Category Archives: Copyright and Piracy

Enhanced Anti-Piracy Program Sends Takedowns to Google

Photo: Wikipedia

MUSO, the anti-piracy service employed by E-Reads and Curtis Agency, was dramatically enhanced by a feature that automatically sends takedown notices to Google. MUSO recentlly announced an upgrade that “for every file takedown that is sent we will be automatically sending a Google takedown for the file.”

This extra service is provided at no extra charge to content providers enrolled in MUSO. E-Reads, a leading independent e-book publisher, and literary agency Richard Curtis Associates, provide MUSO anti-piracy at no charge to their clients. The two companies offer this service to non-clients for a modest fee.

The two companies announced their anti-piracy initiative several years ago and it has resulted in thousands of takedowns. But until now there was no effective way to combat the practice of referrals by Google and other large search engines to unauthorized file-sharing sites. MUSO’s new feature will, it is hoped, reduce such referrals.

Here is the original announcement:

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Adopting advanced technology, Curtis Agency and E-Reads have teamed up to locate and take down pirated files of their authors’ books.

The system, developed by Muso TNT, protects against files uploaded by pirates to filesharing sites like rapidshare and megaupload. Files on these websites show up on Google search results and are therefore accessible to users who might otherwise purchase the files through legitimate channels.

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Writers for Hire Part 2 – Packagers

In the first installment of this article we discussed the circumstances in which authors voluntarily give up all rights to their copyrighted work. There are numerous situations in which work-for-hire may be considered reasonable and acceptable by normal ethical standards.

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Another application of the work-for-hire concept that most of us accept unquestioningly is ghostwriting. Authorities or celebrities who cannot write well or are too busy to write their own books engage writers to draft books for them. Although the principal author may agree to share some of the proceeds of the book with his ghost, the principal is the sole signatory of the contract with the publisher, thus making him the copyright owner. He then signs a separate agreement with the ghost, removing that person from claim to copyright and direct participation in revenue generated by publication of the book. Occasionally, what may have seemed a fair fee at the time it was negotiated with the ghostwriter may not seem so if the work demanded of him turns out to be excessive, or if the book becomes a runaway best-seller. Under ordinary circumstances, however, the ghostwriter accepts his lot as a worker-for-hire, and may at least secure more work for himself by telling publishers, “That book was actually written by me.”

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Writers for Hire – Part 1

If one were to compose a Bill of Rights for authors, ownership of copyright to their works would certainly be close to the top of the list. We hold self-evident the truth that if a person produces an original book-length work, he or she is entitled to proprietorship under the law, and to full benefit of its commercial exploitation.

Yet, it has not always been so. The piracy of literature by printers, publishers, and booksellers has been common practice throughout the world from the dawn of the printed word, and was prevalent in this country until well into the present century. Until the establishment of the first International Copyright Convention in 1891 and its refinement after World War II, respect for the sanctity of copyright was largely a matter of gentlemen’s agreements based strictly on self-interest—don’t steal from me and I won’t steal from you. There are still vast areas of our globe where publishers think nothing of stealing and distributing works of literature from authors and publishers of law-abiding countries, and the emergence of electronic and online media have made it a big business. Piracy of books, videotapes, music, and other intellectual property may be condoned if not sponsored and supported by some governments.

Lest you become too smug that such barbarities cannot happen here, I am compelled to report my observation that the appropriation of authors’ copyrights by publishers and book packagers seems to be on the upswing. Nothing so gross as piracy, mind you. More, I would say, like extortion. But the effect is the same: the deprivation of authors’ rights to enjoy the fruits of their labors. The fruits of an author’s labors include such bounties as royalties on copies of books sold, participation in reprint income, and revenue deriving from the exploitation of serial, translation, dramatization, electronic, and other subsidiary rights. Not everyone shares the conviction that the enjoyment of these monies is a natural and God-given right, however. Indeed, not everybody behaves as if the enjoyment of these monies is protected by statutory law.

The engagement of writers for flat fees falls into a category of employment known as “work-for-hire.” Work-for-hire is a doctrine defining the relationship between a copyright owner and a writer. Note that the owner may or may not be an author; he, she, they, or it may be a corporation (like a movie studio or television production company), a syndicate of investors, or an individual who is not a writer. These entities hire writers to perform a service in pretty much the same way a homeowner hires a cabinetmaker, a painter, or a gardener, except that in this case the task is writing a text for the “boss”—the creator or owner of the idea. The owner is then free to exploit the text in any way he desires with no further obligation to the author.

Some provisions of the 1976 Copyright Act attempt to define the work-for-hire concept, but they do not do so very clearly and have left the door open to unfair exploitation of authors.

