Electronic Piracy in Publishing

Following on from the pirate theme at John Condon’s book launch and blogging about the launch last week see: John Condon’s book launch, I was reminded of a very informative and fascinating talk I went to a while back at the Society of Authors. It was all about the online piracy of books. This mainly concerns educational books but, I did see some fiction up there too.


At the meeting I found out there are three types of sites that will put up digital copies of books for download. These are peer-to-peer sites, document sharing sites and file hosting sites. At the risk of boring you, I will go into a little more detail.

This is not a Playstation site. P2P stands for peer-to-peer. The books, pdf’s, etc are not physically on a website but on somebody else’s computer and are distributed via email, or such like. It is difficult to stop this type of piracy. The websites will list files they have available. To find a more detailed explanation of what P2P is, check out wikipedia Peer-to-peer.

It is a very similar system to the music website Spotify, which allows users to share their favourite tunes for free. Some sites which index a lot of torrent educational book files include: http://www.thepiratebay.org/ and http://www.isohunt.com/. You can check if your books are featured on these sites by using the search function.

Nicholas Tims warned us to be careful of false positive hits (sponsored links) on some P2P sites, such as http://www.freshwap.com/ and http://www.torrentpump.com/.


These again are all legal, law-abiding websites. They also react promptly to requests to have your work removed. Such sites include: http://www.scribd.com/http://www.issu.com/ and http://www.docstoc.com/.

They describe themselves as having:

“Millions of documents and books at your fingertips! Read, print, download, and send them to your mobile devices instantly. Or upload your PDF, Word, and PowerPoint docs to share them with the world’s largest community of readers.”

These sites are different from P2P websites as, it is possible to view and read the books available on the site.

File hosting
Again, these are legal websites. they normally react quickly to takedown requests. You must provide them with correct and detailed informationa dn they do not engage in correspondence.

Some of the biggest include: http://www.rapidshare.com/ and http://www.mediafire.com/. They are different from the other two in that the files are hosted by the Interent service and are specifically designed to store static content.

What can you do?
To find out if your books appearing on such sites, you can set up a ‘Google Alert’ on your book titles and on your name. I have talked about this before in my post: Can’t find it but, it will appear here when I do!!! Honest!

You can also check if your publishers are a member of the Publisher’s Association where it is possible to check on the copy right infringement portal to see sites which respond well to take down requests and those that don’t.


Social Publishing sites

There are also websites such as Scribd that scan and make textbooks available on the world wide web. Scribd is a social publishing site, where tens of millions of people share original writings and documents. They do not ask the author’s permission to put their books online. For authors who write for royalties from the amount of books they have sold, this means they are losing money. This is not just a concern for Eduational Publishing but for fiction as well.

These sites eventually remove unlicensed content from the web but they have to be petitioned to do so. There is a Copyright Infringement Takedown Notification on the Scribd website and they provide a Takedown Notification Template for authors.

But, surely they should have not put the books available for free download on line in the first place. They should be the ones seeking permissions and paying for licenses not teh authors having to fight for the right to get paid for their hard work.

Advice from the Society of Authors is to be vigiliant and to search for titles online on a regualr basis. If you find anything suspicious it should be reported to the publishers. The Publishers Association has set up a Piracy Portal to share information about copyright infringement. There is also a Copyright Infringement Portal, which targets websites offering infringing copies for free download, and will soon evolve to also target peer-to-peer sharing via torrents.

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