Piracy - Still Not the Good Kind

Heads up to Harlequin authors. An anonymous source forwarded me a link (which I am so not going to republish because why should they get traffic?) to a site illegally offering free eBook copies of Harlequin novels. The site has multiple listings of a month’s worth of books in one file, and fields requests for books by title.

If you’d like to email me, I can send you the link so you can look for your book there. If an author finds that her book is being offered illegally, she needs to report the individual title to Harlequin.

The original email came from an author’s loop and the author of the original message suggests a rather sharp and brilliant method for tracking potential piracy: create a Google:Alert for the title of your book, and for your name or pseudonym. Google will email you daily, or as frequently as you wish, any search results that match your alert terms. Unfortunately, I do not know who wrote the original email that I received, but whoever you are – that’s a damn smart idea for any author published in eBook format, so mad props to you.

And good luck to any Harlequin author who finds her pirated eBook offered illegally.

UPDATE: RWA National just sent out a members-only alert about the issue.


The Link-O-Lator

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    muguet says:

    Props to the Bitches for getting the word out on this and giving authors a way to fight it!

  2. 2
    Danny says:

    Well, I guess that just proves that piracy exists for just about everything.

    My personal opinion is that if someone has downloaded something, they probably wouldn’t have shelled out the money for it had their illegal download not been available… I can see where it’s alarming, but I don’t think it does as much harm as people think.

    Then again, I’ve never made anything that someone could pirate… Heh.

  3. 3

    I’ve found several of mine via Google Alerts—I recommend that as well.

  4. 4
    Nina says:

    You know, as hurtful and frustrating this must be for the authors, there is a silver lining to this sometimes.  Authors may not like this, and the music industry certainly hasn’t, but sometimes pirated stuff on the web is actually boosting sales.  Apparently that’s what happened when they started playing hit singles on the radio after all.  There have been times when I’ve gotten music from friends for free and liked it more than I expected to and ended up buying some for myself outright.  Granted, I don’t have the sales statistics to correctly guarantee that this is what everybody does, but I know I’ve done it before, and friends of mine have too.

  5. 5
    Silver James says:

    I got the Google Alert suggestion via the AbsoluteWrite.com newsletter yesterday. Glad to see that it actually works!

  6. 6
    rebyj says:

    ..and cheapass readers everywhere are itching to figure out a way to ask for the url without seeming too cheapassy….

    Cheapass disclaimer:NOT ME!!! I don’t care for e books, its too hard to lay on the sofa with my desktop and bowl of m&ms to read.

  7. 7
    Sandra D says:

    On the upside this reminded me that I wanted to download some ebooks, so someone made some legal money today.

  8. 8
    Angela James says:

    You know, as hurtful and frustrating this must be for the authors, there is a silver lining to this sometimes.  Authors may not like this, and the music industry certainly hasn’t, but sometimes pirated stuff on the web is actually boosting sales.

    Taken from a post made 2 hours ago on a file sharing site:

    I have many many and more many like these. Lit and Adobe. Ellora, Loose Id, Samhain etc….Foolish me have been buying these for 3 years not knowing about sites like this.

    Earlier this week I emailed an author whose book released from NY in print on Tuesday. It had been on the file sharing site since the beginning of February. A whole month before anyone in the general public had a chance to buy it. That pretty much sucks.

    This week, I’ve seen several of the February 5th NY releases show up on file sharing sites.

    Frustrating stuff. This is actually the topic of the RTB post I didn’t write when it was my turn last week. It’s just too overwhelming for me.

  9. 9
    Minx Malone says:

    I love google alert.  It’s useful to find pirated copies of your books AND also to find reviews of your books.

    I found three reviews for “Hellbaby” that I didn’t even know about!


  10. 10
    Silver James says:

    Angela – You’ve brought up an interesting point. I’d really like to know how the new books are getting out before public release dates. Someone at the publishing house? The printers? The shippers? Reviewers who received advance copies for marketing purposes? I seem to remember there was quite a row over early release of the last Rowling book. How frustrating that must be for the authors! And piracy in all its forms is a bad thing, IMHO.

