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Now is Not the Time for Authors to Panic Over Fake Pirate Sites That Aren’t Hosting Their eBooks

9300923862_d95a92c6e2_hAuthor Rhonda Rees  may have just given us another example of how piracy fears sometimes exceed reality.

Writing over on the IPWatchDog blog, Rees details her recent experiences with finding pirate websites carrying her book:

Moments before I had discovered quite to my shock, surprise and horror – that my US copyrighted, trademarked/registered and award-winning book, Profit and Prosper with Public Relations®:  Insider Secrets to Make You a Success, was being offered as a free download online – without my knowledge or permission.

One website claimed to have given away close to 600 copies of my work, with another one offering 1,500 free books, and an additional site mentioned that they even had my permission –with still more to come.  Unfortunately, many of these unscrupulous sites are located overseas, with no concrete laws in place to offer authors and publishers like me, any real proper protection.

Rees goes on to detail how she responded to the piracy, but before you go over and read the rest of her post I would suggest that you take her post with a grain of salt.

A few minutes of research has revealed a couple important details. For one thing, Rees is recycling the same story she told a TV station in 2014 (a point which was not made clear in her blog post).

But more importantly, I believe Rees doesn’t have nearly as big of a piracy problem as she thinks she does. I think she has an unrelated problem, and her response is entirely the wrong one.

A quick check revealed that her book ranks at around the two million mark in the Kindle Store. That is the equivalent of about one to two sales a week (if that high), so I have trouble believing that any pirate site could have generated 600 downloads, as Rees claims, much less 600 downloads between February and August 2014 (according to the earlier tv news story).

And frankly, if the ebook were that popular then someone would have pointed out the typo in the title of Amazon listing (I just noticed it this morning).

Instead, I think it is far more likely that Rees found spam piracy sites that use fake ebook listings as bait. The listings show up in search results, and draw in the unsuspecting, but as we saw with the Playster panic last fall, the sites don’t actually have the ebooks they claim. Instead the scam sites are designed to trick visitors into either divulging personal info, paying for access, or some other con. You can find more details here.

The scam varies from site to site, so it’s hard to say what is going on, but it’s safe to conclude that the problem here is not piracy.

But I am not so sure that is important because it doesn’t really change how authors should respond.

Rather than going after the site, an author should instead go after the scam at the point where they have the most power: Google. Send a DMCA notice to Google to get the search result removed, and no one will be able to find the pirated ebook listing.

This response has the added benefit of working against both the real and the fake pirate sites, so if a site is actually pirating an author’s ebook then this will reduce the number of downloads.

And I do feel it’s important to go after both types of sites, because for all we know the next pirate site we encounter may be one of the handful of real pirate sites that actually have files you can download illegally.

The odds are against it, but it’s possible.

image by thedescrier

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puzzled March 11, 2016 um 4:36 pm

Rhonda Rees has come up with the perfect anti-piracy methodology: write a book no one wants to read.

Hayden March 11, 2016 um 8:36 pm

Good marketing by Rhonda Rees.

If everyone has forgotten about you, then you need to get noticed. Write an article that sounds alarming, promotes your book/s at the same time, sales should follow.

Nate Hoffelder March 12, 2016 um 4:03 pm

That’s one thought that crossed my mind, yes.

Rhonda Rees March 11, 2016 um 11:52 pm

Would just like to comment. I have screen grab pictures of the various bogus sites that had listed the number of my books that they claimed were downloaded, so that’s why I came up with these numbers. As mentioned in my article, etc., mine was certainly not the only book being pirated. Hundreds if not thousands of other people have also been taken advantage of. My job as a public relations person is to help bring more awareness to this issue. I also go into detail in my article re: the other reasons for why these bogus sites do what they do, it can be to collect data, get your credit card details, have you look at ads, take a survey, or pay them to get their products, etc. My aim is to bring the issue out into the open more so that the public will become better aware. There’s nothing worse than for someone to put their heart and soul into something, only to have it compromised without their knowledge or permission.

Peter Winkler March 12, 2016 um 3:19 am

A very revealig post, sir.

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