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Dutch Anti-Piracy Group Files Suit over Piracy in Google Play Books

15113224901_92e58d0041_hUntil they were publicly shamed into changing their policy earlier this year, Google used to have a laissez-faire attitude towards piracy in Google Play Books. Now that indifference is coming back to haunt Google.

TorrentFreak reports that Brein, a Dutch anti-piracy outfit, has filed suit against Google.

When the GAU took action against the piracy in Google Play Books earlier this year, that publisher trade group actually referred the issue to Brein. Brein started an investigation and pressured Google to not just do something about the piracy but also to hand over the identity of the pirate that had uploaded Dutch-language ebooks to Google Play Books.

I bet you can guess what happened next:

Unsurprisingly that wasn’t a straightforward exercise, with Google refusing to hand over the personal details of its user on a voluntary basis. If BREIN really wanted the seller’s identity it would have to obtain it via a court order. Yesterday the anti-piracy group began the process to do just that.

Appearing before the Court of The Hague, BREIN presented its case, arguing that the rogue seller was not merely a user of Google, but actually a commercial partner of Google Play, a partnership that earned revenue for both parties.

Brein announced the lawsuit yesterday on its site (in Dutch). They say that they are only seeking the identity of the pirate, but I am still looking for confirmation. Both Torrentfreak and my Dutch source are working from Brein’s statement, which means all I really have is the one press release.

"The case is clear, Brein said in the statement. "There was infringement carried out by an anonymous seller that was actually a commercial ‘partner’ of Google via Google Play. This is how Google refers to sellers in its own terms of use."

If Brein is only seeking the identity then they will probably win this suit. They would likely have won the suit even under US law (which in this situation explicitly shields an ISP like Google from financial liability).

It’s not clear what Brein expects to get out of this suit; the pirate is almost certainly not in the Netherlands, and might not even be in Europe at all.

That pirate, which was uploading ebooks under the "author" name Flamanca Hollanda, was just one of many pirates that set up shop in Google Play Books this spring. Hollanda followed the same pattern as the other pirates, suggesting that this was a coordinated effort and not multiple instances of piracy.

I hope Brein does get the info, and releases it publicly. I’d like to know where that pirate was operating.

image by gruntzooki

Google Play Books is a Safe Haven for Commercial eBook Piracy

7377925440_42f0924084_bPiracy is endemic to almost every retail site which sells digital content. Some sites such as Amazon routinely (and sometimes aggressively) police their catalog for pirated content, while others have a more laissez-faire attitude.

Google definitely falls into the latter category. The ad network is allowing large-scale commercial ebook piracy to infest Google Play Books.

Update: I have published a second installment. And Google has responded.

And to be clear, we’re not just talking about an excess of pirated ebooks; Google Play Books' policies are enabling industrial-scale ebook piracy operations.

On Sunday I came across a tweeted link to an industrious ebook pirate who had set up shop in Google Play Books. Claiming to be the author, that pirate has uploaded and is selling no fewer than one hundred ebooks, all of which are obviously pirated copies:

Google Play Books piracy

The books had been stolen from indie authors and publisher, including HarperCollins, Baen Books, Penguin Random House, Dell Magazines (Ellory Queen Mystery Magazine), and Tor-Forge Books.

And just to be sure, I bought 4 copies at random and compared them to the copies in the Kindle Store (I’m out about $30). The pirated ebooks in Google Play Books were clearly inferior copies with missing formatting, generic or outdated covers, and other problems, but were as complete as the copies in the Kindle Store.

All these books are being sold out in the open, for $2.11 each, in what would best be described as the pirate’s own personal ebookstore. And to add insult to injury, they are all encumbered with DRM.

And Google isn’t doing anything about it, nor is Google doing anything to deal with the many other pirates who have set up shop in Google Play Books.

To be clear, I’m not talking pirates who have republished a book or two under their own name, or ones who snuck in a pirated copy of Ringworld; Google’s problems aren’t that small.

What we have here are multiple accounts which have picked an authors name and uploaded obviously pirated books under that name, effectively creating a pirate ebookstore.

