30
Aug
09

Arrrrr and arrrggggh!

I love google alerts. Love them to tiny little pieces. I have alerts set on my name as well as “Mark of the Demon”. In the early months of my promo for my book, those alerts were invaluable for letting me know when and where people were talking about my book. (I’ll go into the value of that in another post, because that definitely deserves a post of its own!)

But, google alerts have also let me know about some more unpleasant things, such as sites that host illegal downloads of my book.

I had an extensive screed on online piracy mapped out in my head, and then I saw a post that Shiloh Walker made about piracy that said it a thousand times better than I ever could have.  So, even though I know I’m preaching to the choir here, I encourage y’all to go check it out, and then hopefully pass it along. Really, go read it.

Okay, back now?

The first time I received an alert of this sort was the day of my book release. Two hits. Seriously, it was that quick. I worked myself into a Righteous Ire, and immediately sent off DMCA takedown notices, requesting that the copyrighted material be removed from the offending sites (usually torrent sites that are jammed full of nothing BUT copyrighted material.)  One of the sites took the material down. The other pretty much ignored me. Within a couple of weeks at least a dozen other torrent sites had my book available for download, and I gave up trying to get them to take the material down. Other writers consoled me by saying things like, “The people who download illegally wouldn’t buy it anyway, so try not to think of it as a lost sale.”  Or, “Hey, welcome to the world of being a writer! Now you know you’ve made it!”

Either way, Ouch. But, there’s just no way to keep up with all of the illegal torrent sites, and doing so would eat up too much time. It’s a game of whack-a-mole, and I’ve reached a point now where I’ll only fire off a takedown notice if the site has my book either posted directly on their site, or available for direct download.

But every now and then there’s a happier ending. I recently had the shock of finding my entire book posted on wattpad.com, a site that’s designed for people to post and share their own work. I gritted my teeth and sent a barely-politely-worded notice advising the owners of wattpad that my copyrighted material was posted on their site. I was prepared to have my email ignored, but to my quite pleasant surprise, in less than ten minutes I received an email from one of the co-owners of wattpad.com apologizing profusely, and advising me that my book had been removed from their site. I was so pleased at the prompt and efficient response that I let them know that the particular user who had posted my work, had also posted at least a dozen other authors’ books. Within another ten minutes, every single one of the illegally-posted books had been removed.

So, mad props to you, wattpad.com, for keeping your site professional and honest, and for restoring a small measure of my faith in the internet. Thank you for that.

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19 Responses to “Arrrrr and arrrggggh!”


  1. 1 Ilasir Maroa
    August 30, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    This post was very depressing. I had no idea book pirating was such a big issue. I know all about pirating in regards to anime and manga (for instance), but though I am a avid reader, I don’t even read legit e-books unless a friend recommends them. I’m proud to say that despite my money situation, I get all the books I read new from the bookstore.

    I very much agreed with Shiloh’s post, but I can’t leave a scathing denuncition of piracy in general, because it would be hypocritical of me. I have enjoyed/downloaded music(like three songs) and anime/manga(a whole lot more) that I did not pay for. I could cite all the usual reasons(excuses) for it, like availability in my country or prohibitive prices, but I understand that that does not actually excuse my behavior nor put me anywhere near in the right, and I don’t expect anyone to “respect” me for it. Despite the fact that I consider the legal versions of products available in my country as inferior to the versions I can download, and despite the fact that I really do try to purchase as much as I can from legitimate sources, I know that those activities are still illegal, and that I engage in them despite that knowledge. No point in saying any more on the subject, as the lines have been drawn for a long time, and nothing I or anyone else says will change them.

    Good for wattpad.com, that they handled things so professionally. I’m glad you had some success in protecting your work.

  2. August 31, 2009 at 4:20 am

    Ilasir, I realy appreciate your honesty in this, and I’m actually thrilled that perhaps I wasn’t preaching completely to the choir after all. :) Heck, even if we can just get people to stop and think about the fact that piracy isn’t victimless, I figure that’s progress. Thanks for posting!

  3. August 31, 2009 at 6:51 am

    Two questions:

    1. Publishers have lawyers, don’t they? Why don’t the lawyers go after the sites with illegal copies of your work? Or at least the ones who ignore reasonable requests to remove unauthorized work?

    2. How do people get electronic copies of books to upload, anyway? Surely they don’t type the whole thing???

    Mean people Suck. Sorry you have to go through this.

