One of the unfortunate side effects of being published is piracy, and I'm not talking about the black skull and crossbones, Jack Sparrow and a boat. In the publishing world, piracy is the term used for someone freely sharing the work you've spent months, if not years, slaving over without compensating you financially. It is something that truthfully until I was first published I had not known was going on. Since then, I have had my fair share of dealing with this issue.
The reason for this illegal behavior (and per copyright laws in the US, it is illegal) are a dime a dozen. I've probably heard them all uttered at one time or another, and while some of these reasons might seem more legitimate than others, I am not writing this blog to get into a debate on the why's. I'm not even going to give them the satisfaction of mentioning by name any of the places where file sharing is occurring. Believe me, as soon as you log into your first author's loop, you'll find them bandied about. Instead, I'm going to discuss what you can do once you've discovered your work on one of these sights.
The DMCA or The Digital Millennium Copyright Act was signed into law by President Clinton on October 28, 1998. What is it, you ask? The DMCA is the circumvention of technological measures used by copyright owners to protect their works and one on tampering with copyright management information—and adds civil remedies and criminal penalties for violating the prohibitions (for more info, follow the link). So now that you know what the DMCA is, you're safe, right? The government's got you back.
If only. The DMCA is a nice little law with no real backing. So what do you do now? Well, ask any published author and they'll tell you, here comes the fun part (insert tons of sarcasm). You get to send of DMCA notices. What are DMCA notices, you ask? Basically it is a letter you send to the file sharing site as proof that you are the copyright holder of the work being illegally shared and asking them to remove it. Where do I get one of these letters, you now ask? I'd post one here but it's kind of long. Ask your publisher or any fellow author. They'd be more than happy to share.
Okay, so you're ready. You have your letter, it's all ready to send out. Now what? Most of these site have a DMCA policy and a place to send these letters but some don't want to make it easy for you. The ones that do, you'll see a DMCA Policy notice at the bottom of their site. Others, you can hunt around for minutes or hours, trying to no avail to find where to send your notice. If you are having difficulties, ask around. Just like the pirates are more than willing to share your work, fellow authors will be more than willing to help you stop them. Someone will have the correct place stored in their email and will be eager to pass it along.
You've sent out your notice. What's next? Sadly, you wait. Most of these sites will take the file down within 24 hours. If they don't, keep sending the notice until they do. It might take several frustrating hours or days but I've yet to find one who hasn't eventually complied.
Well that's the end of it? Right? Sorry. My laughter is not at you. Really, I promise. I just wish it were that easy. But it's not. More often than not, your book will reappear within hours or days, right back on the same sight. Why? Because these pirates can. Either these file sharing sites really don't give a damn about the law or they just are too busy to pay attention to repeat offenders (I'll let you decide which but I think you can already guess where my thoughts fall).
So what do you do? You get to repeat the procedure all over again. WTF, you ask again in dismay? Yeah, I know. All I can say is welcome to publishing.