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Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 15, 2010

Piracy is becoming an increasing concern among published authors. I am not referring to folks like Captain Jack Sparrow here. I mean Internet pirates, shady characters who offer unauthorized downloads of our books for free. Why does this hurt us authors? We’re not paid any royalties, for one thing. Secondly, those downloads don’t count towards our sales figures. When our sales figures stay flat, the publisher is less likely to buy our next book. Your favorite series might be discontinued. Thus no one wins. And it hurts to see a new release, or even a book that hasn’t yet come out in digital format, being offered this way to any Joe who wants a free ride.      

So what’s an author to do? Until publishers start using their clout to oppose these sites, all we can accomplish is to file a protest and request that the book be removed. Most of these sites originate outside the U.S. where they don’t respect our copyright laws. But at least authors are sharing these sites now so we are becoming more aware of them. Here is a yahoo group about the topic:

They offer the following statement to use when requesting your work be removed:

“The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.”

It takes time from our daily writing schedules to police the Internet, looking for illegal copies of our books. What can you, the reader, do to help? Report to us if you see our book listed at an unauthorized site. Don’t be tempted into buying it for a cheap price or downloading it for free. Get the book at the library instead. Think of it this way: Would you want to labor for a year on a project only to see it given away for free? Do you feel authors should be compensated fairly for their work? It’s bad enough when our books are so deeply discounted that we’re lucky to make a dollar per  book. Usually, it’s less. That’s why authors keep their day jobs. Ultimately, readers will pay because there will be fewer choices on the bookshelves for your reading pleasure.


7 Responses to “PIRACY”

  1. Deanna said

    Lewis Buzbee in his book “The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop” makes a good case for the price of books. He used $25.00 as a figure and broke that down between all from author to bookstore. When looked at that way books are cheap.

  2. Nancy,
    Piracy is a real concern, and it isn’t without risk to download from these sites. There are major risks, including, but not limited to virus and trojan attacks. Perhaps having a PC crash because of a virus acquired in order to save $5 or $6 dollars will change the user’s mind on the value of a pirated product? (books, music…) There are many legit freebies available for readers, supported or offered by the authors. I’d encourage people to look for those rather than pay an illegal operation a membership fee, take massive risks to personal information, and encourage illegal business.
    I’m at a loss at how to deal with this issue, but my fingers are crossed for the publishers to come up with a reader and author friendly solution. It absolutely cannot be ignored any longer.
    Thanks for writing on it.

  3. Deanna, most people don’t realize that when a book sells for $20.00, say, the author may get a standard royalty of 10% meaning she gets only $2, and out of that comes the 15% agent fee. This is assuming the book isn’t discounted which lowers the author’s portion even more.
    Aleka, you brought up a good point about the possibility of downloading viruses along with the freebies. And yes, there are lots of free book downloads that are legit through publishing sites or Kindle or whatever.

  4. It seems of all the art forms, writing is the least protected. What do our copyrights mean? No one is willing to make a concerted effort to stop piracy, and some people even have the gall to insist that all information should be free – as if fiction falls under that heading. It’s theft, nothing less.

    Nancy, I applaud your asking readers to help find and shut down these sites. It’s one way to support the authors they love to read!

  5. I posted the same blog on the FRW site along with some websites known to pirate material:

  6. Hi Nancy —

    Good post. I’m seeing more and more of my books on these sites and it’s very disheartening, particularly when I discover that many books have been downloaded hundreds if not thousands of times. Even when publishers try to stop this form of piracy, it’s hard to control offshore sites.


  7. It is hard to police these sites and it’s time consuming.

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