  11. 11
    oakling says:

    Well, I hope that at least the publicity around it ends up bringing more attention and more readers to the people affected!

  12. 12

    I hate the pirate sites. While I’m thankful I’m obviously too small to be pirated, it’s still theft from every person in the industry who has worked on any given title as their legal job. I also use the Alerts, and have for well over a year.

    There will always be people who want stuff for free, and don’t care who they hurt, the money they take out of some author’s hand, or the editor, or the agent… It’s an endless line of peole who benefit from a single author’s work.  Big names may not care over all when they make high five to six digit incomes, but when you’re earning a tank of gas in a year, yeah, pirating sucks.

    The analogy is an example… I’m stuffy and in need of serious sinus killers. *sigh*

  13. 13

    Please be VERY careful on these sites if you decide to visit them. Like most sites run by criminals, they are full of very nasty viruses. You can still check them through Google or another search engine, but if you decide to log on, please make sure you’re safe.

  14. 14
    Jayne says:

    Hi Ladies,

    I’m the community manager at eHarlequin.com and I just wanted to say thanks, it’s nice to know you have our backs.  Our legal team is aware of the situation, but unfortunately these takedowns can take up to six weeks to finalize. What’s really disheartening is the volume of downloads, in some cases in excess of 250 for some titles!!! 


  15. 15
    Nina says:

    Funny that people will read the bootleg copies that devotedly.  Aside from the fact that it is a stolen copy of something that I generally want the real version of, the grammar and spelling is usually atrocious on bootlegs.  I saw a bootleg ebook once that had the author’s name misspelled multiple times.

    and rebyj- pda’s work quite well with m and m’s…the only thing is it creates a bit more eyestrain (to me), and i worry about something happening to my computer and losing all of those precious books i purchased.  But then, if I weren’t so lazy, I could probably make cd copies of the e-books I purchased. 

    And all of those cheapskates are missing out on the absolutely free and legal e-books to download- just off the top of my head, project gutenberg and baen books has a bunch for free.  And then for those people who don’t live on a rock in the middle of nowhere (like me- I deal with this by packing ten paperbacks per school term in my suitcase, not bootlegging), there’s this thing called the library. 

    my word: without67- ur darn right…god i miss borders down here…

  16. 16
    Lorelie says:

    sometimes pirated stuff on the web is actually boosting sales.  Apparently that’s what happened when they started playing hit singles on the radio after all.

    Um those singles are just that . . .one or two songs out of about 10 or 12.  And when they’re playing on the radio, you can’t listen at will, you’re at the mercy of the DJ.  So yeah, you hear a song on the radio and go “I want more of that” and run out and buy the CD.  Not really comparable to getting the whole CD for free.

    What would be comparable would be a single chapter.

  17. 17
    azteclady says:

    And aren’t excerpts—up in authors’ websites, or through amazon preview, etc—exactly that? For free?

    Free promotional material is designed to whet the appetite and “boost sales”—while piracy IS stealing, period.

    Not that I have any strong opinions on the matter or anything.

  18. 18
    Delia says:

    Just go to the local library and you can read the real thing for free!

  19. 19

    Although this file-sharing forum started out using the Mills & Boon name, the “sharing” extends to all kinds of romance and publishers. Some of my books on there have never been published as eBooks so I guess they’ve been scanned.

    What’s really getting under my skin is the effusive praise for sharing thousands of titles (you are all so generous, thank you, thank you!) and the requests for new and unreleased books. As soon as someone acquires one, up it goes. 

    Oh, and they’ve made plans already for saving all the files for when this site is shutdown. They’ll just relaunch somewhere else, under another name, and on it goes. Arrgghh.

  20. 20
    Candy says:

    I don’t think Nina is wrong. My views on a particular aspect of piracy are pretty much expressed by John Scalzi in “The Stupidity of Worrying About Piracy”. I’ve quoted these paragraphs before in the past, but here they are again:

    Let’s ask: Who are pirates? They are people who won’t pay for things (i.e., dickheads), or they’re people who can’t pay for things (i.e., cash-strapped college students and others). The dickheads have ever been with us; they wouldn’t pay even if they had the money. I don’t worry about them, I just hope they fall down an abandoned well, break their legs and die of gangrene after several excruciatingly painful days of misery and dehydration, and then I hope the rats chew the marrow from their bones and shit back down the hollows. And that’s that for them.