A friend on Twitter spent a few minutes searching through Google Play Books and found no fewer than ten different "authors" and "publishers":

  • Huzur Burda
  • Dogukan Akbulut
  • Kazam Butur
  • Bestsellers – Books USA Press
  • Asama Davran
  • Samar Dana
  • Zara Hakan
  • Global Dogan
  • 80% DISCOUNT ( Save up to 80%)

Update: Google killed some of those accounts in response to this post.  Here’s a new list:

  • Bestsellers – Books USA Press
  • Dedem Adam (en español)
  • Duhyu Aban
  • Kansa Zera
  • Ahban Azer
  • Cather Danus
  • Ahacan Kanat
  • Best Book
  • Hamdi Yazar
  • Sahin Akbulut
  • Devad Akbak
  • 80% DISCOUNT ( Save up to 80%)

And that was in just a few minutes; just imagine what a thorough search will find.

Pretty much every site that sells digital content has a problem with piracy, but most try to cope with the problem. They respond quickly by removing the content as soon as they get a DMCA notice – and sometimes faster.

Scribd and Amazon, for example, have automated scanners which check for pirated, public domain, and other types of content. Youtube has the much maligned ContentID scanner, and there are even 3rd-party services like Atributor and Muso which will scan retail and pirate sites on behalf of their clients.

As we’ve seen in the past, those automated scanners are not without problems, but when paired with human oversight the scanners would be a far better option than Google’s current policies.

But Google won’t do that. Hell, they won’t even respond to a piracy complaint unless it comes from the copyright holder or their representative.

And when Google does respond, they will take down the ebooks but they will leave the listing active so it clogs up the search results and author listings (see the bottom of Larry Niven’s listing for examples).

Furthermore, Google may remove the ebooks you complain about but they will allow the pirate to continue to operate.

Tymber Dalton discovered a couple weeks ago that one of her books had been stolen by one of the commercial ebook pirates mentioned above (or a different pirate using the same author name):

This shitstain of a cuntnugget needs to go down:

ALL the books he has posted are ILLEGALLY POSTED. And I found out today, after discovering he’d posted at least one of mine, that authors have been sending takedown notices to GooglePlay Books for WEEKS and their books are STILL showing up there.

The illegally posted copy of my book is here and keep in mind, it’s an ILLEGAL posting. Not all of the books he’s posted are showing up on the front page of his stuff. Authors, go search your books by your name and make sure this fucking shitstain isn’t listed as author/publisher: Dougukan Akbulut

Either that pirate is still in operation, or another pirate has moved in and set up shop on the same author name. Given the similar operational styles, I think they are the same pirate, but either way, it does not speak well of Google.

google android statue pirate

image via Sugar Sleuths

Folks, the above examples show that Google doesn’t have a laissez-faire attitude; it’s more that they simply don’t give a damn about piracy in Google Play Books.

If Google cared, they would use the patent they filed for in 2013. That patent explained how to build a scanner which would identify and flag pirated content. If Google were using that scanner, my friend would not have found so many pirated ebooks.

Sadly, I think it is going to take an expensive lawsuit before Google starts to care about piracy in Google Play Books.

Viacom’s lawsuit against Youtube led to the ContentID scanner, and Google only started taking an active position against pirate sites showing up in search results after a lot of yelling on the part of the music and movie industries.

If we want Google to take similar action in Google Play Books I think the Big 5 will have to file a lawsuit.

Google was queried for comment before this post was published, and has not responded.

P.S. In the past Google has delisted and deranked pirate sites from its search results. Do you suppose they will do the same for Google Play Books?

P.P.S. If you have complaints about piracy in GPB, please leave a comment. I’m not done with this story. There are several issues I haven’t addressed yet, and I would love the opportunity to slap Google around again.

image by Free Grunge Textures, Sugar Sleuths


Google Play Books is Cutting Out the Middleman, Now Wants a Direct Relationship with Authors and Publishers

Many authors and publishers use a company such as PublishDrive or Draft2Digital to handle their distribution to smaller ebook retailers. They trade a small cut of their revenue for less hassle in managing their ebook offerings across multiple smaller ebookstores whose sales do not justify a direct relationship.

One would think that it is a good deal all around. Google, however, would disagree.

I’ve just heard about a policy Google started enforcing a couple months backs. It seems that Google now wants all authors and publishers with titles in Google Play Books to have a direct account with Play Books.

The change in policy was first mentioned by PublishDrive a little over a month ago (Dale Roberts covered it at the time) but I first heard about it today in a forwarded email from Draft2Digital (Thanks, Steve!).

