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Google Says "Google Play Takes Copyright Seriously"

google play booksEarlier this week I broke the news that Google had a rampant piracy problem in Google Play Books, and today Google has finally responded.

Far more so than most ebookstores, Google is a safe haven where pirates can operate with impunity. Pirates can upload copy after copy of a pirated ebook, secure in the knowledge that Google won’t delete their account. This leaves authors and publishers with little recourse but to play a never-ending game of whack-a-mole.

Luckily that game is coming to an end. Google told me today that they feel authors' pain:

Google Play takes copyright seriously. We take swift action when we receive a DMCA complaint, which the copyright holder can complete here. Additionally, we’re constantly improving our systems to provide a better experience.

Yes, they take this issue very seriously – just not seriously enough to actually do anything.

When I asked what Google was doing to fight piracy in Google Play Books, they were unable to name a single activity. When I asked what it would take to get a commercial ebook pirate banned from Google Play Books, the Google rep was unable to even confirm that they would even ban a pirate after dozens of valid DMCA notices. When I asked what improvements they planned to make, none came to mind.

But that should not worry you; Google Play takes copyright seriously. It says so right there in their statement.

Folks, when I first covered this issue on Monday morning I suggested that it would take either a lawsuit filed by publishers or lots of pressure+publicity before Google would take an interest in fighting piracy in Google Play Books.

Viacom sued Youtube, and we got ContentID. The RIAA and MPAA spent years beating up Google over search results, and Google started deranking pirate site from its search results.

Unless and until the Big Five decide to pursue one path or the other, Google simply won’t give a damn.

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Sarah Ettritch May 7, 2015 um 3:47 pm

"We take swift action when we receive a DMCA complaint…"

I filed a DMCA complaint a week ago for the following pirated copy of one of my books:

As you can see, Google hasn’t done anything yet, so I’d hardly call their response "swift."

puzzled May 7, 2015 um 5:25 pm

You just don’t understand what Google means by 'swift'. They send the DMCA complaint to Taylor Swift for action, but she’s on tour at the moment, and she’ll get to it just as soon as she gets back.

Nate Hoffelder May 7, 2015 um 5:26 pm


Thank you, I needed the LOL. You freaked out my dogs, though.

William Walsh May 7, 2015 um 6:50 pm

Looks like they suspended sales of it, it’s still listed, but not purchasable.

Sarah Ettritch May 7, 2015 um 7:32 pm

I still see "Buy" and "Sample" buttons. Are they gone for you?

It’s also coming up in search results. That usually doesn’t happen when they’ve disabled a page.

Nate Hoffelder May 7, 2015 um 8:27 pm

I cannot see the buy buttons, and I am in the US. Where are you?

Sarah Ettritch May 7, 2015 um 8:58 pm

I’m in Canada. You linked to a book yesterday that you said Google had taken down, but I have the buy button for that one, too:

Maybe it takes a while for a take down to propagate to all countries. Yesterday I could see the buy button for another book you said was taken down, but today it’s gone.

I’ll give it a few more days… I’m pleased to hear that the pirated copy of my book is no longer purchasable in the US, at least.

Thanks for raising the issue of piracy at Google Play and pursuing it.

Nate Hoffelder May 7, 2015 um 10:10 pm

You’re welcome.

This was one of those stories which is so big that I was surprised it had been missed.

Gary May 8, 2015 um 12:53 pm

I wanted to post this reply to your next comment, but strangely there is no reply button there…

Do let us know if Google takes down the pirate copy that you say is currently available to Canadian (and possibly other non USA) customers.

I am not a lawyer. The DMCA, however, is a US law, and DMCA takedown notices are a creation of that law. They might not apply to Google’s activities outside of the USA. If so, you would have to hit google with a Canadian equivalent of a DMCA notice, except that I don’t think there is one.

Nate Hoffelder May 8, 2015 um 3:07 pm

Like most companies, Google responds to DMCA notices from everywhere. If they didn’t then their Canadian operation would get sued over this ebook (to name just one example).

Sarah Ettritch May 8, 2015 um 7:13 pm

Like Nate said, when Google receives a valid DMCA take down request, it takes down the pirated ebook everywhere (assuming the one who filed the DMCA has worldwide rights).

Either it takes time for a take down to propagate to all countries, or whoever processed my DMCA notice screwed up and only disabled the book in the US. I’ll give it until Monday. If the pirated copy of my book hasn’t been disabled in Canada by then, I’ll file another DMCA notice explaining the situation and see what happens.

It does make me wonder whether other pirated books that have been disabled in the US are available in other countries. Since what one sees at the Google Play store apparently depends on one’s IP address, nobody can ever be sure that the pirated copy has been disabled everywhere.

Sarah Ettritch May 16, 2015 um 8:26 am

Update: Google disabled the book in Canada (and hopefully other countries) when I filed a second DMCA notice.

But…he’s back. Good old Huzur Burda has uploaded my book twice since this post, so I don’t think you shamed Google into anything, Nate, but thanks for trying. One copy of the book has already been taken down. I just filed a DMCA for the other copy. You can see it here:

If you click on the author name, you’ll see he’s uploaded the usual bunch of books.

You’d think Google would at least keep an eye out for books with this author name. It obviously doesn’t take copyright very seriously.

Nate Hoffelder May 16, 2015 um 8:34 am

"Good old Huzur Burda has uploaded my book twice since this post"

Yep. I noted behavior like that in my second post. It’s frustratingly common among pirates in Google Play Books.

jjj May 8, 2015 um 4:40 am

don’t be such a collaborationist

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Recently, I discovered that a story I’d written had been copied onto a forum. Now I wouldn’t normally have an issue with this, but the general licence I give requires that I be credited as the author of anything I’ve written, and this person hadn’t done that. So I tried to find contact details for the forum’s webmaster, and not finding any, instead got in touch with their host. I sent the first email on the fifth of June, and the whole thing was resolved by the ninth of the same month. This was with emails first going to a third party, them relaying an email from me to the website hosting the infringing content, then the webmaster contacting me to say he’d sorted the issue and me double checking (he had). Given the fact that you can contact Google directly, what’s their f###ing excuse?

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Andrew Mills July 24, 2015 um 4:20 am

There’s a flip-side to this story as well. I had Google completely close down my book partner account with no warning – and with no follow-up response (after I replied back to them). I never pirated any content, all work was my own, and yet, in the blink of an eye, it was gone. And I’ll never know why.

Thankfully, I still got paid for the sales I had made that month, but I lost out on £300 per day. A non-insubstantial amount of revenue to lose with no real reason given as to why.

Sarah Ettritch July 24, 2015 um 8:26 am

If Google didn’t tell you why, then it might not have been because it thought you were a pirate, especially since all the books were your own work. You might have violated its TOS in some other way. What genre(s) were the books you were selling?

Gay Courter August 31, 2015 um 5:29 pm

I see I am a "victim" here as a former NYT bestseller of mine is now linked with a self-published book of the same title. His name appears as a joint author with me but my book is the one "for sale." Hint on who to alert at Google.

Nate Hoffelder August 31, 2015 um 5:34 pm

You can file a DMCA notice with Google here.

Please let me know how it goes.

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