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More Horror Stories from the Digital Book Bazaar

Rowena Cherry, an indefatigable source of information about allegedly unauthorized publication of copyrighted works, reports this latest instance. If you are a bestselling author, or the agent or publisher of a bestselling author, you will find your book here. Scroll down for the entire list of New York Times bestsellers available for $2.00. Purchases are made via PayPal, a subsidiary of Ebay. As is my policy, I do not hotlink to such sites.

I have often written that piracy is the biggest threat to the e-book business. (visit Pirate Central). This is a good instance why.

Richard Curtis
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“From: freebieadmin
To: freebookclub
Sent: Tue, Dec 11, 2012 3:58 am
Subject: {FreeBookClub:488} New York Times Best Sellers List – 9th December!

Dear Members

I have managed to aquire the New York Times Best Sellers List for the 9th December!
(70 Books – Fiction and Non Fiction)

I will make this excellent package instantly available to those people that can afford a
one or two dollar contribution to our service

visit:************** and use the Paypal button near the top of the page!

Contributors will be provided with a choice of both Rapidshare and Sendspace
download links (both are free to use) and they will be sent the download info as soon
as they have made their contribution.

Once I have raised the cost of this purchase, I will also make the list available to the
Supporters Club members via newsletter and through our Gigatribe account.

Regards
*******
Club Admin

NY Times Best Seller Lists: Fiction and NonFiction – 09 December 2012

English | EPUB + MOBI | Ebooks Collection | All In One | 229 MB

Fiction

1 NOTORIOUS NINETEEN, by Janet Evanovich. (Random House Publishing.) The New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum joins with
Joe Morelli to track down a con man who disappeared from a hospital; meanwhile, she takes a second job guarding Ranger.

2 THE FORGOTTEN, by David Baldacci. (Grand Central Publishing.) The military investigator John Puller probes his aunt?s mysterious death in Florida.

3 THE LAST MAN, by Vince Flynn. (Simon & Schuster.) The counterterrorism operative Mitch Rapp searches for a missing C.I.A. asset amid treachery in Afghanistan.

4 THE RACKETEER, by John Grisham. (Knopf Doubleday Publishing.) An imprisoned ex-lawyer schemes to exchange this information about who murdered a judge for his freedom.

5 MERRY CHRISTMAS, ALEX CROSS, by James Patterson. (Little, Brown & Company.) Detective Alex Cross confronts both a hostage situation and a terrorist act at Christmas.

6 LIFE OF PI, by Yann Martel. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers.) A teenage boy and a 450-pound tiger are thrown together in a lifeboat after a shipwreck; originally published in 2002 and now a movie.

7 AGENDA 21, by Glenn Beck with Harriet Parke. (Simon & Schuster.) A girl begins to question the authorities who run the Republic, the totalitarian successor to the United States created by the U.N.

8 GONE GIRL, by Gillian Flynn. (Crown Publishing.) A woman disappears on the day of her fifth anniversary; is her husband a killer?

9 FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, by E. L. James. (Knopf Doubleday Publishing.) A college student falls in love with a tortured man with particular sexual tastes; the first of a trilogy.

10 THE PERFECT HOPE, by Nora Roberts. (Penguin Group.) The final volume of the Inn BoonsBoro trilogy sees sparks fly between Ryder Montgomery and the innkeeper.

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Curtis Agency, E-Reads Deploy Program to Neutralize Pirates

Photo: Wikipedia

Adopting advanced technology, Curtis Agency and E-Reads have teamed up to locate and take down pirated files of their authors’ books.

The system, developed by Muso TNT, protects against files uploaded by pirates to filesharing sites like rapidshare and megaupload. Files on these websites show up on Google search results and are therefore accessible to users who might otherwise purchase the files through legitimate channels.

The Size of the Problem

Though we have often contended that piracy is the number one threat to the e-book industry (see A Bootleg E-Book Bazaar Operates in Plain Sight), skeptics may not be aware of the extent of the problem. One company, torrentfreak, boasted that “The Internet is the largest copying machine ever invented,” and in 2011 ranked fiesharing sites according to traffic in the month of July 2011. The first figure represents unique monthly visitors, the second monthly page views:

1 4shared Cyberlocker 55,000,000/ 2,500,000,000
2 Megaupload Cyberlocker 37,000,000/ 400,000,000
3 Mediafire Cyberlocker 34,000,000 /330,000,000
4 Filestube Meta-search 34,000,000/ 280,000,000
5 Rapidshare Cyberlocker 23,000,000/ 280,000,000
6 The Pirate Bay Torrent index 23,000,000 /650,000,000
7 Fileserve Cyberlocker 19,000,000 /190,000,000
8 Hotfile Cyberlocker 16,000,000 /110,000,000
9 Torrentz.eu Meta-search 15,000,000/ 340,000,000
10 Depositfiles Cyberlocker 14,000,000/ 110,000,000

How Muso TNT Works.