D2D informed its users of the change, and assured them that D2D would continue to manage existing titles in Play Books on their behalf. D2D will not, however, be distributing new titles to Play Books. And because the policy effectively requires D2D to manually manage each author’s account, they also cannot offer all of their services for books in Play Books.

What this policy looks like to this blogger is Google squeezing out the middlemen. It’s not clear why Google is enforcing this policy (could it be a result of Google’s rampant piracy problem of a few years ago?) but it is going to make it harder for distributors to operate.


For the last couple of months, we have been distributing titles to Google Play in a public beta program. As a beta, we anticipated that there would eventually be some changes and updates to the program, to incorporate what we’ve learned, as well as any policy updates from Google..

One such policy update is that Google Play now requires all authors and publishers to have a direct account with Google.

Though this change impacts how D2D distributes to the Google Play platform, we have been informed that Draft2Digital can continue to manage direct accounts on the author’s behalf. However, this new policy does create some challenges.

Google’s requirements do not scale for a service provider with 60,000 clients, which means that distribution to Google Play will require a more time-consuming process on our end. This method of distribution would also prevent us from offering you our full suite of services on the Google Play platform, though you will continue to receive these services for our other sales channels.

Effective immediately, we have temporarily suspended all new title distribution to Google while we investigate and discuss solutions to Google’s requirement. 

If you believe that you would be unable to distribute your titles to Google Play without the use of Draft2Digital’s services, we encourage you to contact [email protected], and to explain why you depend on Draft2Digital to make distribution to Google Play convenient and efficient.

Please be polite and cordial in your communications with Google
. Policies such as these, even if misguided, are meant to protect everyone’s best interests. But I do recommend that you stress what Google is losing by enacting this requirement, and I would encourage you to request that D2D be made an exception to this policy.

We ask that you please be patient as we work through implementing the best possible solution for you in this very challenging situation. We will continue to keep you informed about progress and changes as they happen.

Draft2Digital Now Distributes to Google Play Books

Draft2Digital announced on Tuesday that they’re beta-testing a new distribution channel that will help authors reach more readers. According to the email going out to authors, D2D now supports selling your ebooks in Google Play Books.

Google Play Books sells ebooks in 70 countries around the world, and thanks to their previous problem with piracy they are notoriously difficult to get into. It is good to have another way in.

D2D will be making this channel available to authors gradually over the next few weeks. Authors will need to wait for an email informing them they have the option, and then log in to their D2D account and set the pricing and availability of their books for the new channel.

A few important details:

  • No minimum price—There is no minimum price at Google Play Books. You can list your book for free, if you like! Otherwise, you’ll price at 99-cents or above.
  • Wholesale pricing—Google Play Books uses a wholesale pricing model, meaning that authors can set a recommended list price and Google may discount it at their discretion.
  • Price matching—Some retailers, such as Amazon, may choose to price-match against the Google Play price for your book.
  • Royalty—D2D pays 44% of the wholesale price of your book made on Google Play, when you distribute through their  service. If you use their Recommended Wholesale Price, this will generally be about the same as the royalty you’d expect with standard pricing.
  • No assetless pre-orders—Google Play will not accept assetless pre-orders. You’ll need your book’s manuscript and cover.

image  by teclasorg via Flickr

Google Play Books Launches in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Six Additional New Countries

Google continued its measured expansion of Google Play Books this week.

9to5Google reports that Google has launched Google Play Books in 9 new countries in the middle east, bringing the total number of countries that have access to Google’s ebookstore to 75.

google play books

Readers living in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates can now buy ebooks from Google, and upload their own ebooks and read them in the GPB app for Android, iPad, and iPhone.

In related news, last month Google also released a new version of the Play Books app for Android which added a blue light filter similar to the one Amazon added to the Fire tablets.

Google tends to expand GPB in spurts, but their pace has slowed considerably in the past year. Unless I missed a step, this is the first expansion since March 2015. Do you suppose the Google Play Books team was distracted by the rampant piracy problem last year?

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

Google Ordered to Release eBook Pirate’s Details to Dutch Anti-Piracy Group

5736954579_896755ca20_bA judge in the Netherlands has ordered Google to hand over the account info for the ebook pirate behind the Flâmanca Hollanda account.

