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Publisher Rudy Shur is Disappointed That Google Can’t Just Press A Magic Stop Piracy Button

260207875_36837ec228_oThe internet is an infinitely complex structure which isn’t so much free of form as it is utter anarchy, but that hasn’t stopped people from insisting that any given tech company can simply wave a magic wand and solve the problem du jour.

Whether it’s Hollywood, Donald Trump, or the RIAA, there’s a persistent and mistaken belief that whatever problem is vexing someone online can be solved at the press of a button. And to make matters worse, that mistaken belief is often paired with the entitled attitude that tech companies have an obligation to press that button just because it is demanded of them.

And sadly, both of those beliefs are cropping up in the book publishing industry.

On Friday Publishers Weekly posted an editorial by Rudy Shur of Square One Publishers. Shur says that he was recently approached by a Google rep who wanted Square One to sell its books in Google Play Books.

On reflection, Shur decided that he won’t do that because he objects to continued Google’s refusal to solve the piracy problem on the internet:

What we did discover, however, was that Google has no problem allowing other e-book websites to illegally offer a number of our e-book titles, either free or at reduced rates, to anyone on the Internet. When we alerted Google, all we got back was an email telling us that Google has no responsibility and that it is up to us to contact these sites to tell them to stop giving away or selling our titles. Of course we did, but to no avail; somehow I believe that, to begin with, Google logically figured that would be their response.

It seems unconscionable to me that Google would allow the hijacking of copyrighted titles by these sites and actually feel no responsibility for this action, with the reasoning that this type of action on Google’s part would be tantamount to censorship.

Folks, don’t be this guy.

There are somethings that are beyond out control, and wishing for a tech company to solve a problem won’t change that fact.

P.S. You can find more commentary on this piece over on The Passive Voice.

image by flattop341

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SAD December 13, 2015 um 3:20 pm

Wow! I didn’t know Google owns Internet!
You learn new things every day.

Nate Hoffelder December 13, 2015 um 4:05 pm

And here I thought it belonged to Henry van Statten.

Nils Kragen December 13, 2015 um 10:09 pm

"Folks, don’t be this guy"?? Folks, don’t do business with this guy. Better to self-publish on Amazon

poiboy December 14, 2015 um 6:33 pm

a. google is a search engine. by their logic, the White Pages are responsible for abortions by listing the abortion clinics in their directory (circa 2001)
b. piracy is file sharing for profit. like the guy on the street selling you "legit" blu-ray copy of The Avengers for 5 bucks each.
c. file sharing is sharing content for free, like a library.. or your friend lending you their bought paperback to read. if you like your friend’s book you were lent, then you go and buy it for yourself.
d. if ebooks on amazon (etc) were sold at a lower price than a physical book (that had to be formatted, printed, packaged, shipped, merchandised and sold by a paid book store staff member), i’m sure a lot more would be sold. but when an ebook sometimes is at par with the price of a hard-copy, then people are going to resort to borrowing/file sharing the book from their friend/library/internet connection.

Michelle Louring December 15, 2015 um 3:37 am

You mean Google is not all-powerful? *Gasp!*
I don’t know this world anymore…

Bill December 15, 2015 um 2:25 pm

Hi Nate – I really enjoy the digital reader – thanks for your work here.

I saw that editorial and had several a couple reactions – seeing this follow up and its comments, I have more. I work with a self-publisher – we are on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Kobo, and B&N. Right now, Google is our #2 outlet behind Amazon. The Google Play Books process used to be seriously unwieldy, but it has improved considerably and is now fairly easy to use. (Minus their book discounting policy, but since they’re consistent about it, you can get around that.) Of course, Google Play Books and Google Search are two different things.

We have had serious copyright infringement problems due to online piracy, resulting in hiring a company (DMCA Force) to do regular monitoring and issuing of DMCA notices for us. The problem became far less of an impact to our sales once they started working for us, and a big reason was that they got Google (and Yahoo/Bing) to de-list the search results that were infringing upon us. Over the last two years, Google has removed almost 33,000 of these search results ( It doesn’t stop the piracy, but it seems to reduce the casual piracy (and most of our lost sales seem to have been of this variety, as they mostly stopped).

Is search result removal of pirating websites censorship? Personally I don’t think so. It is simply an ethical response to avoid promoting services that are breaking the law. Many pirate websites are operating more for advertising revenue than out of some sort of civil disobedience or the belief that content should be freely distributed. Yes, they’re giving it away, but they’re earning revenue for every ad displayed or clicked.

On the other hand, Google Play Books got its hand slapped for not being more careful about allowing in people masquerading as self-publishers who started selling others' works in the store. Hence the cessation of new partner accounts until they could get things cleaned up. Again, I think that was an appropriate and ethical response – and a necessary one if they want authors to trust them to protect their works.

I do agree with poiboy about (d). Big publishing companies charge too much for books, and particularly ebooks. Maybe with decreasing sales, they’ll figure out that their pricing is unreasonable.

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