Piracy Is Theft

6 Jan

Sorry, this is another rant. But it’s important.

There’s a writer’s joke that goes somewhat like this. The only thing worse than having your books pirated is not having your books pirated. As Eric Flint noted (although before a set of changes in the online environment) piracy is rarely a serious problem for writers; the average pirate can’t or won’t buy the book in any case. (And there is a possibility that some pirates will become fans who’ll pay real money for books.)

But piracy does, however, cause some very real problems for writers. Our books are our intellectual property and, in order to use our property, it has to be clear that those rights rest exclusively in our hands. Publishers tend to worry about pirate sites cutting into sales – a problem made worse, I admit, by the simple fact that most publishers charge through the nose for eBooks – and writers can get nervous if copies of their work are available in formats that allow easy plagiarism. I’m not entirely sure if this is a valid fear – Amazon is quite good at detecting duplicate books (to the point that they identified a free sample as an example of plagiarism) – but it refuses to fade. And programs that require exclusivity – Kindle Unlimited, for example – can cause problems when the online searchers detect copies of the book available elsewhere, even though the author is being pirated and unaware of it!

I mention this because, a couple of weeks ago, I was warned by a fan that one of my books was being sold, online, by a pirate site.

I hit the roof.

Now, I don’t mind – too much – when pirate sites give my books away for free. I try to avoid keeping my books out of any exclusive schemes, so while it is irritating to be pirated it’s not something I let drive me insane. But what infuriated me about this particular set of pirates was threefold;

-They were SELLING my book.

-They were SELLING my book that I’d sold to a PUBLISHER.

-They were SELLING my book that I’d sold to a PUBLISHER that had NOT YET BEEN RELEASED!

(I’m sorry for shouting, but certain points do need to be made.)

This threatened to cause all sorts of problems for me.

First, naturally, I wouldn’t see a single cent from any of those sales. Of course not – I wasn’t the one putting it on sale. Any profits the pirates made would go straight to them, not to myself and the publisher. They were undercutting my sales before my book was even out! And the accountants, the people who decide if I should be offered a contract for a third book in the series, would think that there had been fewer sales.

Second, it was quite possible the publisher would be pissed at me for allowing a copy to get into pirate hands, perhaps through one of my beta readers. (As it happened, it looks like one of the ARCs released to advance readers was pirated, so that isn’t such a big concern.) There could be all sorts of problems, from demands to repay the advance (if I’d lost a copy) to questions over who actually owned the IP rights. The publisher might refuse to pick up the remainder of the series.

This shouldn’t be a major concern, but it is. One of the reasons I use beta readers is to have a chain of people who can say, honestly, that they witnessed the book being put together in draft form, before it was forwarded to the editors. Without it, there might be questions raised over the actual writer or ownership of the IP rights. Not to put too fine a point on it, if I don’t have a clear claim to the rights I don’t have anything to sell. One of the worst nightmares for an author is having their rights to their work thrown into question.

Third, failing to do anything (effective) about the pirates creates an awkward precedent. When you hear about a really big company (McDonalds, for example) bringing a suit against a tiny business that happens to be run by a McDonald family, you think of McDonalds as being bullies. And yet, failure to defend one’s copyright (insofar as anyone can lay claim to the ‘McDonalds’ brand) can be used against you by someone bigger. Another fast food chain can call itself ‘McDonalds’ and, when their use of the name is challenged in court, point to the tiny business and claim that McDonalds forfeited its claim to the brand when it failed to take action against the earlier violation.

Yes, I know this sounds absurd. But stranger things have happened in court.

I’m not sure I have the words to express just how angry I am. This people stole my work and are now trying to make a profit from it! And if that wasn’t bad enough, they may have left me with a major headache to clear up.

<Incoherent furious muttering>

Jokes aside, if you like an author, any author, buy their works from sanctioned outlets. You can normally find these on their websites. Buying from pirate sites ensures that they get nothing, not even sales …

… And if they think the book flopped, they won’t want to write a sequel.

28 Responses to “Piracy Is Theft”

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard January 6, 2016 at 10:59 pm #

    Shit. [Frown]

  2. Gaden January 6, 2016 at 11:06 pm #

    I am at a lost for words. This is taking it too far, it is crazy.