About three weeks ago Google was sued by the Dutch anti-piracy outfit Brein. Brein was seeking the contact info for one of the many ebook pirates that had set up shop in Google Play Books earlier this year. This particular pirate had been uploading Dutch-language titles to GPB under the author name Flâmanca Hollanda, and was only stopped when Dutch publishers protested loudly and sicced Brein on the problem.

Brein pressured Google into closing the pirate’s account in May, and they also asked for the account info so that Brein could pursue legal action against the pirate.

Google refused, so Brein filed a lawsuit and won. Google has three weeks to give Brein the IP address, mailing address, bank account number and first and last name belonging to the Google account that uploaded the pirated ebooks. Even if the person is outside the EU, Google must hand over the data.

That three-week period includes a fortnight where the account holder can lodge a protest and try to prevent their info from being released. The protest would be anonymously handled through Google and forwarded to the judge, but stands little chance of success.

There’s no word yet on how Google pans to proceed, and whether they plan to continue to fight the case in court. Google was contacted for this piece, but has not responded.


image by pasukaru76


Google Play Piracy Takes a Turn for the Bizarre

76104212_c441b28186_bOver the weekend the NYTimes revealed that Google was taking steps to curb the piracy problem in Google Play Books. Based on what I am hearing from authors, Google hasn’t solved said problem, but the news about the piracy is have all sorts of interesting side effects.

Authors are still finding pirated copies of their books in Google Play Books, only now the pirates are confusing the issue. Rather than upload a pirated book under a bogus name (a common trick used this spring) the pirates are now using the names of real authors and organizations as a way of cloaking their activities.

Yesterday I was contacted by an author, Gay Courter. She was seeking information on how to file a DMCA notice with Google concerning a pirated copy of one of her books in Google Play Books, and when we were exchanging emails she also happened to mention how she learned of the illicit ebook.

Courter wasn’t notified by Amazon, or an anti-piracy service, or by a reader. Instead she learned of the pirated ebook from another author, Tony Dunbar.

The pirates had expropriated Dunbar’s name and bio, and used those details to populate the listing for the pirated book. The pirates were in effect using Dunbar’s legitimacy as camouflage for their illicit activities.

That trick is relatively new, but at least one other pirate is using it in Google Play Books. A few minutes with Google  uncovered another of Courter’s books, only this one was attributed to the AARP. That pirate was also selling a "for Dummies" book, and was listing the AARP as the co-author of that volume.

This is odd, I know, but there could be a method to the madness. Google is taking piracy more seriously, and an obviously fake author listing is much easier to spot than either of these chameleon listings. In fact, Google hasn’t caught either pirate yet, which suggests that this trick works to some degree.

But as we learned last week, it’s no match for an attentive author.

A similar, albeit more sophisticated, scheme appeared in the Kindle Store a couple weeks ago. In that case, the pirate had cloned all the visible details for a book and used them to fill in the listing for a pirated book.

That listing was only discovered when the author searched for her name and found two copies of her book. The pirated book had even passed Amazon’s sometimes intense scrutiny, which just goes to show you that not even the largest ebook retailer is perfect.

And in any case, the fallout from that NYTimes story suggests that Google really is fighting piracy in Google Play Books. I have only found a couple pirates with a few pirated ebooks, where this spring I would have found a dozen accounts with hundreds of pirated ebooks.

image by plasticrevolver


Dutch Publishers Take Credit for Swatting Pirate in Google Play Books

7377925440_42f0924084_bGoogle hasn’t said much about the kudzu-like piracy problem in Google Play Books, or their recent decision to stop letting users register to upload books, but today i can report that someone is making Google take the problem seriously.

A reader has tipped me to the news that the Dutch publishers trade group NUV, or Nederlands Uitgeversverbond, issued a statement today about the piracy issue. When I last covered this topic I speculated that NUV had taken an interest in the pirated ebooks in Google Play Books, and I was right.

According to their statement, NUV sicced BREIN, a Dutch anti-piracy group, on Google. BREIN got the pirate booted from Google Play and the books removed from Google Play Books, and it is currently leaning on Google to hand over contact info for the seller.

And that’s where the matters currently sit.

While this doesn’t sound like much, the brief statement from NUV offers far more detail than Google has been willing to share. The most I (or anyone) have been able to get out of Google were blandly noncommittal statements (like the one about how it was taking this issue seriously).