Using the Muso technology, legitimate content providers authorize the antipiracy service to launch search engine “spiders” to crawl over the Internet and detect unauthorized files. A significant feature is that the search criterion is by author, not by title. As the spiders locate pirated files, they store the results on a password-protected login page for review.

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Harlequin Appoints Antipiracy Shamus

If Evan Brown needs a sidekick…

Harlequin has announced new reporting procedures for unauthorized postings of its authors’ content and engaged a dedicated antipiracy enforcer with whom authors who believe their material has been pirated can file claims. Here’s the complete release:

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Effective July 2012, Harlequin has brought the online piracy enforcement process in-house with the appointment of Harlequin’s Online Rights Assistant, Evan Brown. This is a new role, dedicated to policing online piracy of our authors’ copyrighted materials. We ask that authors, agents and editors email links to pirated books to Evan at Report_Piracy@Harlequin.ca. Harlequin is committed to actively protecting the copyrighted materials of its authors and seeks to provide the most effective solution for online piracy.

Please continue to keep in mind the following points before you submit information to .:

• Verify that your search results lead to active links by clicking on the link – “Sponsored Links” often do not lead to actual content;

• Please ensure you include the author name and title for each link to be removed. If the book is in a foreign language, please provide the title and author name in English;

• Provide a direct link (URL) to the work, or to the download page of each work in question – not a link to a page of search results.

As we are no longer working with Attributor to police online piracy and as they are not forwarding messages to us, please report all infringing postings to us directly via Report_Piracy@Harlequin.ca.

Thank you again for your continuing assistance in the fight against book piracy.

The Harlequin Report Piracy Team
This blog post was originally published by Digital Book World under the title Harlequin Hires Antipiracy Enforcer

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Google to Tilt Algorithms Against Pirates

Last spring Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt dealt authors and publishers a staggering blow by declaring his absolute opposition to any effort to curtail Google’s right to link to piracy websites like Pirate Bay. He said it in such unequivocal terms that we concluded it was time for legitimate copyright owners to throw in their cards. “Any author cherishing a shred of hope for the protection of his or her rights is spitting in the wind,” we lamented. (See Game Over: Google Insists on Linking to Pirate Sites)

But Amy Chozick of the New York Times says the wind at Google has shifted. Yielding to pressure from motion picture, recording and other media interest groups who are being robbed blind by pirates, Google softened its opposition to altering the algorithms that point indiscriminately to illegal file-sharing websites. “Google said that beginning next week its algorithms would take into account the number of valid copyright removal notices Web sites have received,” reports Chozick. “Web sites with multiple, valid complaints about copyright infringement may appear lower in Google search results.”

To give you a sense of “multiple, valid complaints”, Chozick writes that Google “received copyright removal requests for over 4.3 million Web addresses in the last 30 days, according to the company’s transparency report. That is more than it received in all of 2009.”

Google’s reversal stands in vivid contrast to the populist uprising that culminated in a Wikipedia blackout last January when media giants lobbied Congress to pass an antipiracy bill. Google and Facebook led the charge, congress chickened out, and the proposed legislation collapsed. (See Don’t Worry, Pirates, Google Has Your Back)

“Google has signaled a new willingness to value the rights of creators,” said a recording industry executive.

Details in Under Copyright Pressure, Google to Alter Search Results

Richard Curtis
This blog post was originally published by Digital Book World as Google Decides Legit Copyright Owners May Have a Point

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Piracy Devastates Music Artists’ Income. Authors, Tomorrow It’s Your Turn

“Over the last 12 years” NPR’s David Lowery recently wrote, “I’ve watched revenue flowing to artists collapse. Recorded music revenue is down 64% since 1999. Per capita spending on music is 47% lower than it was in 1973!! The number of professional musicians has fallen 25% since 2000. Of the 75,000 albums released in 2010 only 2,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. Only 1,000 sold more than 10,000 copies.” Ten thousand copies, Lowery explains, is break-even for independent recording artists.

Why are we mentioning this in a column devoted to the book industry?  Because if you substitute “authors” for “recording artists” and “books” for “albums”, you would realize at once, as I did, that in one significant area the two professions are interchangeable.

The significant area is piracy.  Lowery attributes the plummet in sales directly to illegal downloading.

His article, published in The Trichordist, a website for “Artists for an Ethical Internet,” was in the form of an open letter to a young intern at National Public Radio named Emily who had acknowledged that “while she had 11,000 songs in her music library, “she’s only paid for 15 CDs in her life.”

Because Emily is a member of a vast majority who not only behave the same way but justify their behavior the same way, Lowery felt it incumbent to help her see that “she has been badly misinformed by the Free Culture movement.” The challenge is tantamount to fighting a forest fire with a garden hose, and the reason is that it’s all about a mindset so completely and universally embedded in the consciences of young people that it’s become a rule to live by rather than an ethical value about which there is choice to embrace or resist.

