The problem of book theft …

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.

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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?

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64 responses

  1. Reblogged this on Writer's Treasure Chest and commented:
    Thank you, Susan M. Toy for this fantastic article to warn authors about copyright infringing and the danger of scams in the writer’s world.

    1. Thank you for reblogging!

      1. It’s been my pleasure. 🙂

  2. This is so scary. I’m sorry it happened to you and I know it could happen to all of us. We authors put so much work – and sometimes, expense – into producing our books, only to have someone steal from persons who can least afford the robbery.

    1. Worse than monetary loss, this is more of an invasion of privacy, stealing our ideas, our intellectual property we worked so hard to create. No money can ever compensate for a theft like that. Thanks for reading and commenting, Cynthia!

  3. I, too have experienced this problem from about ten sites – probably the same as those who stole yours. I can’t report if my sales have suffered because I think the people who use and download from these pirates are unlikely to have bought from me in the first place. I try to tell myself to be proud that I’m pirated in the first place since there’s nothing I can do about it – but it doesn’t work.

  4. Reblogged this on Tricia Drammeh and commented:
    An important warning to authors about book theft.

  5. Reblogged this on Reading Recommendations and commented:

    I’m reblogging this from the main blog because it’s important information for all authors to consider and be aware of and I know some who subscribe to this blog may not have seen this already.

  6. […] Source: The problem of book theft … […]

  7. This is terrible and very worrying indeed. Sorry to hear that you had this problem.

    1. Thanks, Marje, for reading and commenting!

  8. I seem to have one of mine on offer as a free download. It seems to be for dangerous software so will hit anyone who tries it. Not sure if this is a good or bad thing.

    1. Definitely a bad thing, Barb. This is how these sites gain access to our computers – when an author or reader clicks on the link, which is generally an executable file and not actually an eBook, the site is then able to infect our computers and cause havoc as well as steal our information. The only way to rid ourselves of the sites is by following the instructions in the link I included above from Chris The Story Reading Ape. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      1. All a lot to be dealt with. As if being a writer is not enough hassle

  9. Gads the roaches are scurrying everywhere.
    While I’ve only dealt with plagiarized blog posts and art works copied, realizing someone stole an entire book would be maddening. Precise moves and documentation will be critical to defend yourself/your works. That article should be bookmarked by everyone for future reference. Glad to see Amazon took action, but roaches just emerge somewhere else.
    It does look like this is an organized thing – and will only get worse. Her “story” is nonsense and designed to make you feel sorry…and not bother her more. This whole style of theft may be learned early by students finding themes and research papers in school/college and “rewriting” them by changing a few words before turning them in. It’s a real battle – and few see anything wrong with it. They have no shame – or guilt – not trendy behavior/parenting anymore.
    Besides, writers should be flattered anyone noticed their stuff and thought it worthy to copy, right? New world with new dangers for authors at every turn.
    Thanks for the alert

    1. Thanks for reading and adding your thoughts, philmouse!

  10. Reblogged this on Musings on Life & Experience and commented:
    Authors need to beware as Susan explains.

    1. Thanks for reblogging!

      1. You’re most welcome, Susan. It was an interesting and helpful piece.

  11. Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
    Book piracy is an issue. I have found my own books on sites that I have no relationship with

    1. Thanks for reblogging, Don!

      1. You’re welcome. It was a timely post.

  12. This is outrageous. I have reposted to F/book and Linked in
    Terry G-F

    1. Thank you for sharing! The more authors we can reach with this information the better!

  13. Reblogged this on newauthoronline and commented:
    I have found the ebook of my collection of poetry, “Lost in the Labyrinth of My Mind” available via sites with no connection to me. I have no idea whether these sites are click farms (I suspect they are) or whether my book is, in fact being offered (in an unauthorised manner) free. Kevin

    1. Thanks for reblogging, Kevin! Those likely are click farms. Beware when dealing with them, and it’s best to follow Chris The Story Reading Ape’s instructions in the post I included here.

  14. […] via The problem of book theft … — Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing […]

  15. Thank you for sharing your experience…I’m going to share this on my blog so that this awareness can spread.

    1. Thank you for sharing!

  16. As if we don’t have enough to do already. This is mind-numbing and very sad. Thanks for shedding the light, Susan.

  17. Mysticalwriter

    Reblogged this on Mysticalwriter and commented:
    Originally blogged from thestoryreadingapeblog.com

    1. Thanks for reblogging!

  18. I didn’t even know this was a thing? Brilliant. It feels dirty, this is personal theft. Taking someone’s blood, sweat and tears and flogging it for free. It makes me so mad!

    1. The more authors and readers who know this is going on the more control we’ll all have over our own work. Thanks for reading and commenting, Lisa, and please do share this with your friends and colleagues.