Well, Google’s certainly taking the piracy issue seriously now.

Whether Google will actually repair the faulty system which enables pirates to engage in industrial scale commercial ebook piracy in Google Play Books, that is another matter.

Authors are still reporting finding their ebooks uploaded to Google Play Books by pirates, and they are still reporting being penalized by Amazon for the piracy.

Historically, the only step Google would take to fight piracy in Google Play Books was to respond to DMCA notices. It had neglected to use any type of algorithmic filter like ContentID on Youtube (even though Amazon and Scribd both have similar filters), and it generally wouldn’t ban a pirate even after many DMCA notices.

But that might be about to change. I checked with a source and was told that the piracy problem has lessened. This might be a sign that Google has changed their system to discourage pirates, but I cannot say that for sure at this time.

Stay tuned.

Thanks, Huub!

image by Free Grunge Textures

BEA 2015: Piracy Trace

piracy traceThe first day of BEA 2015 has drawn to a close with no new ideas making an appearance on the show floor, but a bunch of new startups did show off their take on an existing app  or service.

Piracy Trace is a newly launched startup which helps authors and publishers fight piracy. When hired, the company scans pirate sites for an authors work. If iy finds the work then it will send out a DMCA notice.

If that sounds familiar, it should. This is basically the same service offered by Digimarc Guardian (formerly Attributor). Attributor has been doing this for at least 6 years now that I know of, and now it has a cheaper competitor.

And that is a detail which I thought might interest authors and publishers. (Plus, I’m not familiar with any other services like it, though I am sure some exist.)

Piracy Trace is brand new, so I can’t tell you if it is effective. But it does offer a free trial, and that interval can be used to test the efficacy.

And this service should be tested; while I was chatting with the developers I learned that they weren’t keeping up on the latest ebook piracy news (the ongoing Google Play Books issue).

If they’re not keeping abreast of current news then they might not be as invested in the service as you would like. Or, they could be too busy building the service to read the news. Either way, this merits investigation.

P.S. And while we’re on the topic, do you know of another service like Piracy Trace? I’d like to learn more.



Google Play Books Rep Throws Up Hands, Tells Dutch Publisher That Nothing Can be Done About Obvious eBook Pirate

google android statue pirateGoogle has a serious problem with piracy in Google Play Books.

It lets just about anyone set up ebook shops in Google Play Books, and stock them with pirated ebooks. The pirates are allowed to upload copy after copy after copy of a pirated ebook, secure in the knowledge that Google won’t do anything more than remove a pirated ebook named in a DMCA notice.

Google’s only response so far has been to release a statement saying that "Google Play takes piracy seriously". It hasn’t changed its policies in response to my news stories, and it hasn’t taken any active steps to fight piracy when American authors and publishers complain.

And now Google has made it clear that it won’t even take the complaints of a European publisher seriously.

I just got an email from a digital account manager from a Dutch publishing house. He exchanged emails with a senior account manager concerning an obvious pirate ebook account.

He was told by the Google Play Books rep that:

I checked the link you’ve shared and noticed that the book in question has been submitted to Google Books by dragonletebooks, through their Partner Program account. As we are not authorized to make changes to a book submitted by a partner through their account, I’d recommend you to contact the publisher directly to request removal of this book. If contacting them doesn’t help, and you believe that this listing violates your rights as a copyright holder, you can file a formal legal complaint and our legal team will review the notice promptly.

This is utter bollocks, and it is utterly reprehensible that Google refuses to take any active steps.

This is one of those cases where the pirate has set up its own shop in Google Play Books. The perp picks a bogus author name (in this case Flamanca Hollanda), and uploaded pirated ebooks under that author name.

This is a problem I documented at length when I first broke the news on piracy in Google Play Books, and pirates are still using it to their advantage. Thanks to how Google organizes Google Play Books, the pirate has its own shop which only lists pirated ebooks, including Dutch translations of John Grisham, James Patterson, Stephen King, and more:

Flamanca Hollanda google play books pirate

Just to be clear, the pirate in question is so obvious that it can be identified algorithmically, much less be identified by anyone with the brains of a goldfish.

And Google won’t do anything other than respond to specific DMCA notices (whereas Amazon and Scribd, to name a couple of examples, do use algorithms to filter pirated and other content out of their respective ebookstores).

