Here’s something I just became aware of on Facebook. A number of authors are banding together to fight a popular e-book piracy site based in Canada. Author Stephen L. Wilson has been posting information to his blog, and to a Facebook community formed to coordinate efforts.

The pirate site is called “The Ultimate Ebook Library,” which has a Facebook community of its own where it insists that it is “not doing anything illegal under US or Canadian law.” However, the site offers thousands of e-books available for one-click EPUB download, so that must be one of those creative definitions of “not doing anything illegal” that you hear about these days.

Wilson claims almost 300 members on his anti-piracy team so far, and has succeeded in getting several sources of funding cut off to the site, including Amazon affiliate links. On its Facebook community, TUEBL claims that it was using the Amazon affiliate credit to buy books and send them to South America.

This war on TUEBL is really sad, because the people that are being harmed is not us. It’s almost as if the publishers and authors have decided "if we can’t get our way, we are going to make everyone else pay for it". There are now going to be poor children who are not going to be getting new books. Yet TUEBL will live on.

I rather wonder about that. It might be fashionable for US media organizations to insist Canada is a haven of piracy on their annual Special 301 list of copyright violating countries, but from what I gather Canada actually has copyright laws almost as strict as the US. I find it hard to imagine that this site will continue to exist for very long with the pressure that hundreds of authors and readers can bring to bear. At the very least, I’d surely expect its administrator (who apparently posts to Facebook under his real name) will be charged with copyright violations ere long.

I really do have to shake my head at all this. It’s really amazing how self-serving some of these rationales can be for providing unauthorized, unpaid access to other people’s work. I have little doubt the Amazon affiliate links did sell a lot of books, but the pirates don’t get to decide that someone else’s work can be available for free on-line—that’s up to the people who wrote and published that work. Good luck to the authors in getting this site taken down.


  1. I am a member of another author group fighting pirates.

    This group is currently going after this Facebook page, and Facebook keeps telling those whose books are being stolen that TUEBEL isn’t doing anything illegal when it obviously is.

    Facebook, like eBay which won’t let authors complain when their books are ripped off, is making a ton of money on these sites.

    Welcome to the wonderful world of corporate piracy.

  2. Children of any income have no business reading my erotica that was posted on there. It doesn’t take much brain cells to realize he’s not offering my book to poor children.

    However, after sending a DMCA letter, my book was removed from the site. I will continue to help other authors fight to have their books removed.

    Thanks for the article!

    Gracen Miller

  3. I wonder if Shaw Communications knows that one of its employees is knowingly violating copyright law.

    And it’s clear from Travis McCrea’s writings that he knows he is violating copyright law, but believes that “bringing joy to people” in the form of free books is worth mooching off hardworking authors.

    If writers can’t make any money off their books, Howard, I’d suggest they have nothing better to do at all than to get rid of the leeches so they can get back to actually supporting their families.

  4. Howard, lots of writers are finding their books on this site being given away for free. I don’t call that nothing.

    Frankly, writers would prefer to be writing, but, if we don’t defend our copyright, no one will, and we’ll be completely screwed.

    A few weeks ago, one of the smaller pirate sites went up for sale. The owner claimed the site was making $60,000 in revenue a month. It sold for $2 million. Who says crime doesn’t pay?

  5. Vacuos claims. No evidence. Howard, you’re obviously not a writer. First: There is a ton of evidence. Dozens of writers have already found their books on this site for free when they haven’t authorized it.

    Second: Authors have MANY more things to do than just write. We have to promote our work, we have to edit our work, we have to keep abreast of the industry we work in, and we have to keep our work profitable. We have to make sure theives aren’t stealing our hard work and makign their own profit on it while claiming to be donating it to charity (a charity which no evidence can be found to prove its existence). All you’re doing is making our case for us, because you’re giving us a platform to counter your vacuous claims.

  6. The person running that site is clearly an idiot, but at least he was directing people to the legit purchase of the books (with amazon links.) That’s as gentlemanly of a ‘pirate’ as you’ll find. I’m not saying that makes it ok, but that’s the reality. Getting panties twisted in a knot over sites like this just turns into a game of whack’a’mole. And after you’ve whacked enough moles, the only prize will be all the ‘pirate’ traffic getting redirected to russian e-commerce sites.

  7. It’s so easy for non-authors to brush sites like Tuebl off as inoffensive bits of fun. Tell you what — I’ll come to your place of work and grab a few dollars from *you,* now and then. Surely you won’t mind, after all, it’s nothing to get worked up over. It’s only money.

  8. Chris,

    Thank you for your support! Three days ago (Sunday) the TUEBL site was brought to my attention by a frustrated author who knew about difficulties authors and publishers were having with this site. I visited their FB site, and was disgusted with the arrogant, condescending and generally dismissive behavior of the administrators of the group, as well of some of their more ardent supporters. It didn’t take long to realize that authors were not being treated fairly, and the people at this site were taking much delight in thumbing their noses at people who were struggling and working hard for our craft. To them, we had no right to complain. The prevailing attitude was one that spoke to the notion that since they could take copyrighted material for free, without consent or knowledge of the authors, they should. After all, that was the sign of the times. Over and over it is mentioned that the business model of how eBooks are sold needs to be changed. As an indie author and publisher myself, I am appalled and offended to hear that there are people out there who ignore the hard efforts we make to establish channels of distribution for our work, and have no understanding of the rights of being able to do so. Fortunately international, Canadian, and United States law state otherwise. Our campaign, entering its third day, has garnered much appreciation and effort on the part of authors and publishers. We are now up to 320 members, and gaining fast. This dedicated, hard working group has been successfully protesting this unlawful practice. They truly are an amazing group worthy of the utmost admiration. Please visit the website, which is my blog, for more information. Thank you for your support.

