PSA: Playster Isn’t Illegally Hosting Your PDFs

1118062646_202089a298_bThere's a new scam sweeping the internet, one which is harming both authors and readers alike.

Over the past few weeks I've heard authors say that they're finding more pirated copies of their ebooks.

In what bears an eerie resemblance to the early Scribd years, two authors have told me that they had googled one of their books and found links that, after jumping through one or more sites, inevitably lead to subscription services like Playster.

After a careful investigation, I have concluded that I can't find evidence that Playster or the other sites are hosting the files. There's no way for third parties to upload content to the service, and when I was a member of Playster I could only find legally sourced content, and so I don't think it is committing piracy.

And just as importantly, Victoria Strauss of the Writers Beware blog has reached a similar conclusion. She has not blogged about it yet, but she did mention on Twitter (one, two, three, four, five, six) that she had joined Playster's service in order to check for pirated ebooks.

She did not find either of the two books she was looking for.

In short, this is not a piracy operation. Instead, we are looking at some other type of scam, one which is using the promise of ebooks as bait.

It's not clear what type of scam this is, but that's not important. What matters at this moment is how to respond. One could try to go after the intermediate sites with DMCA notices, or one could file a notice with Playster.

Or, we could go after the scam's weakest point, the spot where authors have the most power and the scammers have the least.

That, my friends, would be Google.

This scam is based on the premise of using Google search results to trick people into thinking they can get an ebook for free. The end result will vary depending on the trick that the scammer is playing today, but all the variations start with Google.

And that is why I would recommend sending a DMCA notice to Google. Have them remove the link from their search results, and no one will be able to find  the link. This will effectively neuter the scam.

You can start the DMCA notice on this page on Google's website.

P.S. If this becomes a game of whack-a-mole then you might sign up for a service like Muso, Attributor, DMCA Force, or Piracy Trace, and let the service deal with the problem. But that is up to you.

image by Christina Welsh

 

About Nate Hoffelder (10615 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

13 Comments on PSA: Playster Isn’t Illegally Hosting Your PDFs

  1. > It’s not clear what type of scam this is, but that’s not important.

    It’s just an affiliate scheme. If you follow any of those kinds of links to Playster, you’ll see a disclaimer at the bottom of the page:

    “*You have been redirected here from an external affiliate. We cannot therefore guarantee the existence of any file on our servers, except for those found on this page or on Playster.com.”

    The same fake pirate site strategy often employed Amazon affiliate links in years past, but I don’t see that as often as Playster now.

  2. Hi Nate-
    I did actually find a pirated copy of my book on Playster and asked them to remove it, which they did. I know there are a lot of scams around but there is evidently some legitimate pirating (if there is such a thing) going on there. Thanks for drawing attention to this. I also found a beta app on Google that was selling a pirated pdf and Google took care of that for me as well. I don’t spend a lot of time seeking these things out. I just have an alert set up in Mention for my book name and they show up from time to time.

    • Chris, how did you find it on Playster? The only way it seems I can browse is to join, and they’re not getting my money while simultaneously violating my copyright. Thanks. 🙂

  3. I too found a downloadable, pirated copy of my copywrited novel on Playster. I asked them to remove it, but they have not responded. They make money from book-related memberships, yet do not compensate the writer. I find this situation untenable and consider it criminal activity.

  4. How can I find out if my book is really on the site without signing up and giving credit card numbers?

  5. Nonsense! All of the Playster material is pirated. How else would they get it? Do you think authors and artists grant them copyrights for nothing?

    What do they pay websites to claim that they are legitimate?
    The truth will pay you far more when the reckoning comes.

  6. Playster has pirated my book. Curso de programación multiplataforma xojo. I’m unemployed developer.

  7. Playster advertises that they’ve given away thousands of copies of my book, The Raj Sextet. I’m not going to sign up to check if this claim is true. If Playster’s claim is true, then Playster is guilty of piracy. I didn’t allow Playster to use my book, which is published by Amazon Kindle. I own all rights to “The Raj Sextet.”

  8. I am an author and have had this problem. It is affiliate marketing fraud that falsely advertises PDFs of author books and then directs people to Playster or Usenet.Nl for a free trial of their services. Subscribers give credit card details for verification, and with Usenet.Nl, cannot cancel and then are ripped off, and sent debt collector letters. Just Google Usenet.Nl scam.