But that may be changing soon.

This issue hasn’t gotten much press coverage in English (IB Times is the only news site to pick up the story), but the Dutch publishing news site Boekblad reported on this issue today and they say that NUV is working on the case.

The NUV, or Nederlands Uitgeversverbond, is a Dutch publishers trade group. The fact that they are interested should worry Google, because while Google can ignore me and it can ignore the complaints of individual publishers, it cannot ignore a trade group like the NUV.

Should the NUV threaten to sue, Google will have to change its policies and actually do something about the rampant piracy problem in Google Play Books.

Isn’t it a shame that nothing short of a lawsuit will get Google’s attention?

Facebook’s Piracy Problem Isn’t Affecting Its Plans to Host Original Content, Strangely Enough

8560618867_010ae3da7b_bDo you recall all the talk about Facebook hosting original content (both articles and video)?

That’s not going to come to much if the Face doesn’t get its piracy problems under control. Business Insider noticed this week that when it comes to video piracy, Facebook is effectively the wild wild west:

Facebook’s video views are skyrocketing — but there’s a dark side to this growth. The social network also has a serious problem with copyright infringement, and rights holders say the company is doing little to stop it.

Some of the biggest celebrities on the site are lifting viral videos created by others, sharing them with their fanbases, and then earning money on the clicks those views generate on links to their own work on iTunes or elsewhere.

Even when the videos are ultimately deleted, they can rack up tens of millions of views within days — and make the thieves serious money in the process.

This is by no means a new problem. I don’t spend much time on FB but I’ve seen enough reposted videos on FB to know this has been a problem for years. In fact, I thought FB had already solved.

When Facebook announced the slew of new video and other features, did you notice that they did not announce any type of automated copyright scanner? I had assumed that Facebook already had such a tool, but I was wrong.

Youtube may have Content ID, and Vimeo may have launched its own scanner in May 2014, but somehow Facebook has managed to avoid taking any proactive steps to fight piracy.  That is  a startling statement to make in 2015, but it is true.

Rather than having any real protections in place against piracy, Facebook has taken a pro forma position similar to the one Google has taken with piracy in Google Play Books. According to BI, Facebook said that the social network "respects the intellectual property rights of others and is committed to helping third parties protect their rights".

Bear in mind that this is the same site which enables pirate kings:

Rapper Ludacris has previously shared material belonging to Lichtenberger without permission with his 19 million fans. Gossip blogger Perez Hilton (1.5 million) is another example. Skogmo pointed me towards comedian Dane Cook, who has been sharing Jukin Media’s content without permission among his 4.5 million fans.

And perhaps most prolifically, there’s Tyrese Gibson. The Verge’s Chris Plante has previously written about the singer, who is "lifting the internet’s most viral videos for fame and fortune" — and amassing a 25-million-strong following on Facebook in the process.

I can’t speak for you but I for one am having trouble squaring the official statement with Facebook’s record. And yet for some strange reason Facebook continues to operate blithely.


BI thinks the piracy issue is going to cause a problem, but I’m not so sure.  If this were bothered any of the publishers that Facebook is wooing the we would have heard about it months ago.

A dozen or more articles have been written on and around Facebook’s plans to host content, and I can’t recall any publishers expressing concerns over piracy.

Does that mean Facebook is working on a solution which they are keeping under wraps, or does it mean that the screaming hasn’t gotten loud enough to get Facebook’s attention?

image by mkhmarketingSean MacEntee

Russian eBookstore LitRes Raises $5 Million, Continues Fight Against eBook Piracy

Theimg_litres_news[1] Russian ebook market has a piracy problem of epic proportions, and LitRes is going to do something about it. This Russian ebookstore raised its first round of funding last week. The Russian Internet Technology Fund led the round, which totaled $5,000,000.

LitRes was launched in 2006 in response to the then rampant ebook piracy with the goal of providing a legal alternative. It was reportedly acquired in 2009 by the Russian publisher Eksmo, but the exact relationship is not clear.

