How to Help Combat Piracy in Publishing

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Fact: $300 million is annually lost in author income due to pirated book sales. Let’s take that in a moment. That’s a lot of cash.

This figure comes courtesy of The Authors Guild. Back during Book Expo 2019, Executive Director Mary Rasenberger, Staff Attorney Umair Kazi, Macmillan’s anti-piracy manager Catherine Bogin, and author Sarina Bowen offered a panel about piracy, revealing this and other incredibly dismal facts about a growing problem in publishing.

Here’s the Bad News

A lot of legitimate websites in the book-selling game have a lot of problems with piracy. eBay has an increasing number of pirated pdfs. Pirates will download books, create pdfs, and then resell the pdfs on their own. Amazon also has its share of ebook thieves. They buy ebooks, strip the DRM code, return the book to Amazon, and then upload the file on their own to sell. The process can be complicated and tricky, but still, people with savvy and know-how are managing to do the dirty deed at the detriment of authors.

Additionally, there are websites basically devoted to selling pirated works. Sites like epub.pub and ebook.pike will simply sell as many pirated books as they can. One such site claims to be a copyist church, a religion with the aim to copy content. A major problem is that many piracy sites are located overseas, so litigation is difficult. Still, lawyers can send out take-down orders with a bit of hope attached. The good folks at The Authors Guild can help out with endeavors like this one.

Now for Some Ways to Combat Piracy in Support of Writers Everywhere

One idea is to think big. As a collective consumer voice, we can ask legit sites like Amazon to limit the number of ebook returns a buyer can have. That way, pirates need to do more work when they buy, copy, return, illegally sell, buy, copy, return, illegally sell. It’s a small extra step, but still, it’s an extra step.

Another idea is to ask search engines like Google and Bing to forget a search item. While search engines won’t be able to make piracy sites stop pirating work, they can make them harder to find. Google will push down links—like a link to a specific pirated book—so it is less likely to be used.

Authors can be proactive. Sarina Bowen, author of Overnight Sensation and a slew of other romance novels, is diligent in her quest to combat piracy. She suggests a metatag takeover.

When people hop on search engines to find free books or discounted books, they use search terms like “free pdf” and “[title] free book.”

Authors can use those search terms in their own websites by tagging their images with those exact terms. Then their own websites will come up when those terms are sought after.

Book reviewers and bloggers can lend a hand in the same way. If you read and write about a book, tag your own post with the same search terms in the metadata. Then voila! Your piece is now part of the search for free books without actually offering free books.

This is pretty ingenious.

Finally, awareness is a really strong way to combat piracy. If we come across stolen books instead of focusing on “Oh, wow, a free book!” we can change that thought to “Oh, wow, a writer is missing out on getting paid for their hard work and dedication.” See how sad that just got?

Book lovers should also love the writers of those books and support them in every way.

If you want to hear more about piracy, here are some more thoughts.