of copies. Therefore the author was paid royalties for those sales.

    If someone goes to Kinkos and makes SEVEN copies of Jane Doe, then the author got royalty for one copy only (this assumes that the book was acquired legitimately to begin with — someone could’ve stolen it for all we know). And as people don’t check out Jane Doe’s books at the libraries, the librarians might stop buying Jane Doe’s books due to the lack of demand. Eventually her publisher will drop her because she’s not selling enough.

    So you can see how piracy can deprive Jane Doe of her income and destroy her career. I’m not against used books or borrowing stuff from libraries since I think that UBS and libraries perform important functions, but it’s something else entirely to engage in illegal activities and steal.

  9. Anonymous said:

    The majority of those people on eSnips know they’re doing something illegal. Some of their files have been disabled, and they just move the bootleg material into new, “private” files.

    One or two may not know. The rest, yes, they’re fully aware. They just don’t care, because what they want is more important than what’s right.

  10. Patrick McNamara said:

    I’ve found that about ten percent of those who get something for free would actually pay for it, so the amount actually lost from illegal downloads may not be as bad as it seems. And many of those who download are people who lack the income to afford actually buying the book, so they are forced to either break copyright to do without. The danger is when those who can afford to buy start looking at this as acceptable. And it does hurt potential e-book sales should the author ever wish to go that way.

    I don’t see this really becoming a widespread problem. People generally prefer reading print over reading e-books. And books offer a certain protection in that it usually costs more to print out an e-book than it costs to buy a print book. And as for places like Kinkos, they won’t make copies of any book unless you own the publishing rights.

    Few writers need to panic. This isn’t as big a problem as the downloads of pirated movies. Hot books such as Da Vinci and Harry Potter are likely to be targeted most, but the average novel probably isn’t worth the pirater’s time.

    The only way to stop it is to police the Internet and to shut down any site with illegal downloads. But even the movie industry doesn’t seem to be wanting to do it, even though they have the most to gain. These sites should be shut down because many of those using them may not realize that the books are being sold illegally. It’s easy to complain about the problem, but only action will stop it.

  11. Scott Marlowe said:

    Pretty bad… there’s lots of books on the site. This sort of thing isn’t going to get any better. Plenty of lawyers are going to keep very busy…

    It’s analogous to what’s been going on in my primary field (software) for years. You do what you can, shut down one site or source even though you know it’s going to pop up somewhere else, try to encourage family members to buy their own copy of turbotax (or whatever), but people love to get stuff for free.

  12. B.E. Sanderson said:

    I just tried the links you posted, and neither one works. I hope they’ve died because you pointed out their shady practices.

    Thanks for another excellent post, Kristin.

  13. Pepper Smith said:

    I think one of the problems with what Cory Doctrow is doing is that the author’s work is not primarily put out in ebook form. There are a number of authors whose work IS primarily in eformat, and that philosophy hurts them, because they don’t get advances, so all their book income comes from sales of their books. For a writer whose work is primarily on paper, giving away electronic copies is a great gimmick, but it can train people to think that ALL books in eformat should be free.

    Which is another reason why music and books in electronic formats are frequently pirated, often without the pirate realizing that’s what they’re doing. There’s nothing physical to hold, so there’s an assumption that it should cost nothing. Most people don’t realize that ebooks are protected under the same laws that protect software from piracy.

  14. Anonymous said:

    Where’s Lars Ulrich when you need him? Didn’t the music industry go go through something like this a little while ago? Can these douches be squished the way Napster was?

  15. ~Nancy said:

    Downloads of a book are fine as long as the publisher and author give their permission.

    For instance, check out what Baen’s done:

    I love the Harry Dresden books. When I heard (and saw) yesterday that his books were part of a free download, I immediately sent an email off to him. Received a reply that the publisher’s lawyers would be looking into it.


  16. Saipan Writer said:

    This (e-snips) does seem to be a lot like Napster and other file-sharing sites. In the user agreement, it says that you, the user, agree to abide by all laws including copyright laws. And of course e-snips has a disclaimer of liability for any actions taken by their users.