LitRes is the leading ebookstore in the Russian market, and  it offers over 380,000 Russian language titles in print, digital, and audio from over 100 publishers. The ebooks and audiobooks can be read in LitRes' apps for Android, iPhone, and iPad as well as on the LitRes Touch. This is a 6″ ereader with a touchscreen, Wifi, and 2GB of storage . It retails for 2999 rubles, or about $93.

litres ebookstore

LitRes currently counts Google Play Books among their competition, and there are signs that Kobo will be launching in Russia soon.

eBooks still make up a tiny share of the Russian book market. As has been reported previously ebook piracy is rampant in Russia with a reported 70% of readers downloading ebooks but only 15% indicating that they also buy ebooks. LitRes has led the fight against piracy both by trying to offer a legal alternative and by going after pirate websites. LitRes has developed something of a reputation for being a bully in their anti-piracy efforts; they have expanded their anti-piracy efforts to include attacking anyone who even links to pirate sites.

For example, earlier this year LitRes filed a DMCA complaint with Google and had the Moon+ Reader app removed from Google Play not because it contained a pirated ebook but because it linked to a pirate website. And a few weeks before that LitRes got the Chitatel reading app removed from iTunes for a related reason.

I use the word bully because it’s not clear that LitRes had a valid right to file a DMCA notice. Yes, the apps did link to pirate sites, but that alone is not enough to give LitRes grounds to file legal notices.


How to Cheat the Kindle Store (and Get Away With it!): The Chance Carter Story

For quite some time now I have been reporting on Amazon’s over-reliance on poorly programmed bots that punish the innocent while letting scammers run rampant.

Today I have an example scammer to show you. "Chance Carter" is the nom de trompeur for one of the scammers currently infesting the Kindle Store. They are running a book stuffing scam in Kindle Unlimited, and have apparently been operating there with impunity for years. At the same time, "Carter" is also breaking Amazon’s rule on incentivized reviews via an ingenious "contest" trick.

Update: Amazon has responded to my coverage and the public outcry by first banning the KDP account behind Carter, and then banning other book stuffers.

The book-stuffing con is one of the long-running problems in Kindle Unlimited.

In the first year of Kindle Unlimited, scammers took advantage of the system by uploading ebooks so short that they got paid after only a few pages were read. Amazon put a stop to that in July 2015 by switching to a system that paid based on pages read, and in response the scammers invented the book-stuffing con and started uploading really long books.

The way that the book-stuffing con works is that scammers stuff lots of extra content into an ebook before uploading it to Kindle Unlimited, and then trick readers into jumping to the end of the book.

Thanks to a flaw in the Kindle platform, namely that the platform knows your location in a book but not how many pages you have actually read, the scammers can get paid for a user having "read" a book in Kindle Unlimited by getting the user to jump to the last page.

This has been a known problem in Kindle Unlimited for over two years now. Amazon has responded by limiting the length of ebooks in KU, and banning practices like putting a TOC at the end of a book, but neither has really had any impact on scammers.

Chance Carter is the perfect example of both how the book-stuffing con works, and how Amazon is completely incapable of stopping the scammers.

Carter’s trick is to publish a ghost-written novel, stuff an extra six or seven of their ghost-written novels in the back, and then add a free ebook offer on the last page as bait for unsuspecting readers.

Each of the six or seven novels in the back of the ebook Stranded are also published in the Kindle Store under their own title, and each has a bunch of extra novels in the back.

This is a blatant violation of Amazon’s existing rules for KDP (see the section on disappointing content) and yet Amazon can’t seem to spot Carter’s operation, or that of the other scammers.

Remember, some of the scammers have grown so large that Amazon took them to arbitration. While this may have been intended as an object lesson, what it really did was show that there were massive scam operations going on in the Kindle Store.

And operation is a good word for it, because not only does Carter publish scam books, they also instruct readers how to support the scam:

And Carter goes one better; they also encourage reviews through a contest:

This, too, is against Amazon’s rules on incentivized reviews.

Amazon is not the first huge tech company to lose control of its ebookstore; in 2015 I showed how Google Play Books was so infested with piracy that Google had to shut down its book publisher portal, and start vetting everyone before letting them sell ebooks in Google Play Books.

One key difference between Amazon and Google, however, is that Amazon is unable to stop the major scammers while at the same is letting its bots go after innocent authors.

David Gaughran recounted his experience yesterday on Twitter.

Here’s how enforcement of rules and sanctioning is totally broken at Amazon right now. Last August, I got in trouble with Amazon. I remember clearly what happened because it was my birthday and I was dying in bed with a virus.

