Defiant Pirates Rub Knuckles in the Eyes of Authors and Publishers

Up yours, authors! Screw you, publishers!

Those are the messages communicated by the come-ons displayed on the websites of pirate publishers and torrent file-sharers. Our surfing trips, aided by tips from our network of pirate spotters and even by contributions by anonymous pirates themselves, have produced countless examples of arrogant defiance by a host of thieves who pick the pockets of copyright owners in broad daylight.

Below are a few brazen solicitations.

Richard Curtis



Dear Members

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Please note that we are not the ‘hosts’ of any books, neither did we upload them to any hosting provider. We simply find links to books, that were freely available on the web and share our findings with our members!

[Among the “freely available” books shared with members are works by Jonathan Franzen, J. R. Ward and Patricia Briggs.]


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I have attached FEBRUARY’S Current lists of ebook sets and price’s for you. The 2nd list has all the titles and formats I have available for that set.

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[One of our spotters brought a website to our attention that offers downloads of such authors as James Patterson, John Grisham, Thomas Harris and Scott Turow. Ironically, Turow is the President of the Authors Guild, which has undertaken an initiative to combat piracy.

The site’s webmaster adds insult to injury by reprinting an article on the subject by Turow and mocking it with this statement:]


Now, the latest, is the fear that with the success of the iPad in the market that it will become a popular platform for unauthorized sharing of ebooks. Apparently, author Scott Turow has recently taken over the Authors Guild, and has decided that ebook “piracy” is a “big problem” that has to be the focus. Perhaps next time the Authors Guild wants to show itself to be forward-looking and able to change with the times, it shouldn’t put a 60+ year old lawyer in charge. Just a suggestion… Rather than saying that unauthorized file sharing is such a big problem, perhaps Turow should take a look at the music industry more closely. He seems to only be superficially aware of what’s happening in that industry. Instead of recognizing that the industry wasted over a decade fighting what fans wanted, he seems to think that he can magically fight what every other industry has failed to fight. That doesn’t seem like a strategy that has a high likelihood of success.

Perhaps, instead of automatically blaming those involved in file sharing, Turow should take some time to understand why it’s happening, and look at those who have figured out interesting and unique models to provide more value for consumers who want it, rather than just focusing on the impossible task of trying to punish those whose actions the Authors Guild doesn’t like.
For a complete archive of E-Reads postings on piracy, visit Pirate Central.

Richard Curtis


15 Responses to Defiant Pirates Rub Knuckles in the Eyes of Authors and Publishers

  1. Caron says:

    All those are examples of blatant piracy, no doubt. But not every unauthorized download (of music, movies, books…) constitutes an act of piracy, as the interested parties insist over and over again.

  2. Rowena Cherry says:


    The people who are being ripped off might use “piracy”, people who deliberately chose to avoid paying for the download might call it “sharing”.

    Do you ever consider the consequences of what you are doing for the person who owns the copyright?

    For instance, I know of an author who wanted to sell the e-book rights (which she owned) to an interested publisher. The publisher would have paid an advance that that author desperately needed. However, the publisher googled the title and discovered that several thousand copies of that never-published e-book were available on pirate sites.

    The publisher decided that the damage was too great, and the author was unable to sell that e-book.

    This is not an isolated example.

  3. Alberta says:

    Rowena –

    The author in you example has other options. She can try other publishers. She can cut out the publishers entirely and self-publish. She has many choices at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, etc. Yes, the very first door she tried was closed to her, and that is unfortunate. But she is only defeated if she chooses to be.

  4. Caron says:


    As soon as you accept that not every single download can be counted as a loss, a discussion will be possible. As soon as the industry accepts this, the real debate can start on the real harm of piracy and how to manage it (and note that I say “manage”, not “fight”).