    Stephen L. Wilson

    Marilynn Byerly says:
    July 25, 2012 at 10:24 am
    … This group is currently going after this Facebook page, and Facebook keeps telling those whose books are being stolen that TUEBEL isn’t doing anything illegal when it obviously is.
    Facebook, like eBay which won’t let authors complain when their books are ripped off, is making a ton of money on these sites.
    Time for criminal copyright infringement charges against Facebook and its infamously arrogant founder. Facebook’s non-action makes it a co-conspirator in piracy.

  10. So – as usual we have the usual candidates lined up and outraged. Yet no one has a single scintilla of solid reliable evidence that there are any more than a handful of actual downloads taking place. The existence of a pirate site is not proof or evidence of ANYthing. But let’s not let facts get in the way of a good opportunity to start the piracy bandwagon again oh no. Next we’ll have someone pointing out the download count on the pirate site ! wow ….. criminals wouldn’t lie would they ??
    Rumours of site sales and claims of the downloads is all part of the standard fare coughed up by pirates to try to persuade people that millions are downloading and advertises should pay them and more people should also download. It is oh so familiar and transparent and tired.
    I don’t believe a word of all of this nonsense. I don’t believe that there is a tiny fraction of the claimed downloading going on and this is all part of the ongoing campaign by the publishing industry to hype this topic in order to get more draconian laws and more draconian copyright. All actions that will drive more and more people to download.


  11. Howard, most authors would be pathetically grateful if the current copyright laws were respected. Don’t see a boogeyman where there is none.

    Here is the sale info on the site I mentioned.

    This so-called search engine drives traffic to the pirate sites.

    Also, need I mention how much loot they confiscated from Megaupload.

    Here’s a link in case you have forgotten.

  12. Marilynn, nobody but a lawyer could possibly have “respect” for our current morass of copyright laws.

    Also, what “loot” was confiscated from Megaupload? Do you mean all the digital Ones and Zeros stored on their servers?

  13. No, Binko, I mean the 17 million dollars in Megaload’s owners’ assets that were seized in the first raid. These assets included a fleet of expensive sports cars and other toys.

    You really should read the Wikipedia article I linked to for the details.

    As to ebookee, the information about the site’s income is fairly extensive and detailed since they were selling the site. Check out that information, as well, to see why it was a bargain to buy at 2 million dollars if you have the moral core of the average burglar.

    As to copyright, even an older child can understand the basics. An ebook is property which belongs to the person who wrote the book. That means you can read it if you pay for that right in the same way you buy a ticket to see a movie, but you can’t sell the ebook to someone else and you can’t give it away by putting it on the Internet or someone else’s computer.

    If everyone agreed to follow those simple rules, most casual piracy would disappear.

  14. Marilynn, I’m sorry to say that you have the most bizarre notion of copyright of any person I’ve ever encountered.

    An ebook is property? And these ebooks belong to the person who wrote the words? So hundreds of different authors own little bits of my hard drive?

    Copyright has absolutely nothing to do with defining ownership. Authors don’t own the words they write once they publish them. They simply enjoy a limited monopoly over the creation and sale of copies of the work. It’s a copy right.

  15. So there we have it. The best that anyone can offer is third party reports of claims or rumours of files being downloadable …. Not a single piece of evidence anywhere substantiating the claims a)That eBooks are actually being downloaded or b) That significant numbers are being downloaded.
    Isn’t it amazing that so many URLs can be bandied around, so many references, so many claims … yet not one, not ONE substantiated evidence of actual numbers of actual downloads.

    The reason is because NO ONE wants anyone else to know.

    The DoJ doesn’t want people to know otherwise their enormous relative commitment of resources to this campaign, the result of huge lobbying by the Publishing industry, would be exposed and vilified.

    The Publishers don’t want anyone to know because they know well that the actual amount of illegal downloading is a minute and infinitesimal fraction of the grotesquely inflated numbers they claim in their campaign to beat down ordinary users with the copyright hammers.

    The Pirates don’t want anyone to know because they generate huge income from creating a false impression that they are bringing in enormous numbers of site visitors and downloads, when the truth is they are involved in a criminal online syndicate to ‘invent’ vast numbers of site visitors through the use of all kinds of fake links, fake web sites, fake articles, fake email and web site fishing, bot nets and other devices.

    Anyone who invests some quality time researching the body of ‘evidence’ offered by the Publishing and Media industry as ‘proof’ of illegal downloads will find that when they read the small print of all of their reports, studies, analysis, surveys etc. that they are all carried out by their own paid companies, they are all based on extrapolations, guess work and horrendously biased ‘algorithms’.

