David Segal learned of the problem from by a reader who had found a pirated copy of one of her books in Google Play Books in July (months after Google closed its publisher portal so it could directly respond to the piracy issue).
Segal contacted Google, talked to publishers, and reports that:
About 18 months ago, Google Play started selling self-published e-books. Any author could post and sell his or her work on the site. But in February — and why this started then is a mystery that [Google spokesperson] Mr. McLernon did not explain — a wave of piracy was spotted by book publishers.
It emerged that the pirated books were being uploaded by people using Google Play through its self-publishing channel. People were opening accounts, ostensibly to publish their own work, and then selling digital copies of popular, and not so popular, e-books that they had not written.
In May, Google stopped enrolling any new self-publishing authors. At the same time, a team of employees went through all of the complaints filed by publishers. Pirate accounts were deleted. (The company eventually plans to restart the program.)
There isn't much else to add (Google isn't saying much). But in spite of the lack of detail, this is still good news. Google has yet to reveal when they plan to reopen the publisher portal, but the public confirmation of why they closed it tells us that Google really is finally taking the piracy problem seriously.
That said, I'm still trying to figure out how Google plans to fight ebook piracy and what they're currently doing.
For example, the book mentioned above was missed by Google, and only removed after it was identified by a member of the press. That suggests that Google is not using an algorithm like ContentID to search for pirated books (Scribd is using such an algorithm). But that is only a guess.
If you have encountered a Google anti-piracy measure in Google Play (either as a user or as a publisher), please leave a comment, reach out on Twitter, or what have you.
Many authors and publishers share my interest in this topic, so any tidbits of information would be widely appreciated.
image by thedescrier