There have been a large number of reports of ebook piracy. In part, authors are suspecting various bloggers and reviewers of illegally distributing ARCs, or getting the books from other sources and reposting them.

If you find your book listed on a suspect website, please carefully review the facts and consider the following.

Did you put the book on the site?

It’s unlikely that you did, but make sure. Services like Smashwords distribute ebooks to multiple channels. The books get listed for sale at the other channels, in accordance with Smashwords’ terms, so you get paid if they’re purchased. If you don’t want them there, you can opt out.

Is copyrighted material actually available for download?

Put yourself in the shoes of an unscrupulous person who wants to acquire your ebook for free. Follow the links in your book listing. Do they lead to a point which allows you to download an actual .epub, .pdf, .mobi etc. file to your computer? If so, your browser will tell you something is being downloaded. If you are successful in downloading something, is it your full book? Or is it the 10% free preview which Amazon or Smashwords gives out anyway?

Do the links take you to sites like Amazon, Smashwords or Kobo?

If so, this is probably all right. The site with your book listing may be just an affiliate–they’re advertising your book, but the reader has to go to the legitimate site to actually download it. The affiliate gets a commission, but this is pursuant to the agreement you made with Amazon or Smashwords. Getting a smaller slice of a larger pie isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But, you may also be able to opt out of having your book shared with affiliates–check with your book merchant.

Is a credit card asked for?

If so, most likely you’re following a third-party ad, probably one that generically reads “FREE DOWNLOAD” but doesn’t relate to your book. Readers who are looking to infringe copyright are very unlikely to provide credit card information. Even if this link does eventually lead to a copy of your book, very few people are going to actually get to it.

My work is definitely being pirated, what can I do?

Check the website in question for information about a “DMCA takedown” process. This can be used to demand that copyrighted work be removed.

You will also want to find out the identity of the company that is hosting the suspect site. You can contact them in a similar manner, and inquire as to their DMCA takedown process. If they get enough complaints about a particular pirate site, they may also elect to cut ties with them.

Also note whether there are sponsored ads running on the pirate website. Google Adsense and Infolinks are examples of these (although the latter does not appear to be particularly concerned about enforcing TOS against illegal content.) The owner of the pirate site makes a commission every time someone clicks on an ad. You can complain to these ad servers, and in some cases, the pirate will have his account closed and forfeit his ill-gotten gains.

Even if the ad servers themselves won’t act, you can take note of the actual advertisers. These can be insurance companies, retailers or just about anyone… and they are paying money to have their ads displayed and clicked. Visit their Facebook pages and/or official websites, and let them know that their advertising revenue is being used to support copyright infringement. In most cases, they’ll be able to “opt out” of having their ads displayed on the pirate’s website.

What if nothing I try is successful?

As an author, carefully consider how much time and energy you devote to fighting pirates. Piracy is always going to be there, and nothing we do will completely eradicate the problem. Also, consider:

1. If someone is successful in finding and stealing a free copy of your book, they probably weren’t ever going to buy it anyway. Your commission on this scenario is $0 either way.

2. If someone steals your book, reads it and likes it, they may just say something positive about the book to someone else, who then goes and checks it out. Your commission could then be positive, depending on whether the “someone else” has more integrity than her friend.

Remember to focus on writing, rather than focusing too much energy on things which you can’t fully control!

Feel free to contact the Erotic Authors Guild for any assistance in piracy matters.