    The few pieces of truly independent studies that have been carried out have all rubbished the industry claims, and have demonstrated that those who do illegally download actually buy more, and that the actual number of downloads is orders of magnitude less than the industry claims and only a tiny fraction of those downloads represent loss of sales.

    The truth is that the whole Illegal downloading and pirating uber-controversy is a half baked conspiracy theory borne of mutual convenience.

    Pirate sites should be closed – that is certain. NOT because they are doing any serious damage to writers or musicians – but because they are part of organised crime generating money from fraudulent activity.

    Chris: No offence but your comment above demonstrates only ONE thing. That an eBook CAN be downloaded. It offers no evidence whatsoever of the numbers involved, who is downloading, if they are legitimate users/readers or phantom ‘users’; part of the global pirate network I mention above often backed by organised crime.The whole thing is so full of holes the size of the grand canyon it would be comical if it were not being taken so seriously by the authorities and gullible writers.

  16. Howard and Binko, what has happened to you two? You used to be fun to debate.

    Now you both sit in a corner, stick your fingers in your ears, and go “la, la, la” while you repeat drivel that has nothing to do with the conversation you refuse to hear.

    You ask for proof of numbers, I give it, then you claim the numbers don’t matter, piracy doesn’t matter, and copyright doesn’t matter.

    Well, they do, and just because you can’t acknowledge the facts on the subject won’t change that.

  17. So-called “Piracy” doesn’t matter. It’s a monumentally overblown non-issue that is used to justify a heavy-handed and oppressive expansion of law enforcement.

    Even the music industry realized this ages ago. Music sold online is almost entirely DRM free.

    Make a positive effort to connect with your fans, set your prices low enough, provide a high quality and easy to use service and you will sell plenty of digital goods.

    Copyright matters very much. Just not in the way that you think. It has been warped and extended so much that it does nothing in it’s current state to serve the public good. It’s little more than a tool for maximizing corporate profits.

  18. Binko, authors and publishers get rid of DRM. The book gets stolen and downloaded by thousands upon thousands. They lower the price a ridiculous amount. The book gets stolen and downloaded by thousands upon thousands.

    They put it out in every possible format and offer it worldwide in English. The book gets stolen and downloaded by thousands upon thousands.

    The book author and publisher gives all the profits to Haitian children charities. The book gets stolen and downloaded by thousands upon thousands.

    Authors work their butts off and spend a ton of money to get fans, offer free stuff, and are very accessible to their fans. The book gets stolen and downloaded by thousands upon thousands. Some of those fans have had the audacity to complain to the author when the book they downloaded from a pirate site had a virus attached. Yes, really.

    All the anecdotal evidence I and any other author has had talking to other authors suggests that sales numbers, even for very successful authors, has plummeted in recent years despite the growth of ebooks. The biggest demand for new books seems to be on the pirate sites, not the legal sites.

    Sure, that’s anecdotal, but real numbers are impossible to get. Even that so-called study that says pirates buy as many books as they steal depended on a bunch of thieves telling the truth. Yeah, right. They’ve used that particular bit of nonsense to justify what they do for years.

    Maybe, copyright and piracy don’t matter to you, but most authors and people in publishing do care, and we’re worried about the financial viability of the business if we don’t fight pirates.

    Enjoy your conspiracy theories while the rest of us fight for our financial and career lives against a bunch of opportunists and jerks.

  19. Not only does Travis McGrae Infringe on Copyright if you ask him to remove copyright material from the site you are likely to be mocked, have your address posted on his blog and have him threaten your family. Copyright laws are international with over fifty countries, including Canada, agreeing to abide by them. By requesting further information for a take down Mr. McGrae is breaking the law and being an ass.

  20. I am personally at odds with myself over this one. Fortunately, one of my favorite best selling authors said it far more eloquently than I ever could. How many people have heard of a publishing company called Baen books? They have a few big name authors under their belt.

    In the article written by Eric Flint on Baen books website, he describes, very accurately, the “problem” of internet piracy and the realistic numbers behind it. He also mentions that “as a widespread phenomenon rather than a nuisance, piracy occurs when artificial restrictions in the market jack up prices beyond what people think are reasonable.” Can someone explain to me why many authors charge just as much for an ebook, which has extremely low physical publishing costs, as they do for a hardcopy of their work?

    If an independent author cannot write with enough quality and quantity to support themselves, then they shouldn’t be quitting their day jobs. Nothing irritates me more than buying a book thinking it will be good, only to discover that my hopes and my money were wasted.

  21. You know all these pretty excuses for piracy are still no justification for circumventing an author’s legal rights (as stated on the copyright page in any book, try reading it). We are citizens too, and people with feelings, and we are protected under international laws no matter how you feel abut it or want to pretend otherwise. If you want to read a book free, go to a library or download one legally (there are plenty of legal options these days). Lots of things are pricy these days, it doesn’t make stealing them the thing to do.

  22. Binko wrote:
    “So-called “Piracy” doesn’t matter. It’s a monumentally overblown non-issue that is used to justify a heavy-handed and oppressive expansion of law enforcement.”

