Editor's Note: The persistent, time-consuming efforts of Karin Kallmaker and many other authors have been able to make a strong impact on the piracy of ebook editions of authors' books. In hopes of adding some weight to this impact, JAW will run all of Karin's series, originally published in her blog: http://blog.kallmaker.com/
Please continue to reject and report this pernicious piracy.
Here's Article Four:
"Under International covenants of the World Court in The Hague all appropriate royalties are paid." This phrase, or something like it, appears on some illegal download sites to reassure the user that they're not doing anything wrong. But it's a lie.
Well, maybe not a lie in the barest analysis because "international covenants" aren't comprehensive and many countries refuse to join international treaties. Or, the country's government hasn't looked at copyright in the digital age--Canada, for example--so lawmakers don't have the authority to support such treaties. So if the site hosting illegally copied work is in a country that doesn't recognize these treaties, all "appropriate" royalties are being paid from their point of view: None, because no court can order them to pay.
In discussing pirate sites with readers, it's clear that some are being fooled by false promises. Here are some red flags that should make you question the legitimacy of a download site:
• Are files names of the content obscured? For example, is that copy of one of my books called Pa1nt3d M00n by Kar1n Kal1mak3r?
Pirates change the names of the files to make it harder for the real owners to find them with a search engine. No legitimate seller would ever make it hard to find the merchandise in this way.
• Is the product not an individual ebook, but a "collection?" Does that collection have books from many different authors and multiple publishers?
Publishers and authors in the lesbian fiction world simply don't bundle 10, 20, 50, 100 books together in a single source that can be acquired in a single download. It is a guarantee that any such "collection" you find of this type consists entirely of stolen property. If you download it, you have received stolen property.
• Is it too good to be true? All the movies, music and books you want for $25-$40/month? And you get to keep all that content forever?
If it seems too good to be true, it probably means 100% of your money goes directly to the host site and stays there. Ask yourself how a site can possibly pay each person owed royalties if you download hundreds of items for $25.
• Are you downloading supposedly legal copies directly from another user or "peer" who is streaming a torrent?
Artists, performers, authors, publishers, movie studios and so on don't contract with individuals to sell their work. I can't think of an instance where an individual has the right to sell streaming ebooks, for example. Remember, you're not buying an original edition from them the way you would a used book, you're buying a copy of their copy. They still have their copy and they'll make another copy for the next person in line. Their copy can become 100, 500, 1,000 copies.
• Do you receive a confirmation email from a different domain name from where you are downloading content? Does the name on your credit card statement not resemble the domain either? For example, you download from 10xforyou.com, you get a confirmation email from rapiddownload.co.ru and the name on the credit card statement is Internet Services Ltd? Do you not get confirmation emails? Were any of these relationships disclosed when you were checking out?
Credit card companies and PayPal have sophisticated ways of sniffing out money being collected by a company in the US and funneled to illegal operations in other countries. Pirate sites try to hide their company names from these transactions. They may also not send emails because the contents create a digital "paper" trail that Gmail and Yahoo also use to detect fraudulent use of their service.
• When you first followed a link did you then click through a series of different sites, all sending you to the "real" one? Once there did it want you to pay a fee before you could even see for sure that the file you wanted existed?
A lot of the links you see are ads* from pirate sites that look like search results. They're promising content they don't even have. Your search term in Google has been inserted in their ad and displayed for you. For example, a frequent link to "all Kallmaker ebooks" lists itself as over 800MB of content. My ebooks total 35MB at best. But 800MB sounds much more impressive. Remember, they're pirates enticing you to pay a monthly fee (which you will probably have to protest to your credit card company to stop) with a lie about having content. By the time you realize that you don't have the download software you need and where you have to go to get it sets off your antivirus warnings, or that they only have a couple of the books you're looking for, they already have your money, your name, and your credit card security code.
They're selling stolen property, so they're not exactly afraid of your ire should you discover they lied. Want a refund? I've heard that's about as likely as it is they'll take down all the content on their site that bears a copyright mark. Horror stories abound about identity theft that began with someone wanting the latest hot movie for free. They got the movie ... and a nightmare.
*When one of these "ads" is clicked, the person(s) who runs that page gets paid. Pirates always manage to figure out how they get paid and could care less that the people who made the items they're stealing never get paid.
• Does the site's Terms of Service document not explain the precise consequences of participating in copyright infringement? For example, if a user receives five complaints of illegal activity, are they banned?
Lip service about enforcing copyrights is often revealed in the lack of any penalties should users be caught sharing copyrighted material. However, if you chance to examine closely the Terms of Service surrounding reporting and claiming content that belongs to you, you'll probably see that they have lots of rules about claimants who fail to follow their precise requirements in reporting copyrighted material on their site.
For example, if I miss a piece of data in filing a request to remove copyrighted content that belongs to me, some sites will immediately ban me and refuse to accept any further email from me; I've been banned for "harassment." Meanwhile, the user with my content is still there after I've had a dozen of their files removed. It's easy to see where the site's priority is.
The number of legitimate sites that carry legal copies of ebooks are finite. I can tell you that in the case of my books, you'll find them exclusively at BellaBooks.com or LGBTBookshop.com. Any other location is unauthorized. You can help me protect my rights by dropping me a note with the URL.
Thank you Andi Marquette and JD Glass for the looksie to make sure I was more or less complete.
© 2010 Karin Kallmaker