  4. 4 Ilasir Maroa
    August 31, 2009 at 7:18 am

    Cathy, if it’s an e-book, they can just make a digital copy. For other books, probably a scan. Manga (comics) usually use a scanner to be put online, though since books are longer, I can’t say for sure that scanning is the most common method.

  5. August 31, 2009 at 8:00 am

    Your title made me laugh for waaay longer than was appropriate! Second, that sucks about the piracy but I have to agree with your friends who said “congrats, you’ve made it!” Piracy, though horrid and frustrating and something that I’m sure I’ll spend just as many hours as you have fretting over, is also a form of flattery. And who knows, someone may love it enough to buy a hard copy for themselves. Hardly a consolation I know, but even so, there’s so little we can do about it. The internet is a large, unfeeling place.

    I’m really glad wattpad responded so quickly. That is encouraging at least! It figures other writers would be quick to jump on piracy!

  6. 6 RKB
    August 31, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    I understand writers frustration with piracy. However, there is no use fretting over it or trying to stop it. BitTorrent is the easy target, but there are numerous other methods for people to obtain copyright data. Between NNTP (Usenet), IRC, FTP, HTTP/HTTPS, Gopher (yes, I’ve seen it), SMTP (mail), numerous and various P2P protocols, plus anonymous P2P, one will not be able to swim against the piracy tide. IMHO, the best a writer can do is continue to write great books and ask the publisher to sell e-books without DRM where they can.

    YMMV.

  7. 7 RKB
    August 31, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    @Cathy R

    “1. Publishers have lawyers, don’t they? Why don’t the lawyers go after the sites with illegal copies of your work? Or at least the ones who ignore reasonable requests to remove unauthorized work?”

    Many illegal copies of copyright data are in foreign countries that do not have (strict) laws against piracy. Again, it’s swimming against the tide and in a lot of cases not cost effective at this point. That the Authors Guild has not tried to create an RIAA-like entity in various is somewhat surprising – maybe it’s coming soon, I do not know.

    “2. How do people get electronic copies of books to upload, anyway? Surely they don’t type the whole thing???”

    Mostly book scanning and DRM stripping. Before scanning people would type it up.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_scanning
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_rights_management

  8. 8 RKB
    August 31, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    BTW, here is a blog post by published author J.K. / Jack Konrath on book publishing and piracy. He also talks about an awesome way to make more money on his various ebooks that he has uploaded and published to Amazon all by himself.

    http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2009/08/great-ebook-experiment.html

    I wish more authors would try to make more money on their product instead of demonizing users. But again, YMMV.

  9. 9 Ilasir Maroa
    August 31, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Um… you only get demonized if you are doing something illegal. Konrath has a wonderful model that works for him. It may not work for other authors. Reading a author’s work is a privilige, not a right. And anyone who abuses it deserves to be punished. Inevitability is not a excuse. (Well, it is, but that’s not the kind of “excuse I mean.)

  10. 10 RKB
    August 31, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    @Ilasir Maroa

    “Um… you only get demonized if you are doing something illegal…And anyone who abuses it deserves to be punished.”

    So you think by telling authors in this blog post comments,”I know that those activities are still illegal, and that I engage in them despite that knowledge” (your words, not mine), you will not be demonized? Do you think you deserve to be punished? If you think you deserve to be punished for the 3 MP3s and all the manga you downloaded, why don’t you turn yourself in to the RIAA and other groups who are “trying to combat piracy”? I find your blatant hypocrisy and your over-the-top brown nosing interesting but not surprising.

    “Konrath has a wonderful model that works for him.”

    It would work for others. The Internet is a *HUGE* disruptive technology for many people, companies, and market segments. It has also opened up better and wider variety of ways to sell and make money on various products and services, including books.

    “Reading a author’s work is a privilige, not a right. And anyone who abuses it deserves to be punished. Inevitability is not a excuse. (Well, it is, but that’s not the kind of “excuse I mean.)”

    Konrath in his blog post comments says it better than I can:

    Education, copy-protection, and stricter laws have done nothing to curtail piracy. It’s bigger than ever, and getting even bigger.

    An entire generation sees no tangible value in digital media because it is free to copy and distribute, and it has no physical existence.

    Stealing a bike from an owner deprives the owner of the bike. But copying a song off the radio doesn’t carry the same weight, morally, logically, or legally.

    And in another reply he writes:

    No. The alternative is free books with ads in them. That’s a lot more realistic than teaching kids not to download. We already tried teaching kids something like that. It was called the War on Drugs. It didn’t work.