    100% right. Unfortunately we still have people in the publishing industry that have convinced themselves so deeply and have been brain washed so completely by their publishers, that they suck up all of this nonsense about piracy irrespective of the idiocy of it. They have no numbers and not even orders of magnitude. The believe reports that are basically derived from criminal sites’ claims but it suits their hysteria so well that they just cannot help themselves believing it.
    There are thousands of pirate sites, mostly connected with organised crime, but there is no evidence at all that there are any significant numbers of actual downloads. Not that that stops the industry actually quoting the download figures supplied by those very criminal sites !! you couldn’t make it up !!

    As you say Piracy is a monumentally overblown non-issue that is used to justify a heavy-handed and oppressive expansion of law enforcement and an excuse to drone on and on, and on and on, and on and on … about stealing and poor writers and more stealing .. yada yada yada … yawwwwwwwn.

  23. Not many authors will fault an individual who downloads an ebook. At some point or another everyone has done it and the reasons why are numerous. When I was in university, piracy was how I got mp3 files and movies that were not available in my country (though in 2012 it’s easier to get media these days, and ebooks are available at many libraries.)

    What seems to be setting this case apart is McCrea’s attitude of “I can do whatever I want, no matter what the law says” and then turning around and saying, “Oh, I’m HELPING authors — by the way, can I have a radio spot to talk about my platform?”

    His motivations have nothing to do with access to information. He just wants to be heard, and he’s using the copyrighted work of thousands of authors (not to mention his movie site) to do it. This is an immature young man whose blog spends pages screeching and hollering about privacy and big government, and what does he do? Like a child, he publishes author’s personal information on his blog because they dared to send him a legal notice. He then goes on to cry about how he was bullied as a child and his fragile little self is having a hard time dealing with the hate. Then he brags about making authors jump through hoops to have their content removed. He claims his site helps out literacy programs in impoverished countries, but does he show his work? Where is the proof? Where is the breakdown of how much money is brought in and how it’s distributed?

    Once a file is downloaded, it should be the consumer’s right to convert the file, share it with a friend, and so on. But add an arrogant character like McCrea and you have justification for SOPA and Bill C-11 — give an inch, and there’ll be someone waiting to take a mile for their own personal gain. For all the good he’s convinced himself he’s doing, he’s destructive to the legions of DCMA detractors who are trying to meet copyright holders halfway.

    If ever there was a pirate who deserved a kick in the pants in the form of a lawsuit, this is it.

  24. The attacks keep coming, and yet we are still up. The fight can go on as long as people want it to… we are geared up for a long haul. We still have a standing offer for a radio debate with any person regarding copyright and the legality of TUEBL.

    The truth is that authors and publishers are scared of debating us because we will make them look bad.

  25. Marilynn,

    Thank you for the mention of PWR. While I am certainly not “scared” of debating with Travis, my copyright-related internet radio show is probably not the major forum Travis seeks.

    I doubt it would be possible for a debate about the “legality” of a site allegedly dedicated to copyright infringement to remain civil and constructive.

    It is not lawful to publish and distribute in-copyright works without the permission of the author. So what’s left but opinion, wishful thinking, and self-serving anarchy?

  26. Journey,
    You say, “not many authors will fault an individual who downloads an ebook”.

    Many authors offer free, legal reads on their websites, and also many authors offer free, limited time, legal reads via Amazon and other legal distributors and retailers.

    There is a great difference between downloading “an” ebook that the author made available so that readers could sample their writing, and individuals downloading everything that author has written in order to avoid paying for anything.

    Moreover, just because an author encourages potential readers to download a legal, free read, does not meant that the author intends to give away the copyright of that book. It does not mean that the beneficiary of the free read is granted the right to publish and distribute that work for their own profit/benefit.

    When you say “it should be the consumer’s right to share”, you are expressing a wish, but not what the law says. First Sale Doctrine explicitly does not extend to digital works because it is impossible to “share” an e-book without creating multiple illegal copies. Making copies without the author’s permission is a violation of their copyright.

    The legal way to “share” an e-book with a friend is to lend them a fully loaded e-reader. No one has a problem with that, as far as I know. Then, as with a paperback, they have it, and you don’t.

    Your comment about DMCA detractors trying to meet copyright holders halfway… baffles me. Copyright is not a matter for individual negotiation online. No individual author (as far as I know) has the right to negotiate away other authors’ copyrights.

  27. Thank you for the mention of PWR. While I am certainly not “scared” of debating with Travis, my copyright-related internet radio show is probably not the major forum Travis seeks.

    I doubt it would be possible for a debate about the “legality” of a site allegedly dedicated to copyright infringement to remain civil and constructive.

    It is not lawful to publish and distribute in-copyright works without the permission of the author. So what’s left but opinion, wishful thinking, and self-serving anarchy?

  28. Most intelligent, well informed people know or should know that downloading pirated music, video, eBooks and software is risky behavior. Just going to the web site where this stuff is alleged to be located exposes one’s computer to all sorts of intrusion. Actually downloading something is even worse because then you may be giving permission for the execution of code whose purpose and effects are beyond your ken. There being no honor among thieves, we should know that dealing with them is eventually going to get us nipped in some way or another.

