My book has been pirated! Now what?

Last month, one of our authors spotted something unusual.

She came across her book on sale for $16.99 on a couple of websites she didn’t recognize. It was obvious something was wrong. The regular retail price of her medical training book was far higher than what seemed to be a fake price tag.

She immediately contacted us. “Is this legal?” she wanted to know.

No, it was not legal. These two online retailers didn’t have the authority to sell her book, and their sales were not legitimate. This meant that our client wouldn’t be compensated for any sales of her book through these sites.

Unfortunately, piracy is becoming increasingly common. Here are a few things you can do to prevent it from happening to you — and steps you can take if it does.

Register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office.

According to copyright laws, your work is already considered copyrighted as yours as the author. However, you cannot actually sue someone for copyright infringement until you register your work. This simple step provides enhanced protection.

Use a reputable publisher and/or distributor. 

A reputable distributor only partners with retailers that apply digital rights management (DRM) to book files when selling to customers. DRM serves as a means of copyright protection of digital media and prevents illegal copying or re-distribution.

Stay attentive.

Regularly search for your book title, keeping tabs on where it is being sold online. Your publisher or distributor can provide a list of approved online retail partners to help you identify illegitimate sales.

Know the difference between piracy and scams.

In this case, our author did everything right. Her work was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. We distributed her book through the oldest, most reputable distributor in the industry. And she was checking online regularly.

So what’s the deal?

What appears to be piracy is sometimes simply a scam. There are hundreds of websites that seem to be selling work or giving work away for free, when in fact they are not.

Here’s how they do it: Scammers scrape Amazon and other retailers for inventory then create bogus websites that appear to be hosting your work. To make the sites more believable, they even list a fake number of downloads. When you attempt to download your book, you will be asked to either add your credit card or perform a series of tasks, such as signing up for a trial for software or buying a magazine subscription.

We were fairly certain our author was dealing with a scam, particularly when our emails suddenly landed in our Spam folders. The website links that we were discussing in our emails were flagged as harmful by our email account filters.

So what’s the next step in the case of a scam?

It’s certainly your right to contact the website and ask for your book not to be listed. Many authors don’t bother going beyond that to take legal action because it’s difficult to pin down scams.

As for our author, she is engaging with an attorney to decide whether she’ll take further action. And as for you, be sure to keep these steps in mind for the best protection of your work.

EllaElla Ritchie is the founder of Stellar Communications Houston, a book publishing team that provides a peaceful process and pride in every product for nonfiction authors, business leaders and federal government agencies. For more information, connect with her on LinkedIn or check out the website.

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