    You can’t control what people want to do in the privacy of their own homes, whether it is sex, drugs, or file-sharing.

  11. 11 Ilasir Maroa
    August 31, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    I wasn’t arguig with you. I was presenting a alternate viewpont. Let’s also note that I wasn’t demonized for my comment, though I would not blame someone for having done so. Nor would I call my post brown-nosing. I’m not trying to make Ms. Rowland like me. I like being like, of course, but I was simply trying to give my honest perspective on the issue.

    As for the hypocrisy issue, its possible to have ideals and not live up to them. I made a compromise. I can afford to buy books (paperbacks, anyway) new, and so I do. I cannot afford the price of anime, and most manga is not available to me through legal sources(neither is most anime, but that is a whole nother issue); on the other hand, I do buy said products when they do become available (and when I have the money). That doesn’t excuse what I do, or make me any better than someone 13-year-old from Gen E that just doesn’t feel like paying. Let’s also keep in mind that understanding does not equal action.

    As for you refutations from Konrath:

    I do see value in digital media. Just because it doesn’t come in plastic or paper, that does not mean it is worthless. The creator put a lot of time and energy into that product, and they deserve to be recompensed for it. It may not cost very much to package and distribute the product (well, I’m ignoring cover art and such here), but that’s not what the money is for.

    Your bike anaology is partially flawed. You are paying for more than the parts and materials. You are paying for the work that went into assembling it. For a bike, it might take a week at most, and involve some fairly expensive materials. For an e-book (or a normal book) it might cost comparatively less in terms of materials, but it takes a lot more in terms of assembly. You may not be depriving someone of their physical copy, but the author is losing money that they need to support themselves and their dependents. You are depriving them of their income. That sounds like a pretty big deal to me.

    Next, on your argument by inevitability:

    Education, laws, and capital punishment do not prevent murder or rape, but would you argue that we should just give in to that? Or more concretely, let’s talk about the child sex trade. That’s a real industry, not just random acts, so you can’t argue it is not relevant. Laws don’t stop that either, but I’d like to see you tell a child that you don’t give a damn about the twelve customers they service a day for barely sufficient room and board… against their will. I mean, they are getting fed, right? Just like Mr. Konrath (or a author forced to use his methods when they don’t want to).

    I suppose I am indulging in my own analogy here, and you are free to argue it if you want. But if I pour my heart and soul into a story I really care about for two years, when I barely have the money to feed myself, I think that I have the right to be a little pissed off when someone scans my book to distribute free online, and I end up being dropped by my publisher because of low sales.

    Moving on to other economic schemes:

    I don’t want ads in my books. I just want my damn story. I am perfectly willing to pay an extra few bucks to keep ads out of my stories (in any medium). To take your track is like saying that we should drop education in favor of commercialization. “Oh, we can’t stop the child sex trade… we’ve proved that. Let’s just tax it, and give the kids a government stipend.” I am certainly exaggerating the issue a little, but I think it helps to get my point across.

    I don’t know if you really believe in this new economic model or if you are just trying to legtimize your activities. So I’ll leave that issue alone for now.

  12. 12 Ilasir Maroa
    August 31, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    I also forgot to mention that sex and drugs in your own home may be an issue covered by privacy rights, but once you involve the internet and another innocent person (the author, indirectly through their intellectua property) it becomes a public issue (should the author choose to make it so).

  13. 13 RKB
    August 31, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    @Ilasir Maroa

    “As for the hypocrisy issue, its possible to have ideals and not live up to them. I made a compromise.”

    Which still makes you a huge hypocrite.

    “I can afford to buy books (paperbacks, anyway) new, and so I do. I cannot afford the price of anime, and most manga is not available to me through legal sources(neither is most anime, but that is a whole nother issue); on the other hand, I do buy said products when they do become available (and when I have the money). That doesn’t excuse what I do, or make me any better than someone 13-year-old from Gen E that just doesn’t feel like paying. Let’s also keep in mind that understanding does not equal action.”

    You are the poster child for poor impulse control. “Waaaah, I NEED MY MANGA NOW NOW NOW, therefore I am going to compromise my supposed principals, flout the law of 2009 and get my manga via other methods.” You example shows one of the main reasons *why* piracy is rampant. That you try to mitigate your guilt by buying new books in your price range doesn’t really matter. I ask you again – do you think you deserve to be punished for your crimes? If you think you deserve to be punished for the 3 MP3s and all the manga you downloaded, why don’t you turn yourself in to the RIAA and other groups who are “trying to combat piracy”?