    There are those who are willing to take these risks and go through considerable effort to acquire things illicitly. They may or may not be assessing the risk accurately but that’s their business. As well, their bad behavior really doesn’t represent a 1:1 loss in sales because many of them probably wouldn’t buy it in the first place.

    The number of people in this class varies by market. Digital music is now quite stable and profitable because consumer demands were met instead of frustrated. Buying music today is both pleasant and safe. There’s no compelling need to engage in risky behavior or learn the arcane ins and outs of hacker-dom.

    Contrast this with the eBook market and all of the ways that we tilt this scale in the wrong direction. We have to stop this self-defeating behavior and find ways to give our customers what they want: a safe, affordable, convenient way to consume our product. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to work on educating our customers as to the dangers of dealing with pirates either.

    We have to resist being duped into cheerleading for those who want to make things even more difficult for our customers. If that succeeds, then the only people who will survive in this business are those with the resources to enforce those Draconian rules. Goodbye independent publishers and self-publishing writers.

  29. Very reasonable post, Frank.

    Authors and publishers tend to forget that copyright law was conceived in a age when computers and the internet did not exist. Hence we suffer from the never-ending but fruitless attempts to enforce pre-digital concepts in a digital age.

    Authors should start thinking about how they can distribute their work to a wider audience and grow a larger fanbase. The incessant focus on setting up more and more restrictive tollbooths between author and reader is doomed to failure and creates boundless bad feeling.

    We actually have the amazing ability to make every published work in the world available to every person. What a wondrous thing! What an amazing advance in knowledge and cultural awareness!

    But instead of Authors celebrating and promoting this amazing achievement all we hear is “NO! You can’t read it unless you PAY!” We could have the Library of Congress at our fingertips. But authors and publishers and corporate hoarders of “intellectual property” would want each of us to pay millions of dollars for the privilege.

  30. Frank, try visiting the copyright alliance blog some time and reading the comments by musicians. It might open your eyes. Or not, because you appear to believe what you wish to believe.

    Digital music is not “quite stable and profitable” for many musicians around the world. Moreover, various copyright infringers continue to distribute and profit from sharing all types of music.

  31. Binko, are you aware of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?

    Is the existence of the DMCA not at odds with your claim, “Authors and publishers tend to forget that copyright law was conceived in a age when computers and the internet did not exist. Hence we suffer from the never-ending but fruitless attempts to enforce pre-digital concepts in a digital age. ”

    The copyright that copyright owners of e-books attempt to enforce is most definitely post digital, and the laws very clearly make a distinction between what can lawfully be done with a paper book (fair use, first sale doctrine etc) and why the same “rights” cannot be extended to digital versions of works.

    Look up the Digital Millennium Copyright Act at

  32. The DMCA is a prime example of taking old school pre-digital copyright and doing nothing to bring it into the modern age except adding more enforcement, more penalties, more restrictions, more lock-down and more toll collecting.

    Do you think, because it has the word “Digital” in it’s title, that it must be modern and designed for the new era? Far from it. It’s designed to do nothing except preserve and protect the power and control of old school copyright monopolies.

  33. Rowena Cherry recommends, “Frank, try visiting the copyright alliance blog some time and reading the comments by musicians. It might open your eyes.”
    Yes, I am aware of the various non-profit and for-profit organizations that seek to alarm us against threats to truth, justice and the way. These exist for other areas of “creative” endeavor as well. Their existence, the affiliations and endorsements they collect and the services they provide indicate, more than anything else, that there’s money to be made and irresistible ideology promotion opportunities in fomenting fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD). This is fine. We have all sorts or organizations like this and some are downright entertaining (see:
    A reasonable and well informed citizen has to consider the source of an assertion and the agenda of that source. That citizen must also balance the pleas of these special interests with larger and more important societal values. Example: Personally, I value due process over copyright and I recommend that position to others on the grounds that due process is more important. Thus, I cannot imagine a situation where I would support any legislation, policy or rule that sacrifices due process in order to enforce copyright.
    DMCA takedown procedures are an excellent example of placing commercial interests ahead of key societal values such as due process. This is the kind of “bad law” that special (myopic) interest groups are willing to foist upon us. We need to be very wary of them and think twice before we allow ourselves to get caught up in a manufactured frenzy and grab hold of pitchforks and flaming cat-o-nine-tails.

  34. Frank,
    You say that you value “due process” over copyright.

    Should I infer that you mean that every author should be obliged to spend a couple of years and a hundred thousand dollars or so in legal fees every time someone takes it upon themselves to copy, publish and distribute a copyrighted work?

    For every *day* that a newly released e-book is illegally available on a “sharing” site, an author potentially loses income.

    Suppose someone were to steal your identity, or post your credit card information online. Would you want to wait for “due process” before the information was removed?

    Identity theft is not dissimilar to copyright infringement. Many hosting sites clearly state that only the copyright owner (in the case of Scribd, they state “the author”) may upload files. Persons who upload content that they did not create deliberately purport to be the author/copyright owner.

    I do not understand your mindset when you describe the violation of the rights of hardworking, creative individuals as a “more important societal value”. Do authors not have a right to be paid for their work?