    As for the people who can’t pay for things, well, look. I grew up poor and made music tapes off the radio; my entire music collection from ages 11 to 14 consisted of tapes that had songs missing their first ten seconds and whose final ten seconds had DJ chatter on them; from 14 to 18, I taped off my friends; from 18 to 22 I reviewed music so I could get it for free. And then after that, once I had money, I bought my music. Because I could. As for books, I bought secondhand paperbacks through my teen and college years. Now I buy hardbacks. Again, because I can. Now, being a writer, you can argue that I’m more self-interested in paying for creative work than others, but I have to honestly say that I don’t know anyone who can pay for a book or a CD or a DVD or whatever who doesn’t, far more often than not.

    I don’t see the people who can’t pay as pirates. I see them as people who will pay, once they can. Until then, I think of it as I’m floating them a loan. Nor is it an entirely selfless act. I’m cultivating a reader—someone who thinks of books as a legitimate form of entertainment—and since I want to be a writer until I croak, that’s a good investment for me. More specifically, I’m cultivating a reader of me, someone who will at some point in the future see a book of mine of the shelf, go “Scalzi! I love that dude!” and then take the book off the shelf and take it to the register.

    A few other things that I want to express that aren’t covered in Scalzi’s piece:

    1. I can understand somebody feeling deeply violated when they realize they’ve lost control of work for which they’ve chosen to retain all the rights.

    2. I deeply disapprove of people making money off of pirated copies. I think there’s a substantive difference between people selling pirated DVDs and books, and people swapping music collections on-line. As Tim O’Reilly put it:

    Piracy is a loaded word, which we used to reserve for wholesale copying and resale of illegitimate product. The music and film industry usage, applying it to peer-to-peer file sharing, is a disservice to honest discussion.

    Online file sharing is the work of enthusiasts who are trading their music because there is no legitimate alternative. Piracy is an illegal commercial activity that is typically a substantial problem only in countries without strong enforcement of existing copyright law.

    He has even more interesting and provocative things to say about piracy, distribution and file sharing in the full article. (Check out the comments on page 2 of the article—lots of really, really good stuff there, and some spirited disagreements with O’Reilly’s position.)

  21. 21
    Candy says:

    Also, because I didn’t make it clear in my previous comment: I think the artist has an absolute right to control what’s being done to her work and how it’s distributed, and that those of you who are choosing to track down your books and wish to kick the people providing the electronic copies in their electronic nuts should definitely go for it.

  22. 22
    Nora Roberts says:

    ~Big names may not care~

    Oh, yes, we do.

    When someone steals from me, I care. My agent cares because it’s stealing from her. My publisher cares for the same reason.

    What I don’t care about is the idea that those who pirate or access pirated books wouldn’t buy it anyway so it doesn’t effect sales. Even if I agreed that was true, so what? Somebody’s still stealing from me.

    Can’t pay as an excuse or a reason? Bullshit.

    Being poor or strapped for cash doesn’t mean you’re entitled to my work for free any more than you’re entitled to those pretty earrings in the department store unless you pay for them first.

    Libraries serve a fine purpose. Use them.

  23. 23
    Jules Jones says:

    On the “too small to be pirated” issue—small press author I may be, but going by the torrent feeds, there are people out there who like my stuff enough to pirate it. Which is why I get peeved by O’Reilly’s attitude of “you authors who are pirated should be *grateful* you’re being pirated”. I understand the point he’s making, but he’s got a rather unrealistic view of how far down the pecking order you have to be before you don’t get pirated.

    Scalzi’s a lot more realistic. There are those who can’t afford to pay, and there are those who can afford to pay but choose not to. I think he’s far too soft on the latter, and yes, the former may well turn into paying customers when they can afford to do so.

  24. 24
    Teddy Pig says:

    All I can offer is proof…

    Back in the early days of Audiogalaxy it was an elaborate music pirate site.

    Probably one of the best ever created.

