As you can imagine, I have always regarded those claims as having little basis in reality, but I was frankly surprised today to learn that a publisher agrees with me.
Springer, one of the larger academic and technical publishers in the world, sent out an advisory letter recently. The letter brings Springer authors up to date on Springer's anti-piracy efforts, and it offers advice on how authors should evaluate the pirate sites they might come across.
So far as I can tell Springer's entire focus is on sending takedown notices.
“In order to protect our authors´ rights and interests, Springer proactively screens websites for illegal download links of Springer eBooks and subsequently requires hosts of such download sites to remove and delete the files or links in question,” they write. The letter goes on to say that "Our continuous efforts have lead in the Summer of 2013 to the success of deactivating the activities of illegal commercial sites selling our books at flat rates, e.g. the so-called“flat rate” shops."
According to Springer, they receive around 100 piracy notifications from authors each month and about half of all those reports are bogus. In fact, they make it seem like piracy is far less prevalent than a cursory Google search would lead you to believe.
The letter even includes several helpful tips that authors can use to tell that a given site isn't a serious piracy issue:
- As a rule of thumb links with names like “fast download,” “direct download” or similar frequently turn out to be spam and are not critical in terms of piracy.
- In many cases blogs or websites only claim to offer downloadable eBooks (without being able to offer any content) in order to generate traffic. They are considered spammers, too.
- Sites that try to install a “downloader” should alert you. They probably do not offer any eBook content but will install potentially dangerous programs on your PC will install potentially dangerous programs on your PC.
The letter goes on to offer bad advice including that authors should avoid bittorrent clients because "Downloading content automatically means uploading content from your PC! This can cause legal trouble! We strongly recommend avoiding it!"
Never mind that any number of sources of legal content can be downlaoded via torrents, including Humble Indie Bundles (assuming you paid for it), software updates, Linux distros, and even ebooks from a few forward thinking authors and publishers (Paulo Coelho and Corey Taylor, for example).
But that's not the best part. Springer starts off the letter by informing authors that:
In order to protect our authors´ rights and interests, Springer proactively screens websites for illegal download links of Springer eBooks and subsequently requires hosts of such download sites to remove and delete the files or links in question. This necessary action has become increasingly important with the growing number of eBooks within theSpringer eBook collection. While we have not yet seen harmful effects of eBook piracy and file sharing on our eBook portfolio, these are nevertheless considered serious topics.
Springer has yet to see any harmful effect from piracy. It almost makes you wonder why they're spending so much time and money doesn't it, doesn't it?
image by FantasyClay