  35. “Do authors not have a right to be paid for their work?”

    Depends on what it means by “right” – if people read them sure, they do, but just for producing work that nobody cares about, sure they don’t.

    Successful authors sell, unsuccessful ones whine and that has been going on for decades, irrespective of the current state of technology; there were always used books and remainders to blame, the shifting of this or that aspect of publishing etc

    There quite a few author reminiscences on blogs or in print about this evolution – my interest happens to be sff and mostly sf so I read what authors from Robert Silverberg, to Bary Malzberg, David Drake, Walter Jon Williams and others said and one thing was common: every time there was a shift, new opportunities appeared, the nimble adapted, the rest perished as publishing careers went.

    I would take all the alarmist nonsense above more seriously, if the evidence that tons of authors still sell tons of book, quite a few having digital books out only was not there and those thousands and thousand of ebooks sold monthly by popular authors would not exist.

    If people love your books, by and large they will support you if only out of self interest.

  36. @Marilynn Byerly I’m going to have to agree with Howard and Binko. Anything can be made up in this digital age as far as priacy is concerned, it is a non-issue. In fact, it is the risk taken by putting anything out begin with.

    It’s sad that writers do not understand this. One may not have purchased something, but there is a possibility that the person would recommend it to others. Yes, there is not a 100% chance of that happening in all cases, but it is like putting a snake in the same room as person night after night. Each night, there is a 50% chance the person will be bitten, but taking all nights into account, the chances are relatively close to 100% that the person will get bitten. Likewise, chance that somebody will buy a work recommended by somebody who pirated it will also have a high chance of happening, though like a snake and a person being in the same room, it is not exactly 100%.

    Also, it is because of the fact that publishers are hurting honest people, that piracy happens. It is as my college instructors said when I was studying for my degree in Computers, rules will keep an honest person host, but will do nothing against somebody who is not honest to begin.

  37. Rowena Cherry asks: “Should I infer that you mean that every author should be obliged to spend a couple of years and a hundred thousand dollars or so in legal fees every time someone takes it upon themselves to copy, publish and distribute a copyrighted work?”
    Frank Lowney answers: No, there is no obligation to do any of that. Better, IMHO, is to turn your time and energy toward things that you can have some impact on [insert serenity prayer here].
    You can fight piracy without sacrificing civil liberties and without becoming an enemy of the people. That’s the road less travelled but it is the right road.

  38. Digital books will eventually follow the path of digital music.

    Remember the early era of digital music with all the lawsuits and DRM and high prices and the wailing and moaning about musicians not being able to make a living. Sound familiar? That’s where we are now with digital books.

    Then music publishers realized they were doing nothing except alienating customers. Now music is sold DRM free. It is cheap enough and easy enough to buy that most people are happy to pay. You can listen to tunes from streaming services or you can buy tunes with a click of a button on your phone. You can back them up, save them and play them on multiple devices.

    And, in the end, the world of music is richer and more vibrant today than at any other time in the past. Creative and independent musicians have many more paths to connect with fans than they did back in the era when the big studios had total control.

    All of this will happen with ebooks. You can’t put the digital genie back into the bottle. Sadly authors and publishers will, for the most part, have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the future, moaning and groaning every step of the way that “they are stealing my hard work – they must be punished”!

  39. Frank wrote:
    “Yes, I am aware of the various non-profit and for-profit organizations that seek to alarm us against threats to truth, justice and the way. These exist for other areas of “creative” endeavor as well. Their existence, the affiliations and endorsements they collect and the services they provide indicate, more than anything else, that there’s money to be made and irresistible ideology promotion opportunities in fomenting fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD).”

    An excellent statement among many you have made on this topic. And one that should be stamped on the foreheads of many a writer.

    I am a firm supporter of copyright, but the nonsense in the DMCA, a law that has been formulated and written by Big Publishing – a bad law and an unjust law – isn’t worth the paper it was submitted on, and should be ignored and trashed as soon as possible.

  40. Bryce, you really don’t understand writers, do you?

    I’ve gone into the head of a genocidal psychopath and written her so accurately that I’ve had fans back away from me when they start talking about her although I look like a friendly hobbit matron.

    I understand human nature, most writers do, and we know that some people steal. To say it’s okay because lots of people steal isn’t right. Lots of people rob, rape, and murder, but I doubt you would say that’s okay, and we should shut up about it.

    In the few places where we are allowed to air our opinions, we writers won’t shut up and let the jerks and crooks control the conversation and the information, most of which is skewed or an outright lie, as they have for so many years. If nothing else, it means you actually have to think to justify your opinions.

    So many of the opinions here are about “if this happens, then stealing will stop” is utter nonsense. Most of the things like no DRM ebook fans have asked for are here now yet the theft has gotten worse. Cheap books with no DRM, geographic restrictions, etc., are as likely to be stolen as those who have all those things or a hefty price.

    If you want to be outraged, be outraged at pirate sites being sold for millions of dollars, not at the writers struggling to make some income.

  41. Hello Marilynn! For about the millionth time I’ll repeat the following simple fact; copyright infringement is not theft. It’s not stealing. It’s not piracy on the high seas.

