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