Friday, March 3, 2017

Piracy, or Ordinary Theft, by Susan Oleksiw

If the Internet has made writers of untold thousands, it has also made an equal number into thieves and pirates, people who see opportunity in all those easily accessible publications. Every one of us who publishes a book, with a traditional publisher or on our own, will at some point encounter a website selling our work. Piracy is so common now as to go almost unremarked upon.

Almost every day I get a Google Alert about one of my books for sale, usually at a site ending in dot ru. The first time I found one of my books on an unknown site, I took all the recommended, correct steps. I notified Google, sent a letter to the site, and more. I got the standard boilerplate reply from Google and nothing from the site in question. Frustrated, I started to pay closer attention to the sites that hosted these pirated mss.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, piracy was originally defined as:
“the practice of using the internet to illegally copy software and pass it on to other people.” The example given is this:The record company has found things tough in recent years, hit by falling record sales and internet piracy.” The cost to the recording and movie industries has been well established. For more on this, go to

According to another site, the definition has been expanded to “the unlawful reproduction and/or distribution of any copyrighted digital file that can change hands over the Internet. This can be done with music files, videos and movies, e-books, software, and other materials.”

But in the end, at least one sight offers the advice to stop trying to halt piracy for the simple reason that telling people to stop doesn’t work. This is the sage advice from

Long before I found Engadget I’d reached the same conclusion, the first of several relevant to this topic. No matter how many letters or emails or times I hammer at their door or Google’s or any other site, the pirate isn’t going to stop. Some are bold enough to buy the ebook, copy, and then return it (and get their money back). But I also concluded after wasted time and energy that the people who download pirated ebooks or PDFs aren’t going to buy my book if it’s only available after payment. They don’t buy books. If they can’t get mine for free, they’ll steal someone else’s.

In addition, many of these sites that say they’re offering a free download are really just Trojan Horses for malware. If you’re trying to get something for free and you get malware instead or along with it, you deserve it. (This is perhaps the only way a writer gets back at the thieves.) You are, after all, taking our livelihood.

But the final conclusion is the most concerning. I think the way the Internet operates and how hard it is to police is an indication that sometime in the future copyright will be meaningless, and even the courts will see it as pointless. They might continue to acknowledge it in some enforcement issues, but overall the end of an effective copyright is on the horizon. To maintain a fair and enforceable copyright law is not something any part of government wants to undertake or even knows how without changes to the Internet practices. Is it possible to push the law and its enforcement in another direction, I don’t know.

Not long ago I spoke at a library and watched a member of the audience pick up and walk off with one of my books. She didn’t pay and didn’t seem to think she should even though several others were in line to do so. She isn’t alone in her behavior. At the time it surprised and angered me. I never thought I’d long for the good old days when I could run after a thief and say, “Would you like me to sign that while you pay for it?” Can’t do that on the Internet.

If you want the pleasure of paying for my books, go here


Jacqueline Seewald said...


I find internet piracy frustrating as well. One of my historical novels won a writing contest and the novel was published. Soon after, I discovered the book was offered for free on a pirate site. Of course, there were virtually no sales for that particular novel afterwards. I gave the info to the publisher who seemed indifferent. It may have happened with other of their novels as well because they were soon out of business. Since I had worked hard to make the book a quality story/product, I felt depressed. But this seems to be a common occurrence. It's unfair to writers and publishers alike. Of course, readers looking for these freebes may discover viruses and cookies attached to the downloads. The internet is a vast ocean loaded with nasty sharks.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Yes, piracy is frustrating but all we can do is what we and ask that our books be removed. Great post, Susan!
Good luck and God's Blessings

Susan Oleksiw said...

Jacquie, I'm sorry you had that experience. It sounds like the worst-case scenario, and for your publisher too. He/she/they may not have known how to stop the theft, and I think that is part of the problem. The pirates are hard to locate (they're often only on line), impervious to threats, etc., and able to slip away and continue on elsewhere. But the damage, I think, is serious. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Susan Oleksiw said...

Pam, thanks for the support. Yes, we go on writing and publishing though we know what the problems are.

Maris said...

Thank you for writing down what I've been thinking. My feelings exactly.

Patricia Dusenbury said...

Sad but true. My first book was named EPIC's 2015 best mystery. The award had no discernible impact on sales, but piracy skyrocketed. I emailed sites and asked them to take it down. Some did, and then they put it back up. I don't see book piracy stopping unless the government goes after the users as they did with the music downloads on Napster. Meanwhile, we keep writing.

Susan Oleksiw said...

Maris, thanks for adding your name. It's interesting at least to me how many writers are enduring this problem and we can't seem to do anything about it.

Patrician, you've had the typical experience. The pirates don't care; a complaint from a writer is an inconvenience, if that.

I would like to see some organized resistance by publishers to go after sites that allow the pirates to work on them. I like a free and open Internet, but just as stores are entitled to security for their merchandise, so are websites and the producers of the products within.

Thanks to both of you for adding to the discussion.

carl brookins said...

There are ways to deal with book pirates, especially those residing in Eastern European nations. Since the pirates make their money from selling contacts, links are eventually necessary. Those links lead inevitably to bank accounts and individuals. For those who know how to invoke the darknet, and are willing to live wth the results, aid is available.

Susan Oleksiw said...

Carl, I'm not sure I can even fathom my trying to do something like this. But you do remind me of just how "dark" and perhaps "evil" some parts of our world are beneath the surface. It's sobering to think we brush past those willing to do the extreme, and fortunately we never know what ship has just passed us by. I'll live with the loss of income.

Thanks for expanding my understanding, I think.

Bonnie Tharp said...

I am amazed that such smart people have time to steal and hack and all the other crazy stuff they do online. What, no day job? Is it just a hobby to be cruel? It saddens me that these smart people can't channel their amazing talents in a positive way, help instead of hurt. Well, they will do it anyway - regardless. Thanks for the reminder, though, that things aren't always what they seem online and a freebie just might be a virus in disguise. Take care.

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