    The law grants you a monopoly over the creation of copies for a certain period of time. Somebody makes a copy you didn’t authorize. Illegal? Yes! Theft? No! You still have all your copies. They aren’t missing. They aren’t stolen. You can still make new copies.

    As long as publishers and authors persist in labeling copyright infringement as stealing or piracy or some other big bad name that is designed to grant yourselves the moral high ground it will be impossible to engage in meaningful dialog or find lasting solutions.

  42. @Marilynn You go around thinking that DRM does any good and that people are inherently bad and you say I don’t understand writers, huh? I do not think you understand people or technology. DRM is not going to stop somebody from taking a print book and OCR scan it, so DRM does nothing about that. In fact, basic computer security knowledge is that anything can be cracked. Unfortunately, DRM used in ebooks is not like the encryption used with credit cards, which takes more time to crack than is worth the effort.

    Also, some publishers do not allow their ebooks to be read by devices. If you guys cared so much about the reader, instead of worrying about profit and thinking things like DMCA and DRM are going to help, they would accommodate readers that cannot see well. Fortunately for me, I am not one of them.

    I would not condone any crimes you mention, but believe it or not we are born into this world innocent, so going around assuming that everyone is going to distribute your work illegaly makes writers look like jerks.

    Also, believe or not but before we got water-downed fairy tales that we have today, people did not make one cent of stories like Beauty & the Beast, which I could only trace back to two versions, unlike Little Mermaid, where I can trace that to Hans Christian Anderson

  43. Livlu,

    I hope that you are correct that piracy is “alarmist nonsense”, but you are not looking at royalty statements, and you are probably looking at skewed statistics.

    It is true that authors who published ebooks in the last three years did very well. Or their publishers did so. There was a surge in the ebook market, and –as you said– those who met an immediate need did well. However, ebook success may well have come at the expense of print sales.

    One has to consider the laws of supply and demand, also the fact that to some extent, total book sales are most probably a zero sum game.

    Now, numbers appear to show that ebook sales are leveling off. Denizens of reading sites are starting to discuss how many hundreds or thousands of unread ebooks are stored on their equipment, and how they will never need to purchase another book for the rest of their lives.

    If those ebooks were legally acquired through all the free reads given away by authors and publishers, that’s all fair and above board, but if it is a reflection of a tendency, the gravy train will not last.

  44. Okay, Frank. What do you mean by “due process” ? You stated that copyright owners should not try to shut down so-called pirate sites without “due process”, and you suggested that following the law and sending DMCA notices was somehow not due process.

    When I asked for clarification, you stated that you did not think lawsuits were the way to go, either. So, what do you mean by due process?

    I suspect, you mean, “bend over.”

  45. Hi again Rowena, you ask about due process so here’s a nice Wikipedia article on that concept: It’s what protects you and I from being summarily executed by the state and other bad things – things even worse than having illegal copies made of our works. We are innocent until proven guilty before a jury of our peers. Many of the copyright protections now in place (DMCA) or proposed (SOPA) conflict with due process as if the end justified the means.
    No doubt, having to prove that people are guilty before punishing them is inconvenient to those who feel aggrieved and to those charged with the responsibility of enforcing the law. However, it is so much more important to uphold the concept of due process that we are compelled to accept the fact that some, perhaps many, will escape apprehension and punishment.
    So you’re probably right in estimating that large sums of money and a great deal of time will be expended in pursuing eBook copyright infringers. This was your conclusion and I agree with you.
    So what can one do that is effective under these circumstances? A number of strategies centered on better meeting customer expectations and making “piracy” less attractive have been put forward. The case of the music industry seems to support these ideas – at least they are less unhappy than they were before.
    Due process was not conceived to protect the evil doers, though it often does. It was, instead, conceived to protect the innocent against false accusation.

  46. Binko … “For about the millionth time I’ll repeat ….”

    You will end up repeating it a million times alright, and it will never sink in. There is a group of people that have been so duped, so brainwashed by the Publishing and Music industry that they are beyond reach. They are emotionally and irrationally dependent on this belief, in a quasi religious way. No amount of argument or evidence or rational demonstration will ever make a difference. The image of millions of nasty people out there, working through the night to download their little babies is locked in to their minds. When they look at their royalty statements they think of nothing else but those lost sales and how they could be so much richer if only people would listen!
    It’s a lost cause, though it will continue to echo through all forums like this without any end.

  47. Bryce, I haven’t even brought up the subject of DRM except to say that it makes no difference whether it’s there or not because the book is stolen anyway.

    I’ve not condemned all readers, only those who think that stealing a book is perfectly fine.

    All my books have always been DRM free with the exception of the early Kindle and Nook editions. They are available all over the world in English. They are inexpensive. They are everything most reasonable people ask for when they want an ebook.

    All I ask is that people not steal them. If they can’t afford them, they can borrow them from libraries that carry them. The paper versions are certainly available even if the ebook s aren’t in all the systems. Used copies are available in paper if you don’t want to buy at trade paper prices.

