By Valley Brown – author of Speeding Tickets
Piracy can be a serious issue for indie authors of ebooks. Valley Brown explains her personal experiences with digital piracy, and what she did to fight it.
The Internet is a vast ocean swarming with pirates. So I had been warned by any number of publishing professionals and experienced authors. Being a newbie author with an appalling lack of discoverability, I doubted I had to worry about that little problem for some time. Wrong.
August 2014: A Google Alert popped up in my Inbox. “Speeding Tickets by Valley Brown” was available as a free download on Google Docs. What?
I had never used Google Docs, and I certainly hadn’t put my book up there for a free download! I followed the link. The only legitimate PDF version of my book was available for sale through Smashwords, but they had no sales for my account. The supplier of this PDF version had a totally foreign name, which appeared to be of Eastern European origin. Through the Google Doc site, I was able to register a complaint for copyright infringement, after proving that I was indeed the owner of said intellectual property.
The online form – there was no way to contact a live human for this issue – stated the results of the claim would be sent to Chilling Effects and that a notice would be put up in the place of the removed material. I soon received an automated email reply from Google letting me know that they were taking this seriously, but due to the high volume of claims they dealt with, it might take them a while to investigate, and then to take the offending site down. Great. While my paperwork is lost in the ether-queue, hundreds or even thousands of people could be downloading pirated copies.
This was a real problem to me. I had barely any sales on this first book, even after (or maybe I should say especially after) having made the Kindle version free for three days the year before. It had not begun to pay its own expenses. The last thing I needed was someone cheating me out of income the book needed to earn. Within a week, Google took the book down. I had no way of knowing how many – if any – copies were downloaded, but at least I was safe. Not.
September 2014: Another Google Alert! Quite possibly the same individual had put my book up yet again for free download on Google Docs. Again, I filed a complaint with Google. Again, they took the book down. I was irritated at having this happen a second time, and so soon. Surely this person would be banned from Google Docs for life. Right.
January/February 2015: Another Google Alert. Seriously? The scenario repeated itself. I repeated the complaint. Google responded, a bit more quickly than the previous two instances. I could only shake my head. Why my book? It was still an unknown little tome adrift in the online ocean. My son, who is far savvier and techie than I, informed me there are a lot of individuals out there who spend countless hours pirating books and other forms of entertainment, all to share these luxury items with the less-wealthy around the web.
This perplexed me. Was this a form of flattery, or had I simply been ensnared in a wide net with who knows how many other unsuspecting authors? I had no way to know. And then…
March 2015: The now-familiar Google Alert arrived in my inbox. This had become more than annoying, more than ridiculous, and I let Google know it in my comments. The book was removed in a matter of hours, not days. Somehow, a live person must have seen the comments and raised an eyebrow over them.
Four times in seven months. That’s a lot, I think. I’m thankful I had Google Alerts set up for all my books, name and pen name. They catch a lot of tidbits that are nothing to fret over, but they also caught all of these piracy incidents. It begs the question: what DIDN’T they catch?
I’m just waiting around for the next one, for it surely is inevitable, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. With all the sophisticated software available (as free downloads, even), no form of digital/electronic IP is safe from being pirated. I trust that the majority of people out there don’t steal, that they respect and value our writing enough to pay us for our labors. Thank God for those readers. They allow us to pursue our dreams, and it is a privilege to share with them.
Incidentally, you should visit Chilling Effects sometime. The number of copyright-infringement complaints registered involving Google are endless. Mine were in company with such well-known names as The Zac Brown Band and Coldplay.
Valley Brown lives in Southwestern Indiana with her husband (who swears she killed him off in Book One – “Speeding Tickets”). She is a member of Romance Writers of America, including Indiana RWA. “The Rocky Road” romantic suspense series celebrates mature women who realize life is one big amazing journey and that love is always worth a second chance. Valley openly admits lusting after Red Velvet Cake Ice Cream, but chocolate and coffee will always be her first loves.
Valley’s books on Amazon.com:
YouTube Book Trailer: