Friday, February 27, 2015

Pirating Are Bloggers Really to Blame

Pirating: Are Bloggers Really to Blame?
By: D.L. Kane

Lately, more and more authors are finding their hard work on pirating sites. As an author and victim of pirating myself, I know WWpirateexactly how that feels. You invest so much of your time and money into creating this unique work only to have it stolen right out from under you. That takes money away from you, your family and ultimately costs your readers.
On any given day, I will log into my Facebook page and see a new post from a justifiably pissed author who has discovered their work on a pirate site. Make no mistake- if you’ve had your work stolen, you are absolutely entitled to spit nails, fire or any other painful projectile you feel will inflict even a modecum of the hurt and anger you are feeling. But are we 100% sure the target of our ire is, indeed, the one to blame?
Pirating Are Bloggers Really to Blame
Before we get into that, let’s take a look at history. I’m a Gen Xer. That means I grew up with VHS and cassette tapes, CD’s and the birth of public internet. The VCR was our DVR. If we didn’t want to miss something, or if we wanted to watch WWVCRsomething again, we popped one of those giant cassettes into that giant box and hit record. If you were lucky, you had one of those fancier models that had a timer on it. The difference between VCR and DVR, aside from the obvious, is that you can’t physically “share” your DVR recordings outside of anything that falls under the Federal Copyright laws. If you gave that cassette to someone, you just broke the law. If you sold that cassette to someone (think Seinfeld Bootleg episode) you REALLY broke the law. The same goes for music. If you wanted a song, you called into the radio, requested it, and with any luck, you were quick enough to hit record on your boom box…(lord I just aged myself..) The very act of recording a radio song is a violation of the law, and I bet everyone over the age of...okay let’s not go there… has done it. Even if you didn’t make a “mixed tape”, I bet you’ve burned a CD or two in your time. I was a senior when Napster was launched. Every computer in my school had the software downloaded to it, and EVERY computer had a CD-R. We were downloading and burning discs every chance we got. Totally against the law. I bring this up to make my next point:

Digital Rights Management
Implemented as a direct result of the Napster age, record and production companies began installing anti-theft encryptions on CDs and DVDs. These programs were designed to prevent the unauthorized copying of digital content. Music, movies, games,WWNapster even software programs have this protection built in. That should have been the end of piracy, right?
In less than two minutes, I can locate and install a program that will download any song or movie I want to hear or see. It won’t cost me a penny and requires very little space on my hard drive. But how do they get the songs and movies if there’s built in DRM? Again, in less than two minutes, I can locate a program that is designed to circumvent DRM and RIP the content from a disc, download and save it to my hard drive. If I want, I can share that content on any peer-to-peer network out there.

The Test
It seems that everybody is quick to point the finger at bloggers and ARC reviewers. In my personal experience, that is NOT the case. I decided to test a theory I had about the industry and the results exposed a fatal flaw in DRM.WWDRM
My latest release was a companion novella. Instead of publishing it across all channels, I decided to publish exclusively on Amazon. I went one step further and made it a “surprise” release. I didn’t book a tour, send out ARCs or even gift copies to my street team. The ONLY way you were going to read that book was by purchasing it on Amazon or borrowing it in Kindle Unlimited. On the second day following the release, I got an email alert. The damn thing was on a pirate site!
But how, D.L.? You didn’t send a PDF or Mobi file to anyone! That is exactly right. To this day, several months later, I have never ONCE sent that file ANYWHERE. I sent the MS to my formatter with express instructions to format for Amazon ONLY. She sent the file back to me, I downloaded it, deleted the email and emptied my trash can. I personally uploaded the file to Amazon, and once that was done, I transferred my file from my computer to a jump drive that is tucked away along with all of my other work.

Who is to Blame?
It’s easy to point the finger at the people we email copies of our books to. They are the most likely suspects after all. They have the RAW unencrypted files. Some authors have taken to changing a line or word in each file they send out, or even putting the recipient's name somewhere in the text of the book in an effort to discourage/track a possible pirate. While that may work sometimes, it is NOT a foolproof way to prevent pirating. Remember, I didn’t send my copy to ANYONE. So how did it end up on a pirate site? A few terms in a Google search will produce page after page of p2p software programs designed SPECIFICALLY to get around Amazon’s DRM. That means if you run the Kindle app on your computer, anything you download from Amazon can be opened in this software program and copied into any file format you want.

Follow the CluesWWGLASS
I want you to go look at something. Open your KDP and download a report for your latest release. Filter the report to the first day the book was live. Do you have any returns? Has that book ended up on a pirate site? If so, that’s your first clue. Release Day is one of the biggest exposure days for a book. Posts get shared and re-shared all over the internet about this brand new book. If it’s part of a series or written by a really popular author, it’s going to attract even more attention. If there is enough hype, that author already has designated pirate stalkers that are waiting for release day. It’s not profitable for a pirate to buy and keep a book. Their Amazon account probably has about $10 in it. It’s more than likely a store bought gift card, too. That way, they don’t have to link a bank account and can just keep recycling the money.
What it boils down to is supply and demand. If there is enough demand for something, there is someone somewhere who is going to profit off of filling it.

