Checking my e-mail one Sunday morning, I immediately noticed a message. A chill went down my spine. The subject line said, "your e-book has been stolen".
I always knew something like this could happen, but never thought it would happen to me... and so soon! I have only released my e-book a few months ago, and already "digital pirates" went to work.
E-book theft is biggest fear authors have, especially if they are working on their very first e-book, their "baby". Most new authors take months writing their e-books, and are worried that as soon as their e-book "hits" Web, it will be stolen, copied, illegally sold, or even given away.
I. How exactly does an e-book get stolen?
Sharing computer files between friends, family members and colleagues is not a new concept. People have been doing it for decades. But now that they can do it remotely, number of files shared (e-books and software) has greatly increased.
This is not authors' main concern, though.
It's people who get their hands on your e-book and make money reselling it to others in some shape or form. An e-book may be copied, re-written, extracted from, packaged with other e-books, and illegally sold on thieves' web sites.
The worst case, though, is when a thief decides to really make a big chunk of money on your e-book and offers Resale Rights to his customers. This simply means that anybody who buys your e-book from him will also be "allowed" to resell it to others.
Now Internet is literally flooded with your e-book, and you begin to notice a huge drop in sales AND your income. Every author's worst nightmare.
II. Why would anyone risk getting caught?
While e-books are extremely easy to publish, they are just as easy to steal. "Digital pirates" know it, and take this risk in exchange for making a few bucks (well, actually "my" thief claimed to have made over $10,000 selling my e-books. To this day I don't know if this is accurate, but I am sure it turned out quite profitable for him).
Most people who steal other people's digital products have no respect or appreciation for hard work and talent it takes to produce a quality product. "You put a few words together and now charging $50 for it!", complained thief in one of his messages to me. (How ironic - I thought it was my place to complain!)
An e-book is mostly prone to theft when 2 things are true:
a) The topic is hot and in demand, so it will be easy to make money selling it.
b) If you sell Master Reprint Rights to your e-book, which makes it difficult to track who resells it legally and who has not paid for rights to sell it.
(See more about Reprint Rights at: http://www.firstbusinesswebsite.com/articles/reprint_rights.html)
III. What steps to take when it happens to you?
If you have just discovered that your e-book is being illegally sold on another web site, stop. Take a deep breath. Has your e-book been really stolen? Go through this list to rule each situation out:
a) You sold Reprint Rights to this person and forgot about it b) This merchant simply sells a demo version of your e-book c) This merchant has purchased Reprint Rights from one of your authorized reseller (who holds Master Rights to your e-book) d) The e-book has a similar title and content, but is not YOUR e-book. e) The seller may be not aware that he is infringing on your rights, and is selling your e-book by mistake (this is only case if you offer Reprint Rights to your e-book)
If you ruled every item on this list, it's time to take action.
1) Find out name of person who is reselling your e-book. You can do this by doing a "Whois" search on Network Solutions web site (www.netsol.com). The search will reveal to you name of person who registered domain name for illegal site, his e-mail address, mailing address, and a phone number. There is no guarantee that this information is 100% accurate, but it's worth a try.
Your perpetrator's web site may also contain his name and e-mail address. Your first step is to send him a polite but firm message. Ask for an explanation, and wait 24 hours for his reply. If you do not get a response, or he refuses to remove your e-book from his web site, move on to next step.
2) Find out name of hosting company, domain name registrar, and Internet Service Provider (ISP). The hosting company may be listed under Technical Contact when you do "Whois" search, or under "Domain Servers" at bottom of listing. It may look something like this: NS181.PAIR.COM. Enter this address into your Internet browser location bar and you will see that this site belongs to www.Pair.com.
The ISP may be located right in person's e-mail address. For example, if e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org, then ISP is Earthlink.com. If web address is hosted by a free hosting company (e.g. www.tripod.com/members/~jsmith) then grab phone number of their customer service or even a fraud department.
Contact as many of these agencies as possible to inform them of situation. Firmly ask them to suspend their services for this client. Always be calm and polite in your first message.
Charles Petit, an attorney and webmaster of authorslawyer.com says that "Some ISPs... claim that they will not take any action without seeing certificate of copyright registration. Don't believe them. This is really just lawyerese for "we won't resolve disputed copyrights." The United States Copyright Law (17 U.S.C. section 512) makes ISP responsible once notified of infringement in writing, and is signed "under penalty of perjury." The copyright need not have been registered at all, mentions Mr.Petit. "It is required only for a lawsuit, and late registration only limits remedies available in court."