    But then again across the world there are “those” special people that defy the boundaries the imagination on how low people can go.

    Sad to hear about this 😦

    All i can say is that you do have readers (like me) here and around Amazon that will always buy your originals. 🙂

  3. Dennis the Menace January 6, 2016 at 11:14 pm #

    Which upcoming book did they rip off?

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard January 6, 2016 at 11:49 pm #

      Chris said Falcone Strike.

  4. masgramondou January 6, 2016 at 11:43 pm #

    Minor correction. The big company suing little company with same name is generally trademark law not copyright.

    I have a practical suggestion. From now on watermark your eARCs before you/your publisher sends them out. And by watermark I mean add some plausible text in the middle somewhere that is different for each eARC recipient. Then you can see which scumbag is leaking and deal with it. Personally I’d go with naming and shaming but other options are possible.

    (Note you could do the same with copies to Beta readers if you suspected them)

    • Bob G January 7, 2016 at 1:24 pm #

      for the same reason, every map has a “mistake” in it, so if the mistake is copied, it is a copy.

  5. Don Miller January 6, 2016 at 11:44 pm #

    Don’t try to confuse the issue of copyright theft with the McDonald’s Trademark infringement example. Both of them are intellectual property disputes, but people all ready have a hard enough time keeping the difference straight between copyright and trademark seperate without one of their favorite authors mixing up the issue too.

    • chrishanger January 7, 2016 at 8:57 pm #

      The principle, as i understand it, is the same.

      If McDonalds insists the business change the name, McDonalds looks like bullies. But if they don’t, they can wind up in trouble if someone can reasonably claim they didn’t protect their trademark – and, in doing so, gave it up.

  6. David Land January 6, 2016 at 11:51 pm #

    Please let us, your readers know who the pirates are do we don’t buy the work… I want you to get every penny you so well deserve… Love your work…

  7. lamparty January 6, 2016 at 11:59 pm #

    Since this has already happened, I’d go with replacing several different words with either synonyms, or wrong ones that spellcheck will not catch, in each copy passed to the beta readers, or adding a short passage to each one that is different from all others! At the very least the cuprit needs to be stricken from your list of Beta Readers!

    • chrishanger January 7, 2016 at 8:57 pm #

      It wasn’t the beta readers. The publishers think it was one of the ARCs sent out to pre-readers.


  8. Sam Waite January 7, 2016 at 6:55 am #

    Dear Mr. Nuttall,

    Report the website to SPAMHause and to BlueCoat Security. If they get blocked by these two giant website security blacklists then they are toast. Just do a website WhoIS search on them to make sure you file a complaint with their ISP and any other addresses they have. Some ISP’s like GoDaddy will ruthlessly shut them down and ban them. Can’t do much with the Arabs and the Chinese but the US and Europe also have anti-Piracy state operations (US Secret Service) that you should report them to. Then they can’t even travel and you can place a hold on their bank accounts.

  9. Mark Johnson January 7, 2016 at 7:31 am #

    I have had my pre-order for this book ordered since the start of October (through Amazon) & look forward to reading it in a couple of weeks.

  10. Brad January 7, 2016 at 7:54 am #

    Sorry to hear this Chris. I don’t know anything about publishing, but will vote with my feet by continuing to order from Amazon while you get it sorted.

  11. Anarchymedes January 7, 2016 at 9:11 am #

    On the positive side, pirate sites are the only way to make your name and your work known in the countries where Amazon.com is being proscribed and blocked. You wouldn’t mind making some fans in Iran or North Korea, would you, Chris? And just think that those people may be risking their lives to read your book. Maybe it’s even worth some small drop in sales? Within reason, I mean? 🙂

    • chrishanger January 7, 2016 at 8:58 pm #

      I have no objection to new fans (grin)

      What’s objectionable is someone else selling my books and keeping the cash.


      • Anarchymedes January 8, 2016 at 8:57 am #

        Yeah, well, buying a pirated book here, in the first world, is an act of unworthy penny-pinching – not to mention the legal aspects. 🙂

  12. scottrmeyer January 7, 2016 at 8:11 pm #

    That sucks.