    I will tell you about another case, related to the one you mention: a digital publisher wanted to buy the digital rights from an author. This author said “no, I don’t want to publish digitally, because I don’t want to be pirated” (hey Mrs. Rowling, does this sound familiar?). The publisher said: “No problem! I will buy only the e-rights of the books already available on the net”. This attitude takes in count the contemporary situation, the real world, and tries to make an advantage out of it; the publisher in your case, on the contrary, is applying an outdated, unsustainable and anachronistic business model (this anachrony, by the way, could be one of several reasonable arguments to explain the dissappearance of brick-and-mortar bookshops, a phenomenon you are eager to count as another consequence of your concept of “piracy”).

    The above isn’t an isolated example either.

    Regarding your question: do I consider the consequences of what I am doing for the person who owns the copyright? This question assumes that I’m a downloader of non authorized content, which is (I apologize if this sounds too harsh) quite arrogant from you. I am just a guy who tries to see things from several points of view, that reads about another options, another ways of doing things in e-publishing, a guy who won’t just accept the “we have lost XX billions due to piracy this year” mantra that we hear everyday.

    Maybe you too should invest some time in looking left and right before crossing the road; looking just to one side isn’t wise.

  5. jap says:


    Nice to read you again.

    So downloaders are not damaging her because she isnĀ“t trying to sell her ebook. The publisher was not very smart. If the ebook is wildly pirated that means there is huge demand for that ebook. The ebooks most pirated are the ebooks most bought.

  6. Rowena Cherry says:

    “As soon as you accept that not every single download can be counted as a loss, a discussion will be possible.”

    Every author accepts that every download would not necessarily have been a sale.

    However, out of hundreds of downloads, it can be assumed that there would be a few. When readers pay to join a subscription club run by pirates, they are paying… just not the person or persons who owns the rights.

    Moreover, the law says that every download is illegal. How many other laws can you think of where the decision whether or not the law has been broken is left to the person breaking the law?

    Rhetorical. Pot use springs to mind.

    However, you either have to create (grow) your own pot, or you have to purchase it. Virtual pot hasn’t caught on.

  7. Rowena Cherry says:

    Hello, Jap.

    How pleasant to see you, too.

    I’m afraid that the downloaders did damage my late friend, because she was trying to sell the e-book rights to a publisher, and couldn’t.

    What you might not understand is that many smaller press publishers start a new author’s contract with the e-book. Only if the e-book sells well is a print contract offered.

    Piracy cuts off the opportunity for some authors to cross the sales threshold and make it into print.

    I suspect that among readers there is a great lack of awareness about what the writing world is like for the majority of authors.

    Pirates cite J K Rowling, Stephen King, John Grisham, James Patterson… but those authors are the exception, not the rule.

  8. Rowena Cherry says:

    Jap @ “The ebooks most pirated are the ebooks most bought.”

    You are probably correct, but only in the sense of an announcement from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos… (Biting my tongue.)

    To be entirely true, your statement ought to have more qualifiers.

    Take the J K Rowling example. Your statement is true. The trouble is, the e-books are not bought legally, and they are not bought from J K Rowling or her publisher.

    Gay erotica appears to be very widely pirated. My experience with gay erotica is zero, by the way, but some of my vociferous author friends write it.

    It would appear, from the conversations among pirates that anyone can read on the internet, that a great number of people who illegally download gay erotica from quasi-legal hosting sites do ***not*** buy the books.

    They cannot, because gay erotica literature not available in their countries.

    Allegedly, Clive Cussler’s (sp??) works are being pirated via FILESONIC at the moment. It would be really interesting to know from Simon and Schuster whether there has been a recent spike in legal sales of the same e-books that corresponds to the piracy.

  9. Rowena Cherry says:

    Caron “not every single download can be counted as a loss”

    I have to come back to that one. Amazon, and Barnes and Noble force e-book authors to sell books at the potential rate of up-to-ten-for-the-price-of-one.

    It’s actually outrageous, but if the publisher agrees to such terms, and has the necessary rights to agree to such terms, it’s not my problem….

    However, it is high time that the lawmakers take a look at existing copyright law, because the laws are being broken and undermined all the time.

  10. Rowena Cherry says:

    Here’s a metaphor. If you don’t like it, don’t pirate my work. You won’t like it, either.


    Let me compare a published author to Randy Moss because he is topical.

