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Indie Authors: Are You Happy To Be Pirated By Google?

Indie Authors: Are You Happy To Be Pirated By Google?

Self-publishers and google pirating

If you're self-published, your book is likely pirated by Google. Do you care?

“Don't be evil.” Google's famous motto doesn't mean much when it comes to writers and copyright.

Google has been digitising books since 2005, without permission, to ongoing protests from authors and writers groups.

A long legal battle continues to be played out in the US, where The US Authors Guild has asked the court to acknowledge that Google's “unauthorised reproduction, distribution, and display of in-copyright books are not ‘fair uses' under copyright law”.

The Guild, led by the bestselling author Scott Turow, is also seeking statutory damage payments to writers:  $750 for each book Google has copied, distributed or displayed in violation of copyright law.

With at least 12m books already scanned by Google, the majority in copyright, the search giant could potentially have to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in such damages.

A proposed $125m (£79) settlement was rejected last year when judge Denny Chin ruled that Google's plans had gone “too far”.

Every week at the ALLi office, we get contacts from writers who find that google has uploaded their book without permission, and is distributing it for free — regardless of how much it costs on Amazon or other retail sites.

How indies feel about this depends very much on how they feel about discoverability.

Please Pirate Me!

Some authors want to be pirated because they want to be read above everything else and because they believe that, ultimately, it draws readers.

The most famous proponent of this view is the brazilian writer, Paolo Coelho, ever since a pirated Russian edition of The Alchemist was posted online in 1999 and, far from damaging sales, sent the book soaring. He is a member of The Pirate Bay and has exhorted readers to download all his work for free.

Readers are “welcome,” he says on his blog, “to download my books for free and, if you enjoy them, buy a hard copy – the way we have to tell to the industry that greed leads to nowhere.”

In a recent debate about the issue on our closed ALLi Member Facebook Page, indie Jane Steen, says: “You can either run around like a headless chicken trying to stop the leaks, or shrug your shoulders and appreciate the exposure your work's getting.

“I prefer to leave the fight to coordinated bodies like ALLi – and, in the long run, we may find that our best allies are the self-publishing platforms themselves.

“One day Amazon, B&N, Kobo et al may wake up to the fact that they're losing revenue and use their big guns to reduce pirating. Right now we're still in the Wild West era of digital publishing.”

What do you think?


This Post Has 10 Comments
  1. Even though, as my quote shows, my attitude toward publishing is fairly relaxed, I do feel for authors who feel that their income is being stolen and their rights violated. Thanks, ALLi, for keeping the pressure on and for giving indie authors a voice in the publishing wilderness.

  2. This is a very tricky issue, because it’s one where we can’t please everyone. I am very happy for my work to be pirated, but I also accept that many authors like Roz aren’t. I recently met and talked to Suzanne Aigrain, who is chairing a panel at Oxford Literary Festival today on the subject (http://oxfordliteraryfestival.org/literature-events-2013/Tuesday-19/writing-and-publishing-on-line-a-new-age-for-fiction-and-poetry). Her father is a prominent campaigner for the legalisation of file sharing and the collection of revenue for artists through collective licensing paid for at point of use by everyone who uses broadband. There are lots of flaws but it’s an interesting suggestion, and it at least tackles the issue head on, which too few people in the debate today seem willing to do because their positions get so entrenched on both sides by the red mist coming down. It’s high time for a full, frank and cool-headed on *all* the issues of piracy, file sharing, payment of artists, and creative and other uses of other people’s material

  3. I resent piracy very strongly. If I decide to give my work away it should be my choice. It shouldn’t be taken without my consent.
    Paulo Coehlo has decided not to mind – that’s his choice. He is also, presumably, so famous that a few pirated copies aren’t going to be a significant number of lost sales. He can be – and has been – discovered by other means anyway. I think he’s naive to imagine piracy leads to bigger print sales, but then he comes from a print world.
    Most of us indies, although we do produce print editions, make much of our income from ebooks first. Piracy can really dent our income.
    Also, on the subject of discoverability and exposure – if we’re discovered in pirated editions, how will that translate to the wider world? Burglars don’t find something they fancy the look of and then find out where to buy it. Much better if the only way to get the work is to buy it. Period.
    In short, I feel piracy is a colossal threat and needs to be stopped.

  4. I wish they’d pirate one or two of my books. I could use $750 or even $125. When people buy my latest book (cost $3.99) I reckon I receive $2.23 per book on average. So $125 = sales of 56 books; $750 = sales of 336 books.

    I’m assuming if I ask to be pirated I wouldn’t get cent one. 😉

  5. I can’t be bothered to run around looking for potential pirating activity on my books. I don’t necessarily agree that the average author will benefit from being pirated and I’ve heard all the justifications and rationales.

    The article doesn’t note anything about an impact on an author signed up for KDP Select. Amazon requires exclusivity for 90 days. What happens when Google puts the book up for free?

    I think Google has taken the wrong path with their book project. It’s not okay for me to decide that Art should be available for everyone and take the Mona Lisa from the Louvre and hang it from a lamp post. It’s not okay for Google to take copyrighted work and pirate it.

    1. That is a very valid viewpoint, P.A — and certainly until very recently, writers’ incomes depended completely on copyright. The answer about Amazon is…. at the moment, nothing. None of the big retailers has, as yet, taken on Google re this issue. ALLi is a member of EFF, https://www.eff.org/, who are trying to defend rights in a digital world.

  6. How do I report my pirated book to The U.S. Author’s Guild. My book is has been pirated on something called Mobil. Even though I called Google’s attention to it by filling out the form they have to “cease and desist” the book is still up there to be downloaded free.

    Google says that that they removed it but now there are several places it can be downloaded.

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