E-books, Copyrights and Piracy. Oh My!!

Remember back in 2001 the big scandal that hit when Napster was accused of copyright infringement and shutdown because record companies and artists were not getting paid their fair share for their music, opening the door to companies like ITunes and Rhapsody (the new Napster).

Since the creation of electronic books, copyright issues have also become a concern. With the recent updates of e-readers like Nooks and Kindles and Smart Phones “pirated” e-books and sites offering them have been springing up all over.

An electronic book (variously, e-book, ebook, digital book) is a book-length publication in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both, and produced on, published through, and readable on computers or other electronic devices.   Sometimes the equivalent of a conventional printed book, e-books can also be born digital. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines the e-book as “an electronic version of a printed book,” but e-books can and do exist without any printed equivalent. E-books are usually read on dedicated e-book readers. Personal computers and some mobile phones can also be used to read e-books.

Authors can work for months or years on a book. They have many publishing options. Traditional Publishing in print, digital or both, Self Publishing in print, digital or both or as the paragraph above says they can “be born digital”.

The first “digital book” in 1971, Michael S. Hart was given extensive computer time by the operators of the Xerox Sigma V mainframe at the University of Illinois. Seeking a worthy use of this resource, he created the first ebook by typing the United States Declaration of Independence into a computer. Various versions continued through the years but the “e-book” really took off in 2010 when Apple launched the IPad. Amazon wasn’t far behind with the Kindle and then others followed.

The benefits are wonderful, the “book” can be in your hands on your device in seconds, fonts can be enlarged for the reader, thousands can be kept on a single device. But the headaches for publishers and authors seems to grow each year as “pirated”/illegal copies of books seem to be popping up all over the internet.

This past week an author friend found a pirated copy of her best selling novel on a website called Scribd another site http://www.sharetermpapers.com/ is also known for hosting pirated copies of books. There are several.

From a 2010 article on CNN

“Piracy is a serious issue for publishers,” said Hachette Book Group in a statement. The company that publishes Stephenie Meyer’s wildly popular “Twilight” teen-vampire series says it “considers copyright protection to be of paramount importance.”

Authors are concerned as well.

“I’d be really worried if I were Stephen King or James Patterson or a really big bestseller that when their books become completely digitized, how easy it’s going to be to pirate them,” said novelist and poet Sherman Alexie on Stephen Colbert’s show last month.

“With the open-source culture on the Internet, the idea of ownership — of artistic ownership — goes away,” Alexie added. “It terrifies me.”

And it’s not just bestsellers that are targeted by thieves.
“Textbooks are frequently pirated, but so are many other categories,” said Ed McCoyd, director of digital policy at AAP. “We see piracy of professional content, such as medical books and technical guides; we see a lot of general fiction and non-fiction. So it really runs the gamut.”

Some publishers believe pirating is just something to put up with. This again from the CNN article.

Ana Maria Allessi, publisher for Harper Media at HarperCollins, told CNN, “we have to be vigilant in our punishment … but much more attractive is to simply make the technology better, legally.”

E-book technology offers so many positives for both the author and the consumer that any revenue lost to piracy may just be a necessary evil, she said.

“Consumers who invest in one of these dedicated e-book readers tend to load it up and read more,” said Allessi. “And what’s wrong with that?”

What can we the reader do?

When Purchasing Electronic Books
1. Start with the online store that sells you brand of e-reader. Kindle/Amazon Nook/Barnes & Noble

2. Check out the author’s website. They usually have buttons that say “buy here” or something similar.

3. Follow links on blogs you trust to make purchases.

4. Do a little research. The authors and publishers sometimes offer discounted or even free copies of certain books. There are a few sites like Ereader News Today and Pixels of Ink that allow you to sign up for daily newsletters about Bargain and Free Ebooks. I am sure there are others.

I am a very new Kindle owner so I am still learning “the ropes” about electronic books. I must say there are more than enough ways to obtain books legally that accessing pirated copies would never had occurred to me. My grandmother taught me at a very young age that “if the offer is too good to be true it usually is”. If you see the hottest new bestseller offered for free it is probably a pirated copy.

