Close to two years ago, I discovered that my eBooks, both of them, were being listed for sale on a site about which I’d never heard before. They were not under contract to sell my eBooks nor was I receiving any payment for the nearly 1000 times the site reported my novel had already been downloaded. There was a link on the site authors could write to, if they felt their copyright had been infringed. So I wrote, asked them to take down my books, and … nothing happened. That’s when I contacted my friend Tim Baker, whose books were also listed on the site, and he wrote this blog post about our experience. Many of our friends also took up the cause, sharing this blog post and following up with more information as they heard of it – good friends like Chris Graham who blogs as The Story Reading Ape, and has created a permanent warning on his own site about the problems of copyright infringement with information for all authors who find themselves in this situation. What we did learn since Tim first posted about the problem is that these sites aren’t so much about copyright infringement or “stealing” our books’ sales as they are “click farms” that gather identity information and credit card numbers from those unsuspecting readers who “click” on the site or authors who lodge a complaint.
Here we are, nearly two years later and, while we haven’t managed to rid ourselves of these “pirate” sites (because as soon as one is closed down, another pops up in its place) we do know that they are not the threat to our copyright we thought they were and they are not making money from our hard work, in the first place, of writing our books.
That’s no reason to become complacent, however, about the copyright we own for any intellectual property we’ve created, because if there’s a way to cheat an author (or anyone, for that matter) out of money due to them, there’s always someone out there willing to come up with a scheme to do so.
It was with great interest then that I read the following article about an Irish author who discovered her many-years out-of-print series of crime novels was being reissued, with different titles and slightly rewritten, by another author altogether – and that they were selling very well on Amazon! Please read The girl who stole my book: How Eilis O’Hanlon found out her crime novels were swiped by a stranger and then come back to read the rest of what I have to say.
Okay then … so my take on what happened to Eilis O’Hanlon is that this could be a much bigger operation than what she believes to be the case, and rather than this one thieving author, it’s actually an organized group preying on out-of-print books that they hope no one will notice have been copied and rereleased as something new. Maybe this is just the curse of my being a mystery writer speaking, and I tend to see conspiracies everywhere, but I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t more widespread a problem than we imagine. In the meantime, we may never know the extent that this kind of copyright infringement happens. It’s good to know, though, that Amazon will do something about this problem, once they are sure it’s true that an author is infringing on our copyright, and they’ll take them down completely. If it is a bigger operation overseeing this, it will only be a matter of time before more books appear on the site purporting to be new works by a different author who has been “created” and now publishes and sells these books that actually belong to someone else.
In the meantime, I’ve had my own brush with a situation of possible copyright infringement or, at least, the copying of my original idea and novel. I haven’t wanted to talk about this in public, hoping that the situation would go away and, for the most part, that has happened. But it still irks me someone has “stolen” my hard work I had in writing the novel in the first place. (And I have proof that I began writing my novel in 2001.) Fortunately, for me, I’ve been slow to finish writing the second book in my series, so this other author couldn’t possibly copy it as well, but he has continued on with my original premise for the series, it seems. And, to date, his books have not been sold here on Bequia in the bookstore. (Of course, not many of MY books have been sold through that bookstore, but that’s another matter …) I don’t believe this other series has had any impact on my sales or on my readership – which is actually more important to me. i.e. I’m not losing readers to this other series. And I still have people asking when my next book will be published (soon, I hope!) so I know I continue to maintain that fan base I worked so hard to build.
Isn’t it interesting, though, that on top of all the hard work we authors must put into writing, preparing, publishing, promoting, marketing, developing a readership, and getting on with the next book … we also have to worry about people who believe it’s okay to steal our ideas and our IP and benefit from them themselves. With nary a thought as to those, we authors, who created that IP in the first place. Very frustrating!
How about you? Have you encountered any similar situations as above, or do you know of other authors whose copyright has been infringed upon? Have you heard of any other scams out there that infringe upon an author’s rightful copyright?