    Though what I find nearly impossible to believe is that people pay for pirated books. Personally I read 500-1000 books a year,many of them indie. I discovered long ago that I wouldn’t be able to afford that many books so I pirate every single book that I read, and if the book is good enough to finish then I buy it on Amazon. I can’t tell you how many times this has saved me from buying books that start having weird sex scenes, horrible romances, or bad grammar/spelling mistakes all past the sample.

    I even pirated the first book I ever read from you, yet I now own them all on amazon. As a student I would never have been able to afford your book and I probably would have passed it by for something more well known had I needed to buy it first.

    Everyone tends to see pirates as in the wrong, but pirating has given us an ability to beta test our purchases that has never really existed before.

    • chrishanger January 8, 2016 at 8:50 pm #

      There’s a sucker born every minute . More practically, Given the lack of investment, even a handful of sales can turn a profit.


    • Billy January 10, 2016 at 3:01 pm #

      People give all kinds of excuses why they steal a book one is that they can’t afford to buy one.

      That one is easy to fix.

      There is something in every city called a library. If the library does not have a book then they will be happy to order one from the author just ask them at the front desk. (I have and they will)

      Then you can check out and read the book for free without having to steal it.

      The Library

  13. Duncan Cairncross January 7, 2016 at 9:36 pm #

    I have some sympathy for “Pirates”
    Not for the sort of thing that Chris is talking about but copyright is a two edged sword,

    The writer gets a government supported monopoly
    But in return he/she should be required to service his/her reader

    It is an absolute pain when I try and buy a book and find that
    “It is not available in your country”
    Or the heirs of the writer do not approve of the book so it is no longer available
    Or the the writer does not like e-books so it has not been released as an e-book and PS it is not in print anymore

    IMHO if a book is no longer in print and available
    (And a print run of 500 for $500 each does not count)
    Then the copyright protection should be invalid

    Google was trying to do something like that for “Orphan” books before it was stopped by an incredibly short sighted copyright holders group

  14. Lars January 7, 2016 at 10:25 pm #

    I am so sorry to hear that 😦 dont see the point of buying from pirates.Its not like your books are THAT expencive to buy from Amazon (bought all your books from there and greatly enjoyed them all).I hope everything will be alright and that the publisher understand what happened.Looking forward to the next book (and hinting on a new upcoming empire corp book since i am already here? )

    • chrishanger January 8, 2016 at 8:51 pm #

      There will be a new Empire’s Corps. It’s currently number 2 in the pipeline.


  15. Steve Kendall January 8, 2016 at 2:45 am #

    Your books are excellent and well priced on Amazon so it pisses me off to hear this too! I and I’m sure all of your fans will continue to support you so let the publisher fight the Pirates and keeping writing😀! Cheers, Steve

  16. Veraenderer January 11, 2016 at 6:32 pm #

    Why does someone buy a pirated book?
    I mean the people I know who pirated things were either to young to have paypal etc. or have simply not the money to buy a film etc. .

    In the first case they couldn’t buy a pirated book and in the second case they would not buy a pirated book, because they want to have it for free.

    And I wonder honestly HOW sell pirated books can be profitable?
    I mean they have to be incredible cheap –> they have to sell many books –> they need many books
    The books can’t be for free in the web –> Or no one would buy them –> they need to have the books bevore they are released or have to make Ebook Version of printed books which have no eBook Version on sale –> They need contacts or a massiv ammount of time.
    They need to get a copy of the books in the first place –> which means that they have to pay atleast for one copy.
    And they have to pay for the server/website–> they have monthly costs

    And everything while beeing with one foot in jail.

    Against that sounds a job by mcdonalds like a goldmine.

  17. Jill January 21, 2016 at 1:16 am #

    I’m sorry to hear this. Good luck with the new book. My pre-ordered copy was just delivered by Amazon. Looking forward to reading the next Royal Sorceress book!


  1. Piracy Is Theft II | The Chrishanger - January 14, 2016

    […] you know, last week I published Piracy Is Theft, which outlined the fact that a pirate or group of pirates had copied the EARC of Falcone Strike […]

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