  19. The Eilish O’Hanlon story is dreadful and it’s clear she might never have known about her books being plagiarised if a reader hadn’t recognised the books was almost identical. I am sure it must be much more widespread and increasingly difficult to stop. I found Joanne Clancy’s sob story a bit difficult to swallow.
    As for the book piracy, I’ve been alerted to copies of my books being advertised on pirate sites, which as you point out seem not to be in the business of selling or giving away books but harvesting contact details. I served the take-down notice on one such site then realised, too late, I’d given my contact details! The books were removed but have, no doubt, appeard elsewhere.

    1. Thanks, Mary! We must be ever vigilant, or hope that our faithful readers are so for us!

  20. Thanks for the update. Sharing this valuable information… I signed up for GOOGLE ALERTS as soon as I discovered that my books were being listed on pirate sites last year. Your explanation on the paid clicks has calmed my fears. Good luck getting to the bottom of your copyright infringement dilemna. Again, thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Thanks for commenting and sharing, Bette!

  21. Author Rebecca Heishman

    Reblogged this on Dancing With The MS MonSter.

  22. Wow, a thousand copies pirated is substantial! On the plus side, a thousand more people than you expected might have read your book …

    I’m not sure what we can do, other than keep our eyes and ears open. I, for one, would like to have a word with readers who download or buy from shady pirate sites, since they could do things legitimately for almost as cheap!

    1. That count of 1000 was bogus, though, Kevin. The site actually did not have my book to download. They were merely using those downloads as a lure to get readers to click and give them their personal information (click-farm site). So as muchas I like to think that 1000 readers actually did download and read my novel, I know that’s definitely not the case.

      1. Ah, I see. So there’s absolutely NO redeeming value! Grrrrrrr.

      2. Isn’t that always the way?

  23. I’ve been told by many that it’s not necessary to file for an official copyright, but it’s worth the $35.00 for me to do it in case I ever do need to go to court. I’m less worried about the torrent type sites than I am someone taking my story and developing it into their own. They say art copies arts and everyone tells the same stories their own way, but when your own words are used to tell that story and someone else claims it as their own work…that’s outright theft.

    1. Yes, I agree with you, Susan, that the copying of our work is a far worse theft to copyright infringement than the pirate sites present.

      1. official copyright does not stop the bad guys

  24. I have found both of my book listed on pirate sites. I took steps to remove my first book only to see it pop up on at least two more, but then I also noticed that the site was listing they had my book, they were actually offering some text on chicken breeds. My second book has only been distributed by Amazon as I am still taking full advantage of the kindle unlimited program, so imagine my surprised to see that there was a site offering a free PDF and ePub versions.

    I now regularly check search engines (more than just Google as results have been different). During one such search, I came across a message board prominently showing the cover of one of my novels with the message, “Where can I get this for free?” I scrolled down nervously to see the answer. I expected to see a series of links to pirate sites. Instead, someone out in cyberspace, someone I’d never interacted with, chose to scold the questioner. “If you are that interested in a book, why don’t you buy it so that the author can afford to write another.” No links were offered, and a few weeks later I noticed the chain had been removed from the board altogether.

    Book piracy is a very real thing, but at least, there are still good people out there too.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Allie! You were fortunate that someone championed authors and their work and that the thread was taken down. And, you’re right, there are more good people than bad out there.

  25. Reblogged this on Just Can't Help Writing and commented:
    A really scary story! It seems important to make sure that when we buy a book from a new site that we’re actually supporting the actual author. Let Susan know if you’ve seen or experienced anything like this!

    1. Thanks for reblogging!

  26. Reblogged this on Shirley McLain and commented:
    I remember when this happened. I wrote a letter to the company also and asked them to remove my books. They did, but as you said one goes down and another pops up. Thanks for sharing and I’m going to pass it along.

    1. Thanks, Shirley, for reading and passing along! My point in writing this was to outline how many ways there are for others to benefit from our IP, not just through these “pirate” sites.

  27. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    AUTHORS – PLEASE READ and advise Susan (in her blog comments) of any similar scams you know about…

    1. Thanks for reblogging, Chris!

      1. Welcome Susan – I hope you get lots of input so a dossier can be built up for us to advise everyone 👍🐵

  28. Google your book(s) title. It will not only give you the legitimate seller, but also the bogus ones.

    1. That’s exactly how I found out about the original piracy sites in the first place, Jack.

    2. Clearly it’s not sufficient to set up Google Alerts for your title, as Eilis O’Hanlon’s plagiarist changed the titles. I’d recommend setting up Google Alerts for some of the phrases in one’s book as well. As O’Hanlon commented, taking legal action to recover money paid to the plagiarist can be costly. That may be another reason why plagiarists don’t target better-known, traditionally published books. Not only may they be familiar to more people, but a large corporation can afford to take legal action. Indeed, they have teams to monitor for piracy sites and, likely, plagiarism.

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