    “I do see value in digital media. Just because it doesn’t come in plastic or paper, that does not mean it is worthless.”

    I never said it was worthless – you are putting words into my mouth. I understand the why many authors hold their views on copyright issues. That doesn’t mean I agree with them.

    “It may not cost very much to package and distribute the product (well, I’m ignoring cover art and such here), but that’s not what the money is for.”

    You are making absolutely no sense here. Please rephrase and explain.

    “You may not be depriving someone of their physical copy, but the author is losing money that they need to support themselves and their dependents. You are depriving them of their income. That sounds like a pretty big deal to me.”

    I’ll take from what Konrath says, because he’s better at explaining than I am:

    In 2009, file sharing is illegal.

    In 1830, you could legally own another human being.

    In 1919, women couldn’t legally vote.

    [...]

    My point is that morality, and the laws that result from it, is dictated by the majority of a population at any given time period.

    Right now, morality is swinging toward file-sharing being the norm.

    We can exchange arguments about rights, but the fact remains: people do what they want to do, and if the majority agree on something, it becomes accepted, commonplace, and often encouraged.

    Whether or not we personally agree with it doesn’t matter much. Majority rules. Always has. Always will.

    “Education, laws, and capital punishment do not prevent murder or rape, but would you argue that we should just give in to that?”

    You are very close to arguing yourself into Godwin’s law territory. Murder and rape have *nothing* to do with this discussion.

    “But if I pour my heart and soul into a story I really care about for two years, when I barely have the money to feed myself, I think that I have the right to be a little pissed off when someone scans my book to distribute free online, and I end up being dropped by my publisher because of low sales.”

    Yes, let us blame an easy target, piracy, instead of actually having poor sales because of the following:

    a) You didn’t market your product well enough
    b) You didn’t write a good book

    O’Reilly press actually has a 23 page research report out called,”Impact of P2P and Free Distribution on Book Sales”, which is (I think somewhat ironically) priced at $99. I have not bought the paper, therefore I do not know what it says, but their initial reports showed that piracy did not hinder book sales and in some cases it helped.

    http://www.toccon.com/toc2009/public/schedule/detail/7582
    http://assets.en.oreilly.com/1/event/19/Challenging%20Notions%20of%20%22Free%22%20Presentation.ppt

    “I don’t know if you really believe in this new economic model or if you are just trying to legtimize your activities. So I’ll leave that issue alone for now.”

    I find it amusing that you accuse me of being a pirate because we have a difference of opinion. Have you ever heard of the Free Software Foundation or the Electronic Frontier Foundation? I agree with a lot of what they say. That doesn’t make me a supposed pirate.

    You can keep grasping at straws, but it won’t get you anywhere.

  14. September 1, 2009 at 6:18 am

    Oookkkkkaaaayyy…

    While I appreciate a healthy discussion, I have zero tolerance for discussion that crosses the line into personal attacks/commentary.

    There are many varied opinions regarding online piracy, among writers and readers alike. I have no problem with people presenting their views and opinions, but I’m going to ask everyone involved here to shut down the “attack” aspect, or I’ll shut it down for you. [insert cheery smile]

    Thanks for cooperating!

  15. 15 Ilasir Maroa
    September 1, 2009 at 7:37 am

    Okay, wow, I obviously misunderstood some of your points, RKB. I apologize. I think you misunderstood some of mine as well, but whatever. I’ll let it go at that, because I don’t want to cause any trouble for Ms. Rowland.

  16. 16 Ilasir Maroa
    September 1, 2009 at 8:16 am

    Since I can’t edit:

    I’m also retracting the murder and rape comparisons. They aren’t really applicable. Not sre what I was thinking there, I’m sorry.

  17. 17 RKB
    September 1, 2009 at 8:41 am

    @Ilasir Maroa

    I apologize for the taunting remarks. There doesn’t seem to be a way to edit posts once you have submitted them, and I honestly felt so bad about the way I said some things that I didn’t sleep well. *shrug* Karma has been known to kick me in the rear end multiple times. :-)

    Please have a good morning.

  18. September 1, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Wow… that’s the happiest ending to a flame(ish) war that I’ve ever seen! Thanks!

  19. September 16, 2009 at 12:01 am

    ooh. Cool it good.Thanks for sharing this with us!


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