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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?

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Maria (BearMountainBooks) May 18, 2015 um 1:47 pm

I once found a pirated version of a Charlaine Harris book on Smashwords. I emailed customer support and the book was down within an hour or two. I also received a thank you note. It’s pretty easy to check traditional titles with a very quick glance. It’s not all that hard to check indie titles. Google’s stance is foolhardy, disrespectful, lazy and a few other words I’ll leave out.

Mackay Bell May 18, 2015 um 2:09 pm

Unfortunately, I think we have to consider if allowing piracy is a deliberate strategy by Google to try to build their market for Google Play. They have to know eventually they’ll be forced to act (by lawsuits if not government action) but in the meantime it’s a way of building market share for their player, which is in a distant third position behind Amazon and iBooks. YouTube essentially followed the same strategy, creating an audience with a combination of pirated video and amateur, before finally making deals with content providers and cracking down. Google may want to follow the same model here.

In this case, however, I think it might backfire. First, Google has real competitors, which YouTube didn’t, so getting tarred as a pirate bay is not going to endear them to publishers and indy writers in the long run, who might avoid using their service. Moreover, since we have seen this play before, it’s unlikely people are going to wait around as long as it took for the crackdown on You Tube.

Finally, I think it’s damaging to the perception of whole Android ecosystem, which is in a fight for it’s life against iOS. Android is already fragmented and mostly sold on cheap handsets. If it also gets labeled as a tool for wide spread intellectual property theft, it won’t be doing itself any favors, with customers (most of whom aren’t interested in piracy), content providers (who can make Google last in line for legitimate content) and governments (who can make Google’s life very difficult).

Karl May 18, 2015 um 3:51 pm

"Don’t be evil"… unless it’s, you know, slightly inconvenient to not be evil.

fahirsch May 18, 2015 um 7:22 pm

On the other hand Google Play is very diligent in impeding downloading of 19th century books it has scanned from US universities, when acceding them from outside USA as there can’t be copyright holders.
Of course one can download using VPN, but that is not the point

Google Play Books Still Has An Alarming Number Of Scammy Book Listings May 24, 2015 um 12:27 pm

[…] A couple of months ago, we published a story about the scam problem in Google Play Books, and we haven't been alone in criticism of the store's issues. […]

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