Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! A writing career consists of much more than writing stories. Be prepared. Be educated. Make well-informed decisions. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page or check out my handbook in e-book or print.
Piracy can be one of the most infuriating issues for writers. In this digital age, the practice of stealing artists’ work is far more prevalent than pre-internet days. Although pirates have been copying music and movies and distributing those illegal copies for decades, the ability to upload files has changed the landscape. Any artwork that exists online—music, movies, photographs, books, etc.—is a target for people who participate in the criminal activity known as piracy.
Pirates and those who frequent pirate sites are, more often than not, people who wouldn’t normally purchase the work they’re stealing. Some simply believe art should be free. Most just want to get something for nothing, whether they really want it or not. Unfortunately, other sources of pirated books include reviewers and contest winners.
What’s an author to do?
Authors can locate (some) pirated works with Google alerts and by using paid services like Muso to search for them. DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notices are sent by authors and publishers to pirate sites for the removal of pirated files. However, DMCA is US copyright law and many pirate sites are based overseas. Effectiveness of takedown notices is questionable at best for sites located outside the US since they aren’t subject to the laws. In some cases, users download viruses or have personal information stolen from pirates. Payback???
Few authors and their books avoid piracy. It’s a battle with no end. If the site removes the files, will they reappear a few days later? Do I want to give up writing time to deal with this side of the publishing business? Do the people who download books from pirate sites actually read them? Is it truly a lost sale?
Yes, piracy is wrong, but each author must weigh the pros and cons of conducting searches or paying for someone else to do the searching and sending takedown notices.
Go to the source. If a review site upload seems to coincide with pirated copies popping up, reconsider using that review site. Research reviewers and choose carefully. For contests, give gift codes or gift cards rather than the actual e-book file. Some contest participants and blog commenters are serial entrants with the sole purpose of uploading their winnings to file-sharing sites.
Another must—NEVER post the link to a pirate site on social media. Shaming doesn’t work and the source may be inadvertently shared with the wrong people. Share with authors in private to avoid guiding more users to sources of pirated books.
A combination of prevention and takedown notices can reduce the number of pirated copies, but the reality remains that in a digital society, piracy will not disappear. Be proactive, and leave time and emotion for writing.
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