    (Authors can get traded, and sometimes –for instance if a publisher who has an author under contract goes bankrupt– an author can find herself writing for another editor, another publisher.)

    Would you feel sorry for Mr Moss if he went to the Titans expecting to practice and play and give interviews (my interpretation of the official job description), and discovered that he was also required to maintain professional but unpaid Twitter and Facebook presences, learn html and manage the team website, take a turn in the ticket office…?

    Authors sign contracts requiring them to turn in x number of books in a stated amount of time. (Maybe three books within 18 months). They must also be willing to cooperate with editors on revisions, corrections etc.

    What is not in the contract, but is also required is PR and Marketing and advertising and possibly public appearances. And, the author is often responsible for protecting her own copyright.

    An author is not necessarily good at this extra stuff. As long as it doesn’t bite too much into what the author does for a living, one compromises.

    Now, pirates say that authors have options, and should self-publish. (So they can be ripped off directly?) OK. Ever done that?

    Here’s a whole slew of not-fun work and expenses up front. These have to be mastered in addition to what the author really wanted to do (write stories).

    If you self-publish, you have to register the copyright. $45 plus the printing and mailing costs of submitting a manuscript. Purchase an ISBN and set up a page for each book on Format the book, and it looks like one needs a different format for Amazon, Smashwords etc. Cover art has to be bought, created, inserted.

    Self-publishing is a lot of work, and most of it isn’t much fun, which is why many authors prefer to split the income from sales with publishers who know what they are doing.

  11. Brenna Lyons says:

    Actually, self-publishing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, not just because of all the extra work, either. The fact is, you get lost in the crowd when you self-publish. I have a decent audience and expectations of what I can make with a publisher behind me. When I self-publish, it is a given that I will make a hundred TIMES less sales with a self-published book than I do with a publisher. That is not an exaggeration.

    While you don’t inherently have to do all the things Rowena says to self-publish, you do have to do a lot of things the publisher normally would. You have to pay for or do yourself all of the following: make a cover, do the formatting, do the conversions, do the edits, double check yourself on IP issues and get permissions, market (because you’re not sharing marketing with a publisher anymore…it’s all you, baby)… And so forth. I am capable of doing all of the above myself, but it’s still not as efficient as having someone else do it. If you can’t do these things yourself, you have to pay someone to.

    And you STILL lose the distribution channel’s portion of the sale to them, so banish the thought that the author gets all the money in self-publishing. It doesn’t work that way. That can be anywhere from 37-65% of list price you set going to the distribution channel…or more, if the distribution channels get into a pricing war.

    Now, to put this in perspective, my average book with a publisher sells about 40-50% of the copies from the publisher site and 50-60% from distribution channels (at a 35-60% royalty rate for me from the publisher site, depending on publisher, and half that from distribution channels per copy sold, more or less), but the book sells 100 times more copies easily when a publisher is in my corner. In sheer bulk, that makes it worth my while to have a publisher for most works. Losing that 40-50% alone, even if it sells well at the distribution channels, is a great loss to an author.

    There are very few projects that do inherently well in self-publishing. Blockbuster authors that move to self do well, but the Konraths of the world are one in tens of thousands of authors. The exception…not the rule. Nonfiction does better than fiction. For your average fiction project with your average author, you do NOT do better in self-publishing, even if you have an established audience…even if you give the book in question the same marketing you give every other book you write.

    Last but not least, some of the larger distribution channels will not touch self-publishing. They will take reprints but not self-published titles, which means readers that typically purchase from those distribution channels will not see the book and purchase it.

    Fictionwise is my single biggest distribution channel for sales, and they will take reprints from an author (if you have ten to offer them or more), but they will not take a self-published title from the same author. For as much as Amazon crows, they are not the biggest distribution channel, according to my royalty reports. Until they are, the fact that I have self-published books on Amazon DTP is not that telling or that advantageous.


  12. Brenna Lyons says:

    Caron, The “mantra” you speak of is really not as outrageous as it sounds. People that think it is usually only consider the big 6 conglomerates and say, “They can’t possibly be losing that much money.” You’d be right there. They can’t be. And they aren’t.

