eBook Piracy – How to Respond If Someone Steals Your eBook Online
Sunday, 16 February 2020, was the day that I became a real author.
I have been a writer for over a decade now, but Sunday was the day that I learned that one of the workbooks I had uploaded to KDP had been pirated and was being sold on a pirate site.
I didn’t really care that it had been pirated; my blog posts have been pirated so many times that I have grown a thick skin. Furthermore, the workbook was a lead magnet I had uploaded so I could learn how KDP worked.
But since I was filing DMCA notices Sunday night; I thought this would be a good opportunity to share my process and explain the most effective way to deal with piracy.
For starters, the primary way you fight piracy is by filing a DMCA takedown notice.
A DMCA notice was originally named for a provision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which required tech companies in the US to remove online content when they were informed that the content infringed on a trademark or copyright.
Since then it has become a common term on the internet. Most web companies will respond to a DMCA notice, including companies in countries not covered by the DMCA. They do so more because it’s SOP in the industry than because they have a legal obligation to do so (depending on where they are based, they might not have any law that requires compliance).
But where to send the DMCA Notice?
Well, that will depend on where you found the pirated ebook.
You might find the pirated ebook in an ebookstore, or in a cloud storage service, or on a pirate site, and each requires a different approach.
Did you find the pirated ebook in a legitimate ebookstore like Play Books, the Kindle Store, etc?
If that is the case, then you need to file a takedown notice with the retailer. Here are the relevant pages for the larger ebook retailers.
Be sure to fill out the form for each pirated ebook you find. Be thorough, and precise. Many of these companies get millions of notices a day, and if they can deal with your notice by rejecting it because you missed something, they will.
TIP: If you don’t see the name of the company you need to contact, you can find their contact info by googling their name plus "DMCA". If that doesn’t work, try their name plus "copyright".
Did you find the pirated ebook on the Internet Archive, The Open Library, or the National Emergency Library?
The Internet Archive has not posted any instructions on how to file a DMCA notice in The Open Library or the IA’s main site because they do not accept DMCA notices for those sites, but they have posted the following instructions for getting your pirated ebook removed from the National Emergency Library:
Authors who do not want their books in the National Emergency Library should send an email to [email protected] with “National Emergency Library Removal Request” as the subject line. Please include each URL of the book or books you would like to have removed. Please allow up to 72 hours for processing as we are a small team.
Good luck with getting them to take action; the IA has a history of ignoring complaints.
Did you find the pirated ebook on a legit file-sharing site or cloud storage service?
If that is the case, then you need to file a DMCA notice with the service that is hosting the file. Here are the submission pages for the major cloud services:
Again, if you don’t see the name of the company you need to contact, you can find their contact info by googling their name plus "DMCA". If that doesn’t work, try their name plus "copyright".
Was the pirated ebook on some obscure site?
This is where things get complicated.
My rule of thumb is to only send takedown notices to companies that I can trust will respond. This is why I will send a notice to, say, Google, but not a pirate site like the late eBookBike.
I do not bother sending notices to pirate sites because they rarely respond. In the ten years I have been a blogger, I have found they often ignore DMCA notices because they know they can get away with it. A lot of the time they are in a different legal jurisdiction, making it difficult to pursue legal action, and even if you did have the tens of thousands of dollars it would take to sue them, you will be throwing your money away for little benefit. The pirates know this, which is why many pirate sites will simply ignore you.
Also, a lot of pirate sites are only pretending to have your book. This type of site is usually running some kind of con (it varies). Since this type of site doesn’t have your ebook, it’s not worth your time even talking to them. What you should do instead is file a DMCA notice with Google. Ask Google to remove from its search results any pages on the faux pirate site that mention your book. You can do that here.
So how do you send a DMCA notice to a hosting company when you don’t know their name?
This is going to require a little investigative work.
The first thing you should do is open a new browser tab, go to www.whois.com/whois/, and enter the pirate site’s domain.
With most sites this will give you a page full of technical and contact info about the site.
The section you need to look for is the "nameservers". This can contain anywhere between one and 4 entries, and the reason we are looking at it is because the entries will give us a clue about the hosting company.
For example, the site that pirated my ebook uses Cloudflare’s nameservers.
To be clear, this pirate site is not hosted by Cloudflare (it’s just using CF’s services). This detail is not strictly relevant, however; what matters is that I can send a DMCA notice to Cloudflare.
I do not know where to send the notices, exactly, so what I do is google Cloudflare and DMCA. This often turns up a good result, so you might want to try a similar trick if you are in my position.
This trick does not always work, however. Some hosting companies use obscure names for their nameservers, and when I encounter that I either have to ask for help in a forum for web techs, or spend a few minutes looking up obscure technical info. If you need a place to ask fro help, may I suggest one of theWordpress or web developer groups on Facebook. Also, if you ask me I will be happy to help you figure out the answer (this is fun for me).
But most of the time googling for the hosting company’s DMCA page will give me a link to the page, and what I do next is fill out the form on that page.
Again, be sure to fill out the form for each pirated ebook you find. Be thorough, and precise. Many of these hosting companies get millions of notices a day, and if they can deal with your notice by rejecting it because you missed something, they will.
After you have sent the DMCA notices, you’re going to need to follow up. You will need to be persistent in making sure that each notice is complied with, and that each pirated ebook is removed.
A couple years ago I had a problem with a pirate scraping my blog. I ended up having to send dozens of DMCA notices, and I had to repeatedly follow up because the hosting company, LeaseWeb, kept falling for the pirate site’s lies when it claimed to have removed the pirated blog posts.
What was particularly frustrating about that incident was that I had to file DMCA notices with three different divisions of the company in three different countries. Then I had to yell at the three different divisions to get them to follow through.
That was frustrating, but I did finally manage to put an end to that particular piracy issue.
If this seems like too much work, here’s a list of companies that can fight piracy for you – if you pay them enough.
BTW, you might also want to consider engaging Heather Cassaday. She’s a virtual assistant who works with authors, and this is one of the services she offers. (She tipped me to my ebook being pirated.)