    But I think e-snips can be thought of as republishing the work, or failing to take reasonable precaution to prevent illegal file-sharing.

    They need something where every single upload requires the user to certify that the material being uploaded is their own creation, or that they have the express right to republish the material.

    Obviously, they’ve got stuff on there that violates the laws of many jurisdictions. The excitement of file-sharing and internet access just isn’t a good enough excuse for people to continue in ignorance about what they can and can’t do.

  17. C said:

    For saipan writer and anonymous, who want to know if you can shut esnips down as Napster was shut down?

    The answer is: Probably not.

    Start here:

    It is the policy of eSnips, Ltd. to respect the legitimate rights of copyright and other intellectual property owners. Pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. Section 512 (the “DMCA”), eSnips has designated an agent (specified below) to receive notifications of claimed copyright infringement on its sites.

    If you believe that your work has been copied in a way that constitutes copyright infringement or that your intellectual property rights have been otherwise violated, please provide eSnips’ Copyright Agent with the following information in accordance with the DMCA:

    [Description of procedure for effective notice under the DMCA]



    If esnips follows the procedures outlined under the DMCA, then it “shall not be liable for monetary relief, or, . . . for injunctive or other equitable relief, for infringement of copyright by reason of the storage at the direction of a user of material that resides on a system or network controlled or operated by or for the service provider.”

    17 U.S.C. s. 512(c).

    Translation: You have to tell them to take it down. If you do, and they don’t do it, you can go after them. If you don’t, and they don’t do it, you have no recourse.

  18. Heather said:

    I’m not sure that the disclaimer would protect them. After all, you can’t take copyrighted works and post them with the caveat that you have to tell them not to; copyright already covers that.

    They’re violating copyright law in the first place by taking works they are not authorized to take.

    I don’t think the legalese would protect them. This is much like a fanfic author’s “don’t own don’t sue” disclaimer… it’s not going to protect them if they WERE taken to court; in fact, it might even convict them, because it is their confession that they know they’re doing something wrong.

  19. Anonymous said:

    For those with low bank accounts, I agree, it is hard to find new cool authors with little pocket money. Thank goodness for libraries and people willing to swap or resell their books. Like someone else mentioned, those people do actually have to buy the book. And if a book is checked out of the library enough, more books by the author are bought (so I’ve heard) and the book is kept on the bookshelf, meaning more readers can come in, and fall in love with the author’s work.

    If you buy a book, there is only one copy. For ebooks, this isn’t the same.

    Personally, I hate reading long things on the screen, would rather have paper. (Sorry tree lovers) But thank goodness there are a number of great people out there willing to purchase books instead of just getting it online.

    I just can’t believe someone would bother to spend that many hours scanning books… and for what? Just to give it away free?

    I love libraries. I’ve found uber number of great authors that way, and later bought books from those authors because I loved them a lot. And from someone who appreciates the ‘free’ part about it, I still wouldn’t do the ebook thing. I want my authors to keep writing. (Does anyone else ‘claim’ authors like I do? lol )

  20. CM said:

    It’s not the disclaimer that protects eSnips, Holly. It’s the DMCA, and the procedures that flow from it.

    The DMCA is a federal statute that provides immunity for direct, vicarious, and contributory copyright liability to service providers where third parties post content. The DMCA thus trumps copyright law: if a service provider is protected by the DMCA, you can’t bring a copyright action against them.

    The DMCA basically says: if a user infringes copyright, a passive service provider is not liable so long as that service provider takes appropriate steps when they receive adequate notification of infringement.

    End of story.

  21. Anonymous said:

    It’s truly difficult when publishers only “print” part of a series in ebook form. Kay Hooper’s Bishop books are some of my favorites and I have bought all of them in whatever format available. I admit, however, to shamelessly searching online for ebook copies sold only in paperback / harcover versions. Would somebody PLEASE tell publishers and authors that some of us prefer versions we can read on our Palm?