    The truth is, most books released for sale come from indie press. In the US ALONE, there are more than 86,000 small and independent publishers and self-publishers. Take the world into account, since this IS a global market, and you’re talking in excess of 200,000 of the type easily. I could further mention that piracy hurts the small publishers worse, because of their business type, but that’s another issue.

    Number of people on the Internet? At last best estimate, more than 1.5 BILLION worldwide. Now, compare that to the survey below…yes, I know…statistics can be swayed, but…just consider this.

    Verso’s survey found that “over 28 percent of e-reader owners have used unregulated file-sharing services, such as RapidShare, Megaupload and Hot File to download at least one e-book within the last twelve months, and 6 percent have used such services to download ten or more titles during this interval.” (Sixty-four percent did not download any ebooks from such services, but thirty-six percent is a high number, when you start doing the math.)

    Their survey also indicates that “questionable downloading, while affecting all age and gender brackets, is concentrated disproportionately among younger male readers. Among males aged 18-34, over 45 percent report engaging in such downloading activity within the past twelve months. Nearly 13 percent have downloaded ten or more e-books from file-sharing services, more than twice the level of the survey population as a whole.”

    With those sort of numbers, is it really so unbelievable that pirated copies ranging into the billions are found every year? I think not. I’d be surprised if it was that low. But that’s one of the major problems with assessing piracy. No one gives you a non-royalty report. All you can assess is what you see, and what I see personally is massive. I shudder to consider what I DON’T see.

    Now, the only thing you’re saying that does make perfect sense is that not every illegal download means a lost sale. Of course not. However, it’s a sale that never will be, and here’s the punch line. While piracy does not really harm a blockbuster author in a meaningful manner that anyone’s been able to track thus far, it does harm one that is not a blockbuster.

    How? Hint…it has to do with the sizes of existing audiences.

    The non-blockbuster authors cannot build their audience naturally, since the siphoning of piracy is preventing that. I’m talking about authors that sell 60 copies of their first books and find more than 2000 copies pirated in the same period of time.

    But, it doesn’t end there. Once you establish your audience, you depend on a new influx of readers, which piracy curtails. Without that influx, natrual attrition slowly eats away at an author’s reader base. Readers lose track of a series, don’t want to follow the author to a new series, change their tastes and move on to other authors, and gods forbid die. Without the influx of new readers, it bleeds the existing audience to death, which means the publishers stop signing books. I’ve seen it happen. Now, that bleed-out takes a long time for a blockbuster, just based on the audience size and hype already in place. For a midlist author or below, it’s significant damage.


  13. Brenna Lyons says:

    To be perfectly blunt, I’m about the most reasonable author you’re going to find on this subject. There are a rare few that I think are insane in their disregard of copyright, but that’s another issue. Not all of us are copyright Nazis, as someone so recently called it.

    I am all about reader access to what they personally purchased, even if it means breaking DRM to do it. DRM is not and should not be sacred. The problem is not breaking DRM; the problem is piracy, whether DRM was broken or not, whether the book was originally in print or ebook.

    I’m all for having access to an ebook you purchased on any machine you currently own or might in the future purchase. I’m all for scanning your own ebook copy of a paper book you own to take on vacation (or of resource materials to take to a job site) with you, if you have a strict weight limit on the plane. I’m all for text to speech for readers that need or want it.

    I support LEGITMATE lending/sharing systems with caps in place, ones that are approved by authors and publishers.

    What I do not and never will approve of is unrestricted piracy.


  14. Doug Bolden says:

    I can’t help but think about the disparity between the reaction to things like this and the Cooks Source incident that has recently occurred. The idea of thousands of outraged netizens descending on a pirate/sharing (whichever you want to call it) site to the point that they greatly reduce its functionality seems highly unlikely. Yet, when a blogger’s recipe/article was taken without permission, and a dumb reason was cited to justify it, something like that happened to help defend her.

    Si Vales, Valeo

  15. Rowena Cherry says:


    Hear, hear! Someone made a similar point on the Nihilistic Kid’s blog, but apparently the irony was lost on most.

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