What’s in it for the Pirates?
Could be any number of things. Some sites pay for content, others get paid for traffic or have the balls to charge per download of pirated material. Some sites are paid by forcing downloads of different software programs. The programs are attached to the book file and immediately install themselves on your computer or device. Either way, the sooner they download, RIP and upload the book, the more likely they are going to turn their own profit. A classic, and recent, example of this is the recent theatrical release of Fifty Shades of Grey. The official release was February 14th, but Passion Parties (a sex toy MLM) held private screenings all over the country on February 13th. Just before midnight CST on the 13th, extended (5-10 minute) clips (taken with cell phone cameras) were cropping up on Facebook “like” pages. While the production company did a thorough job of flagging and removing the film clips, the pages they appeared on garnered a huge following. In several cases, they simply re-uploaded the clips.
But how does that translate in the book world? Simple- Exposure is EVERYTHING. Sites need exposure and traffic. Those Facebook pages didn’t make a dime off of sharing the illegal film clips. But they did increase their exposure, which may ultimately lead to an increase in whatever method of profit they are pursuing.

How Do We Stop Pirates?
The answer is as painful as it is simple. We don’t. History has shown time again that there is no foolproof way to protect something. From the early days of VHS and cassette tapes to digitally encrypted BluRay DVDs and software programs, if there is a market for something, there is an asshole out there ready and willing to cash in on it. The eBook world is exploding. Where it used to be the only way to pirate a book was photocopy (if you were ever a college student, you know damn good and well what I’m talking about) now it only takes a little bit of computer knowledge and few a minutes of time. Indie Authors are not the only ones suffering either. College textbooks (see...) are among the top pirated books on the market today. This drives the already insane cost of those books up even higher and in turn puts a heavier financial burden on the student. It’s the same for the film and music industry. The digital world has made great strides in complicating the process, but it’s going to take further technological advances to prevent pirating altogether.

What Do I Do?
First and foremost, stop pointing the finger. Unless you can prove beyond all doubt that a specific person or blog pirated your work (think “will this hold up in court” type proof) there is no way of knowing with absolute certainty WHO did it. Please don’t generalize. Bloggers are the backbone of the book world. Authors rely on their support to get the word out about their books. I’ve seen quite a few bloggers refuse to accept ARCs anymore and others who have shut down entirely as a result of these generalized accusations. I’m not saying there aren’t bloggers out there who haven’t or don’t pirate. Even the healthiest trees bear a few rotten fruits. But that doesn’t mean we cut the whole tree down. And that’s exactly what is happening.
Right now, the only way to deal with pirating is reactive.
Set up email alerts for your titles. When you get an alert, investigate the site. If it is a pirate site ***be very careful here. Some of these sites are actually designed to steal bank account information or download viruses to your computer*** copy the site link and the direct link to your works. Save this information for future reference. Contact the webmaster or copyright officer and inform them of the infringement. Be professional in your message. As much as you want to rip these people a new one, it will do you no good. That old saying, “you catch more flies with honey” really applies here. These sites don’t want to get hit with a lawsuit (remember, keep the links and print screens) and will likely comply with your request immediately. Most sites also show who uploaded the file. Figure out who that person is, report them to the site and keep that information for future reference. Become your own PI. Figure out their true identity. If the site shows how many times your title was downloaded, print screen it and save it. If you are able to track the uploader down, you have a very strong case for copyright infringement and you CAN take them to court for damages. Check your street teams and blogger lists for this person. If their name shows up anywhere, that is a great big red flag. Get rid of them, block them, report them. If you can prove beyond doubt that a specific individual or entity is responsible for pirating your work, by all means- NAME AND SHAME them! Believe me, if I ever figure out which ass hole stole my books, I will have their name and face plastered all over the web! I know all of this takes up valuable time and resources, but if you want to do something about it, this is it. There are companies you can hire to track your work for you, so if the amount of money, both in time and an actual monetary loss, is greater than what it would cost to retain one of these companies, you should consider hiring them.
Above all else, please remember- Bloggers are there for us. They love to read. You love to write. It is a match made in book WWbloggersheaven. If you happen across a bad blogger, cut ties and share that information privately within your own networks.  But please, don’t lump all bloggers into the same category. I have yet to meet a blogger that didn’t absolutely love what they do. To generalize them is not only professionally damaging, but it devalues their passion. Until technology catches up to us, our work will continue to be susceptible to piracy and there will always be some ass hat somewhere, ready and willing to steal it.

D.L. Kane is a Kansas City mother of three and the proud wife of a United States Marine. Her professional journalism career spans over 15 years and includes several front page, hard hitting reports on topics ranging from wildlife preservation to pharmaceutical influences on mass shootings. Kane is the author of Shattered Dreams, book one in her debut romance series, Shattered Souls.