Obviously that same mindset obtains with e-books. Among the reasons that the Emily generation use to justify their freeloading are:

*Compensating musicians is not a problem -  that is up to governments and large corporations to solve.

*It’s OK not to pay for music because record companies rip off artists and do not pay artists anything.

*We don’t take these tracks from a file-sharing site.

*Artists can make money on the road (or its variant “Artists are rich”)

“I also deeply empathize with your generation,” Lowery writes. “You have grown up in a time when technological and commercial interests are attempting to change our principles and morality. Rather than using our morality and principles to guide us through technological change, there are those asking us to change our morality and principles to fit the technological change–if a machine can do something, it ought to be done.

“I also find this all this sort of sad. Many in your generation are willing to pay a little extra to buy ‘fair trade’ coffee that insures the workers that harvested the coffee were paid fairly. Many in your generation will pay a little more to buy clothing and shoes from manufacturers that certify they don’t use sweatshops. Many in your generation pressured Apple to examine working conditions at Foxconn in China. Your generation is largely responsible for the recent cultural changes that has given more equality to same sex couples. On nearly every count your generation is much more ethical and fair than my generation.

“Except for one thing. Artist rights.”

Read: Letter to Emily White at NPR All Songs Considered.

Richard Curtis

This blog post was originally published in Digital Book World as Sales for Musical Artists Plunge. Next Victim: Authors

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Communing with the Almighty on Your Keyboard

Most of us would agree that there is something mystical in linking to a vast ocean of humanity when we visit the Web. You could not be blamed for feeling cosmically inspired to think that you and untold millions are simultaneously sharing common experiences and emotions. But – to make a bona fide religion out of that sense of wonder, that’s a giant step for mankind.

At least for anyone but the Swedes. But John Tagliabue of the New York Times reports the founding there of “a church whose central dogma is that file sharing is sacred.”

The would-be religion is brought to you by the same country that produced a pirate political party that got a respectable 7% of the vote in European Parliamentary elections.  “It claims more than 8,000 faithful who have signed up on the church’s Web site,” writes Tagliabue. “It has applied for the right to perform marriages and to receive subsidies awarded to religious organizations by the state, and it has bid, thus far unsuccessfully, to buy a church building, even though most church activities are conducted online.”

The religion, which calls itself Kopimism (“Copy-ism”), even claims it is the victim of an inquisition in the form of escalating prosecution of illegal file-sharing. It isn’t clear where the religion provides for confession, but it would be interesting to hear what adherents confide to their confessors.

There has not yet risen a counterreformation in the form of a religion devoted to respect for copyright.  It’s just not as sexy-sounding as Kopimism.  But if one were to be founded it might have as a core tenet a commandment along the lines of Thou Shalt Not Steal.

Wait a minute! I think there already is a religion like that…

Details in In Sweden, Taking File Sharing to Heart. And to Church.

Richard Curtis

This blog post was originally published on Digital Book World as Salvation Just One Download Away.

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Robin Hood He Ain’t

We sentimentalize Robin Hood, but though the notion of robbing the rich to help the poor may sound romantic, stripped down it’s simply a glorification of outlawry. What then can be said of outlaws who rob authors to help nobody at all but themselves? What can be said is, “Boy, crime really pays!”

That in essence is what happened when a New Zealand software developer contacted Kim Dotcom, founder of Megaupload, indicted by the United States for copyright infringement and money laundering. “I could live like that,” the fawning man tweeted to the notorious creator of the file-sharing website that the FBI has shuttered.

Dotcom invited him to his enormous rented mansion for a swim and some cupcakes.

The visitor’s admiration for the bandit is not unique. To a generation of misguided libertarians who feel entitled to accept stolen goods, Dotcom is a cult hero. After armed forces raided his opulent stronghold, the unrepentant buccaneer responded with typical braggadocio. “Two helicopters and 76 heavily armed officers to arrest a man alleged of copyright crimes — think about that. Hollywood is importing their movie scripts into the real world and sends armed forces to protect their outdated business model.”

If Dotcom is referring to that outdated business model known as property rights, he may have difficulty persuading a court that it should be replaced by one based on stealing. If he can’t make his case, he faces 20 years in prison.

The tragedy is that he will have so many rooting for him. Jonathan Hutchison of the New York Times reports that “After the court granted him access he began using Twitter…, amassing more than 46,000 followers in just two weeks…

Details in Megaupload Founder Goes From Arrest to Cult Hero

Richard Curtis
This blog post was originally published by Digital Book World as Indicted Pirate Thumbs His Nose at His Victims, and His Cult Eats It Up

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