    When I had complete access to all that music my cd collection grew by at least 1/3. We are talking hundreds of CDs and BIG MONEY for the music industry and the unknown artists I discovered was made off my purchases.

    They closed Audiogalaxy down and I really just don’t buy unknown artists anymore.

    So people worrying about this really need to think the whole thing through. It is not the same as shoplifting and it is proven it actually benefits new artists. In fact some very intelligent artists have put things on torrent just to get noticed.

  25. 25
    Nora Roberts says:

    ~It is not the same as shoplifting~

    Here’s why I think it is.

    This is my work. I’ve created it, and it’s my livelihood. To make this living, I sell the work—though an agent who gets a commission on the sale—to a publisher. The publisher sells the book to bookstores and other venues. I get a portion of those sales, the publisher gets a portion, and the bookstore gets a portion. This is how we all make our living.

    If someone comes into the bookstore, and can’t afford to pay, doesn’t want to pay, or thinks: I wonder if I’d like this book, I want to try it and see—and walks out with the book without paying, it’s shoplifting. This person took a product and didn’t pay for it.

    A book in e-form is still the work, still my livelihood, and goes through the same process of sale and publication, just not on paper. Someone takes that book, that product, and doesn’t pay for it stole from me.

    Want a free sample? Want to see if my work might be to your taste? Go to my website. I’m happy for you to sample a chapter. I’m equally happy for you to go to the library and borrow the book to check it out. I’m delighted if you go to the used bookstore and find one someone else bought then turned in, and only have to pay a buck for it.

    If a new writer, an established writer, whatever, opts to offer their work on a piracy site in hopes to gain new readers, get exposure, that’s their right. It may work, and congratulations if so.

    But if I don’t opt to do so, nobody has the right to do it for me. If they do, they’re stealing.

  26. 26
    Teddy Pig says:

    Well Nora, that might also be the same argument that could be used to shut down libraries.

    You are not taking human behavior into account and being overly simplistic in the same way the Music Industry is.

    Metallica back in 2000 got itself involved in all this mess about piracy over Napster at the time and basically came out looking like greedy assholes. In 2007, Metallica was named #17 on Blender magazine’s list of “biggest wusses in rock” for their public relations fiasco.

    All I can say is after Audiogalaxy was shut down I just stopped really trying to hunt down new music.

    So I am not arguing about your legal rights to litigate as you wish, I am saying this is absolutely the case of Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish and that looking like assholes will turn people off to an artist as well as an industry just like I was turned off.

    I took my money and did not spend it on music. Like many others did.

  27. 27
    Nora Roberts says:

    ~Well Nora, that might also be the same argument that could be used to shut down libraries.~

    How? Libraries buy the books. Libraries are legal.

    I don’t know about the music industry, or what Metallica did or didn’t do—but I can’t blame them if they came out against the piracy.

    How is it looking like an asshole to want to be paid for my work, and to object to an illegal activity? Why are we considered greedy to expect readers to pay for our work?

  28. 28
    Teddy Pig says:

    You should Nora, I’d go and read up on it before stepping into this mess thinking the whole thing is just so simple.

    The argument you make seems legit just like it did to Metallica and the RIAA etc etc etc.

    But… When have people ever been reasonable? You have heard the Music Industry is in trouble right?

    John Scalzi makes some really good consumer behavior/street smart points so I won’t go over it again.

    The fact is for me one pirated copy of a song might was making several sales on albums. That’s how it worked for me back in the day.

    I don’t think people have changed that much.

  29. 29
    Angela James says:

    I’m confused. Plagiarism is ohmigodbad! and ethically wrong but stealing an entire body of work instead of paying for it is…just the breaks and something authors and publishers should just accept as one of those things?

    But… When have people ever been reasonable?

    Truer words have never been spoken.

  30. 30
    Nora Roberts says:

    ~You should Nora, I’d go and read up on it before stepping into this mess thinking the whole thing is just so simple.~

    Teddy, I don’t think you’re understanding me. To me it is simple. Piracy is illegal.

    I work, and work hard to produce a book—a lot of other people work hard to publish and distribute that book. We all deserve to be paid.

    If some think this makes me greedy or short-sighted, then that’s what they’ll have to think.

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