This list was compiled in 2010 by Digital Inspiration in 2010. Sites to stay away from.
Websites Hosting Pirated eBooks

Authors work very hard to not only write stories we love to read but to get them published. They are not all James Patterson’s with multi-million dollar deals. I am shocked at how little most actually make and even when the story is purchased by a large publishing company,  how much they are responsible for as far as travel and supplies to promote their books. It is one of the big reasons many authors are going the self-publish route. When you take all of this into consideration the idea that their books can end up being stolen makes me crazy. I am far from an authority on this issue but it prompted me enough to write this post to shed light on this growing problem.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works. It also criminalizes the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself.

If an author learns their work has been illegally uploaded to one of these sites there is a form they can fill out citing the copyright law above demanding their work be removed from a site. If their demands are not answered or there are other issues the can seek further legal remedy.

If you see a book offered and the terms seem a little suspicious or it is on one of the sites listed above and you want to notify the author go to their webpage and to the contact info and send them a little note giving them the details of what you have found so that they can take action.

Also educate your family and friends about this very important issue. If people stop using these sites hopefully they will shutdown, but others will appear. I don’t think this is an evil we need to just let exist. We need to be diligent in our efforts to curb this problem. If someone stole your property you wouldn’t just ignore it so why should authors or publishers. Reading wonderful stories written my fantastic authors is a fabulous part of life. Let’s keep it legal. If you want to read a free book get it from the library.



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11 thoughts on “E-books, Copyrights and Piracy. Oh My!!

  1. This is such an awesome post! I attached the link to my google page and a few groups on goodreads. ( I hope that’s okay) It is a great message and reminder to us with e readers to be aware. Great job Dolly!

  2. Great post. The authors seem to be the only ones who don’t make much money from their work, everyone else seems to benefit whether you go the traditional route or self publish – very sad.

  3. Excellent post! Thank you so very much for sharing this. I only get my eBooks through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Christianbook.com. I didn’t know about the piracy going on. Thank you for informing your readers. 🙂

  4. Thanks SO much for this post. If you went to work and someone said, “by the way, I’m getting paid for your work today, and you’re getting nothing–but keep on doing what you do,” you would think that person was a little nuts. You wouldn’t go along with something like that, right? That’s kind of what happens when someone pirates an author’s work. Those sites get ad dollars and the person who downloads the book gets a “freebie.” The author gets nothing. The publisher gets nothing. Oh … but the downloader might get some spyware, adware or malware on their computer or re-reader as a bonus after they download the pirated book.

    Thanks again for raising awareness, Dollycas!

  5. A brilliant and informative post.

    I only buy my ebooks from Amazon and the like, but I’ve had friends say they’ve bought CDs full of e-books from Ebay and I can’t get it through to them that they’re probably pirated (usually the answer is “So what?!”).

  6. Great post and I agree totally. However, publishers can make it difficult at times. I recently borrowed a new release (2011 publication) from the library by a fairly well known author. It was big, it was unwieldy so I thought bugger this, I just buy it on Kindle – wasn’t available. I don’t understand why new books by authors that will sell are not made available electronically at the same time. I was more than happy to pay for the convenience. We had a similar problem when music came out digitally. We use an operating system not controlled by microsoft or apple so while we were more than happy to buy our music, we couldn’t because our system was not one of the big two!

  7. Most studies suggest that piracy has a net positive effect on sales (it brings in more people than it loses).

    This is why so many indie authors periodically give their books away for free, and why authors don’t prevent their work getting into public libraries.

    In any case, people aren’t pirating struggling indie authors and musicians. They’re pirating Stephen King and Britney Spears.

    In my experience new writers tend to be very scared that someone’s going to steal their work. In reality, the problem isn’t protecting your work from theft; it’s getting anyone to pay attention to your work.

    An article that I wrote on this subject is in various places, including here:


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