Takedown Notices? Antipiracy Weapon or Exercise in Futility? Part 1

As we’ve noted in a previous posting (see Pirate Stole Your Book? Prove It), you would think that as soon as you discover that your copyrighted book has been pirated, the Internet Service Provider carrying it would hasten to yank the pirated material off its website. But, as those who have complained to their carriers have discovered, it’s not that easy, because the service provider has no way of knowing whether or not the complaint is valid. “You have to prove that you are the true copyright owner and have a valid claim of infringement,” we wrote. “The victim, in other words, has to demonstrate that he or she is in truth the victim. Here is where injury is compounded by insult. Anyone who’s ever been abused and then told that he or she was ‘asking for it’ will appreciate how offensive it is for an author to be asked to provide proof of authorship.”

Astrid Anderson Bear, daughter of one great science fiction writer (Poul Anderson) and wife of another (Greg Bear), runs a small yarn business and is president of the Friends of the University of Washington Libraries. When she and her husband discovered numerous cases of piracy of Anderson’s and Bear’s works she launched a campaign to file takedown notices with the offending websites.  She has shared her experiences with us.



Taking Down the Pirates – by Astrid Anderson Bear © 2010 (for all the good it does)

I first became aware of the scope of problem of pirated texts when a well-meaning Facebook friend posted a link to a story of my father, Poul Anderson’s. The story had originally come from Project Gutenberg, and my friend felt that since it was from them, it was okay as a free download. It was not, and looking at Project Gutenberg’s site showed me a list of several stories available for there that I knew to be protected by copyright. Then I searched for other sites that were carrying pirated downloads of my father’s work and was appalled to find that not only the few stories being encroached on by Gutenberg were widely available, but most of his the rest of his lifetime’s work, over 100 novels and many, many shorter works, were there for the taking as direct downloads or reading onscreen in PDF form, or available in torrent form from bit torrent sites. Novels were available as individual titles and often there were also huge files containing dozens of novels bundles together.

This is not limited to older works by a dead author. My husband, Greg Bear, has also had all of his books appear as free illegal downloads, and pretty much any new title quickly makes its way into this shadow epublishing world. Current bestsellers are either available or you can see where they used to be available.

Thus began my new hobby: sending takedown notices into the whack-a-mole world of illegal downloads. By Googling “Poul Anderson downloads” I found half a dozen illegal sites on the first page of results alone, with such names as torrenz.com, torrentzap.com, btjunkie.org, etc. Clicking through to those sites often lead to another set of links to other sites, and to date I’ve sent notices to over 20 sites. Googling the title of a work can bring additional results.

Go ahead – are you a published author? Google “[your name] free download” and see what happens. You will be appalled. Take a deep breath. Here is what you do next.

To send a takedown notice, poke around the site until you find their procedure. Some have an online form, some need an email sent to a specific address. This can be hard to find: start by looking for DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act], Report Abuse, Terms of Service, or Contact Us at the bottom of the opening page and be prepared to rummage around the site a bit to find what you need. If it’s an online form, fill in what they ask for. If their policy is that you send an email, they may give you the format to use, or use this one: http://labnol.blogspot.com/2007/09/dmca-notice-of-copyright-infringement.html#dmca

You’ll need to include the individual URLs for all the offending materials, as well as assert copyright protection for each item. I’ve stated the name of the work and given the original copyright date, as well as any subsequent copyright information. You’ll also need to state that you are the copyright holder or authorized to act on that person’s behalf, swear under penalty of perjury that you have provided correct information, and that you have a good faith belief that the posting is unauthorized. Stick to the legal language in the example given above (there are a few variations out there: use any one of them, but don’t get creative), and push “Send”.

You may get an acknowledgment with a few hours of your claim saying that the website has received it and is reviewing it, but not all sites do this. So far, I’ve gotten responses verifying the takedown as quickly as two hours (Fliiby) and as long as two days. Each site usually states how long they take to process a claim, and it can be up to a week. Making a log of your claims will help you keep track of when to do follow-up. Not all sites have responded, but anything to help stem the tide is worth doing.

When I get an email saying that a takedown has been done, I click through the link in question to make sure it’s been done, and I suggest you do the same. Also, sites may take down the material or block the torrent without getting back to you about it, so check the link after the stated period of time and it should be gone. Seeing “This content was removed at the request of [your name here]” or “This page not found” will bring a smile to your face — but keep watching the net.

Go back to sites that have taken down your copyrighted material. In a few days or less, new material will likely be up, or the same titles at a new URL within the site. New uploads and links are constantly being posted by anonymous or pseudonymous members and users.

Audio books are also prime pirate fodder. But here you have someone else on your side: the publisher of the audiobook. Notify them when you find a site offering illegal downloads, and they should be eager to do the takedowns.

Next week we’ll pay a visit to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
For a complete archive of E-Reads postings on piracy, visit Pirate Central.


5 Responses to Takedown Notices? Antipiracy Weapon or Exercise in Futility? Part 1

  1. jap says:

    Exercise in Futility. However DMCA is your law, it is a law made by the content industry. Now you will try another law to get passed, and this new law also will be a new exercise in futility.

  2. Skalligrim says:

    Were there any takedown requests to Project Gutenberg? If so, did they have a response? What type of contracts were the magazine publishers using at the time? It is truly going to annoy me if the numerous Project Gutenberg SF titles from the 50’s and 60’s are actually still under copyright.

  3. @ Skalligrim

    Astrid Bear and Greg Bear requested that we print this response in Comments.

    “Takedown requests were issued to Project Gutenberg. As of this date, they have reluctantly complied with one takedown request on behalf of the Poul Anderson estate, as has manybooks.net. More are pending. While a great many of the titles issued under Gutenberg’s 1950s and 60s (and earlier) sf story program may never have had their copyrights properly renewed, it has become apparent that Gutenberg’s copyright experts were in fact completely in error in their basic theory of magazine copyright nullification. This puts many of their postings over the last few years in doubt. More details will be posted soon. And let me add, I’m a huge fan of Gutenberg and Distributed Proofreaders and their amazing work to bring public domain works to a wider audience. But they must follow established law, not to jeopardize their reputation and cast doubt on completely legitimate postings.”

    Astrid Bear and Greg Bear

  4. Caron says:

    Another example here (http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2010/10/taking-it-public.html).

    Why isnt’ there any penal prosecution of this behaviour? Some authors claim that Dorchester owes them YEARS of royalties and the publisher is still in the business. Isn’t this piracy?

    Please, someone tell me, how can it be that some people are in court for illicitly downloading 3 files of-the-media-of-your-choice (as we read and hear over and over about how piracy will exterminate our civilization) while these cases don’t get even a third of the hype and publicity?

  5. Chris wede says:

    I am an independent ebook publisher and I have been using http://om-p.com for my piracy takedowns for several months now – and as soon as I signed up for it it boosted by sales instantly eve though my traffic did not increase – highly recommend it

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