Amazon’s Kafkaesque "Compliance Team" sent me a nastygram. Said I was breaching the exclusivity terms of Select. I had no idea what they were talking about, of course, I’ve always played it straight and never took any risks.

Turned out a tiny German ebookstore had a bug and inadvertently reactivated a load of dead listings from 2013. Lots of authors were affected. It was nothing to do with me. I got no benefit from it. But Amazon dropped the hammer.

They threatened to boot me from Select and take away my page reads, and even close my account. For a bug on a site, nothing to do with me.

Not only that, Amazon cancelled my Countdown deal without even telling me. Cost me hundreds of dollars in promo. I was advertising a 99c deal to my readers that didn’t exist. It was a real dick move. I appealed – no good.

Even worse than what happened to me are the authors who were rank stripped, page stripped and had accounts closed because Amazon is using a dumb automated system to catch scammers which doesn’t work.

The human cost of the actions of cheap crooks like Chance Carter are real. One of my close friends was rank stripped when she was just getting her career back on track. It upset her so much she has given up writing. Thanks Amazon for nothing.


It is clear at this point that letting large automated systems run without human supervision is a failed idea.

We can see the consequence of bots run amok in Youtube’s ContentID, which has a history of false copyright claims, as well as a dozen other examples including the 2012 Hugo livestream getting blocked because it showed clips of the episodes that won awards.

In Google Play Books we have a tacit admission that the only way to keep pirates out of the store is to add humans to the control loop.

And even Amazon’s smaller competitor Kobo has realized that automation can only do so much without human supervision. Christine Munroe told me that Kobo has flesh and blood people vetting content:

From a self-published content perspective, we have created two systems: first, trust tiers at the account level where trusted account content goes through with low intervention, known spam/scam offenders are thoroughly vetted, and a substantial in-between yellow tier requires a combination of automation and human approval or rejection. Second, our analysis system scans for piracy and adult content.

Our Publisher Operations team works hand in hand with automation to classify all incoming content, as quickly and seamlessly as possible. When classifications are unclear or flagged, humans must intervene. Currently, our team looks at 65% of new KWL content being published every day, on average.

When do you suppose Amazon will figure this out?

P.S. Numerous complaints have been filed about Carter, and I also brought them to Amazon’s attention last night. That account was still active when I published this post.

Google Is Now Accepting Indie Authors into Play Books (Sometimes, And Only If You Ask Nice)

When Google closed its publisher portal two and a half years ago in response to massive ebook piracy, they said the move was temporary so they could "improve our content management capabilities and our user experience". Google has never fully reopened the portal to new signups (existing users continued to have access) but reports are coming in that the portal has briefly reopened on a couple occasions, and that Google is accepting indie authors on a case by case basis.

There’s an ongoing discussion on KBoards about Pronoun shutting down. After hashing out the causes of the shutdown, the thread soon turned to finding replacements so authors could get their books into retailers.

Google Play Books was an especially hot topic given that only a few distributors could place a book there (PublishDrive, Ebook Partnership, StreetLib, to name a few). I was very surprised to read this comment on Google’s publisher portal:

I can’t give you specifics, but they have opened it at least twice this year. Both times it’s been talked about here. And IIRC, it’s been for short periods of time, as in hours, not days or longer.

I have yet to confirm that Google has had periods of open enrollment, but there are numerous reports that Google is letting authors sign up for a waiting list, and then granting them access to Play Books after a brief background check. For example:

For those who used Pronoun for Google Play, I highly recommend contacting Google Books and telling them the situation. I contacted them yesterday morning, received an email slightly less than 24 hours later with a link to fill out the Interest Form.

So, I filled out the form this morning with the hope that I’d get put on their "waiting list" and then get an invitation in a few months. Well I just got the invitation, less than 12 hours after filling out the form!

It may be a little extra work to get an account there, but it’s clearly worth it to try.

That is just one of several similar reports I have found, so apparently this portal is not as closed as it would appear.

Google had a massive piracy problem at one time (it was about as huge as Kindle Unlimited’s ongoing issue with scammers). It looks like Google’s solution is to vet each applicant and only accept the ones that demonstrate their legitimacy.

Approving users one by one is a lot of work, but it seems there is no other option. Neither Google nor Amazon have found algorithmic solutions to their respective piracy and scammer problems, which means they may have no other choice but to have a real person deal with the problem.