Friday, July 19, 2013

Pirates! Aaarrrgh!

(Photo property of Linda Rettstatt)

Yes, Virginia, there be pirates! Centuries ago, pirates were visualized as peg-legged, one-eyed, bearded bandits who sailed the high seas, looting and pillaging all who crossed their paths. More recently, we see pirates as handsome and somewhat comical ala Johnny Depp. Technology has brought about changes in the face of publishing. Books are available electronically, uploaded and downloaded to a variety of ebook readers or pc’s in various electronic formats. And with the advent of ebooks, we have also encountered the advent of cyber-pirates.

Authors lose hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars every year because cyber-pirates help themselves to electronic book files and make those books available for sale or for free, often at the price of a ‘membership’ to their site. Pirates show total disregard for copyrights and for the hard work authors put into their books. In one way, pirates have not changed over the centuries. They still loot and pillage, but with more sophistication that makes their capture more difficult.

Some of you readers may have, at one time or another, unknowingly participated in ebook piracy by downloading a book from a pirate site. Who doesn’t want a free book or a significantly discounted book? An author would need a forty-hour day to keep up with on-line searches to find their books on piracy sites and then to send an order to the site to have the book taken down. Never mind finding the time to write.

How do pirates get these books? Lots of ways. Sometimes authors or publishers send out a file of a book for review. There are many very reputable review sites and bloggers who review. But as with anything in life, there are those who see an opportunity and seize it, selling the book file to a pirate site. Recently, one popular online retailer was ripped off by a pirate using their logo, name, and providing a long list of stolen books for download. This was the most blatant case of piracy I’ve seen. Pirates are crafty and cover their cyber-tracks fairly well.

What can readers do? Be cautious, especially about ‘free’ ebook downloads. Respect the hard work of the writers whose livelihood is threatened by book piracy. I know a freebie is a great temptation and there are some legitimate free ebooks out there and sites that list them. But do a little research. Think about it, if you walked into a grocery store to buy a loaf of bread and, when you came out saw a guy offering the same bread for free out of the trunk of his car, wouldn’t you be just a wee bit suspicious?

We authors have to be especially careful today about sending out free book files and we have to have a measure of trust in those to whom we send those files. We also have to trust the integrity of you, our readers, to respect the work we put into our writing. Sometimes a book is offered for free for a contest or a brief promotion. If you buy an ebook or win a book in a contest, please don't share that ebook file. If you ever find an author’s ebook for free and you’re just not sure if it’s legit, don’t hesitate to email the author or the publisher and ask that question. On behalf of myself and authors everywhere, I thank you.

Linda Rettstatt


Big Mike said...

Interesting topic Linda. I recently got hit by a pirate site called Bookos out of Austria and am still trying to enact a take down notice but they refuse to comply. There's a link at the FBI to report such violation. We'll see if the govy's do something but don't hold your breath.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

linda_rettstatt said...

It's one of our bigger challenges today as author's, Mike. If you have that FBI link, I'm sure folks would love it if you could post it.

Jude Johnson said...

The only real Pirates I can support play baseball in Pittsburgh at PNC Park.
I found one of my books posted with another person's name attached on Scribd. They were quick to respond to a Cease and Desist when I sent them the copyright notice, but who knows how many copies went flying out first?
On the same note, we as authors need to be just as aware of not stealing from other artists, whether by using images without proper credit/permission or downloading "free" music from dodgy sites.
Thanks for a thoughtful post, Linda.

Big Mike said...

Took me awhile to find it but here ya go:

Don't hold your breath on them doing anything. You know how busy they are investigating IRS (g)


linda_rettstatt said...

Wow, Jude. I've looked up my name on sites like that, but never thought to look at individual titles that might be listed under someone else's name. That is brazen. Off to check by title. I have all my books set up for Google alerts, but that isn't foolproof.