    Playster do similar, but their cancellation policies are better.

    In both instances, books are not hosted by the sites, but people do not find out until after sign up. A nasty scam.

    Affiliate marketing scammers avoid Google DMCA takedown notices by uploading a dummy library of advertised PDFs onto multiple self-hosted wordpress sites, sometimes changing domain names daily.

    Google DMCA takedowns is the way, as well as targeting the file sharing sites such as Playster, who will bar affiliates that cause large numbers of DMCA complaints. A time intensive process, but it does pay off in the end.

  9. Authors against Copyright Abuse // 24 February, 2017 at 3:06 pm // Reply

    Playster / Playster Affiliates Dept / Publishing Manager Colin Stratchan ignoring cease and desist letter, false and misleading advertising,183+ DMCA complaints

    Playster is a new company formed in 2015 that prides itself on values and working with independent authors.However, they have a serious problem that they appear not willing to address, namely that a lot of their revenue comes from Russian based affiliate marketing agencies that refer people to them to subscribe to a membership where they can supposedly download unlimited E-Books in PDF form.

    The affiliate agencies engage in false and misleading advertising that involves creating vast numbers of websites, sometimes using hijacked domain-names, or using affiliates that create multiple Google Blogspot blogs hosting scraped descriptions of authors copyrighted titles. The websites often contain download buttons which then redirect to Playster. The websites rank high in Google and proport to offer free downloads via Playster. The scam is that usually the book is not available, but one only finds out after signing up for a free trial, which many consumers report difficult to cancel and incur charges on their credit cards The internet has many complaints of such activities.

    The scraped websites are always in violation of DMCA regulations and Playster get around it by claiming it is their affiliates that are responsible. Many of the websites cannot be delisted with Google, as they contain hijacked domain names that imitate real ones and when clicked on lead to Playster affiliate banners. Because of this, Google often cannot locate the original infringing content and such websites rank highly in Google for months, even if the affiliate banner is deactivated. I personally have filed over 180+ DMCA complaints with Playster.

    I have also filed complaints with web hosts, one problem being that the hosts are in Russia and there is a lot of red tape to file a DMCA takedown, including translating the DMCA complaint into Russian and having it notarized in Russian and English. Given the number of infringements, this is beyond the standard means of many independant authors. Thus it can be said such affiliate marketing agencies are DMCA immune and thus removing affiliate links is close to impossible. In December 2016, Playster were sent a cease and desist letter in relation to my book, but did not cease and desist the behaviour.

    Even if one can clear the web, it is only a matter of days before fresh blogs appear with new affiliate advertising. This does a great disservice to independant authors and Playster clearly profit from the behaviour which is wrong. Some of the affiliate marketing also utilizes FB ‘comment farms’ where apparently fake users post comments about how good the book is, or how they read the book, even though the book is not available. This constitutes false and misleading advertising, using copyrighted images of authors books.

    The problem is prolific and as yet Playster do not have a handle on it. The problem is admitted on their website, althouh is downplayed in contrast to the reality of the situation:-

    We work with a number of performance advertising networks, and are aware that, occasionally, third-party sites we don’t own or control might refer to intellectual property in their advertisements for Playster that we do not actually carry in our catalogue. While we do our very best to police this, our advertising network is vast, and sometimes unscrupulous advertisers can go unnoticed.

    The publishing manager who is Colin Strachan who appears to be the one that takes DMCA complaints, blocked my email, presumably because of the large number of valid DMCA complaints, and because I asked him to expunge infringing links from Google, which has not been done.

    Since then, fresh links have appeared, necessitating further work. They also dishonoured a US $10, 000 bill from my company for DMCA admin work that necessitated making 180+ DMCA complaints to clear up the web AND ignored a legal cease and desist letter, and continue the behaviour.

    They do it to many authors and there are many complaints online about Playsters activities. It looks like Playster was once JoMedia, implicated in advertising fraud, run by Philip Keezer.

    Independant authors are advised NOT to publish their work with Playster.

    So to sum up, they are not hosting the PDF, but claiming to (which is copyright abuse), in order to detract traffic and to harm author sales. The scam is also designed to obtain money by deception plain and simple.

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