    As to your comments on fairy tales, I suggest you read my article on what is and isn’t copyrighted at my blog. You have a number of misconceptions on the subject. Here’s a link

  48. Here’s an explanation of why writers are being so vocal about ebook theft.

    Authors make their money from selling books. Very few of us get movie deals, very few get space on the bookshelves of the few remaining bookstores, none of us get paid to perform like musicians. We make our money selling books. That’s it.

    As huge numbers of us including the “name” authors and bestsellers compare numbers, we see stagnant or falling numbers of sales. Those of us with extensive backlists which have sold steadily through the years and have improved with each book coming out see those numbers dropping.

    Meanwhile, pirate sites are flourishing, and their owners are making a mint. A small site recently sold for $2 million, and the owner bragged of making $60,000 a MONTH in profits.

    Our books have incredible demand on the pirate sites, and despite what the pirates claim, our sales aren’t improving from all this “sampling.” The only popularity these sites offer is that the downloaders ask for more of our books to be added to the lists, and the rush is on to provide the newest book the minute it is out.

    Google has said that over four million complaints have come from authors about search results where the pirated editions had a much higher ranking than the legal sales sites.

    Writers are frightened. We not only fear for our own books, but for other writers’ books since we are all voracious readers.

    The only realistic weapon in our arsenal is to make readers realize that ebook theft is not only wrong, it is hurting them because writers who can’t make enough money to justify the time, expense, and difficulties of writing and publishing stop writing. I know really good writers who have had some success become so disheartened that they just walk away from their careers.

    Words have always been writers most powerful weapon so don’t expect us to shut up about this issue.

  49. @Marilynn True, you have not said anything about DRM, but your arguments sure sounded in favor of it, which is why I did not think you understood technology, but I am glad you understand that much.

    As to your statement about not condemning readers, just read over your comments again because it certainly sounds that way. On the other hand, it looks like you definitely do not seem like a jerk, if what you say what you are doing is true.

    As for not asking them to be stolen, that is quite impossible because rules and laws do not about those that are dishonest to begin with, as I said in my previous comment to you. O’Reilly media and Baen books are pirated too, but they do not care because the profits made from paying readers is more than enough for them and they both state as much.

    In regards to your reply to my comments on fairy tales, I’ll take a look at the link, but my statement still stands that the people that originally made those stories did not expect any monetary gain, which possible exception of Hans Christian Andersen and his Little Mermaid, since Project Gutenberg says it is in Public Domain and they do not accept self-published work. If that were not the case, how come can Beauty & the Beast be traced to two early works, neither of which can be determined the original? It’s not whether not it can be copyrighted. A writer should be happy that their work is being spread. I feel that writers should not write with the goal money and that being their only source. That also applies to your comments on ebook theft.

    Speaking of your comments on ebook theft, the pirate sites are all the data you have. However, that does not include those that do not distribute the ebooks for free. For example, one can buy a Kindle ebook (MOBI or KF8) and put it on their device. Some time goes by and they get a different device and that device does not have the official app for Amazon either pre-installed or available to download, which would be quite a rare occurrence these days, how would they be able to read it? With your books, since you say they are DRM-free, that should not be much of an issue, but for the vast majority of titles, it will be because no software other than Amazon’s supports the encryption used. Same could be said for Nook books, though Aldiko reportedly works with EPUBs from them. In the vast majority of cases, and I will exempt you again, the user will either need to pay for the ebook again, which many of the traditional writers and publishers would want, or crack the encryption.

    Yes, words are a writer’s most powerful tool but in this day and age where there are writers that write for sake of money, instead of writing because they want to spread their stories to other people, people not going to believe you until publishers and writers realize what Baen and O’Reilly media have, which I assume that you have yourself.

  50. Here’s a simple story. Title: Played
    Narrative: Once upon a time there was a very small town, so small there was only one lawyer. That lawyer was very poor. Then there came another lawyer and, soon, both lawyers became be very wealthy. The end.
    Discussion: What happened to cause this?
    Lawyers need adversaries. Once they have one or more of them, its simply a matter of finding people with a grievance and playing that up. Then you send a nasty letter to the presumed source of that grievance. That will surely invoke the presence of another lawyer who will play up that side of the argument. Game on.
    Moral of the story: There are lots of people trying to “play” us. The pirates, the lawyers, the publishers who would rather have subservient and dependent writers in their stables and so on.

    Aside: You might wonder why I included pirates in that mix. Here’s why. These are con artists. They are running a multifaceted con that involves click-fraud, bot net farming and the big con which is selling the operation to another con artist. Nothing is what it seems. Everything is an illusion. Your book is but an expendable pawn in this game and your ire is actually fuel for the confidence engine.

  51. Bryce, if I sound condemning of readers who are stealing books and not buying them, I think I can afford offending them because they offer those of us in publishing nothing but acid indigestion and anger. They also hurt those of us who are readers by being parasites on a system that is struggling to survive.

    I am very familiar with Baen’s attitudes toward ebooks. Since they moved to North Carolina, some of their staff and a bunch of their writers attend my home con, Stellarcon, and I have been on more than one panel with their ebook expert and senior staff. A few years ago, their senior ebook expert said that ebooks would not be a major part of their income for many years to come. That’s why they had such a casual attitude toward having their ebooks thrown all over the pirate sites and why they were offering free backlist ebooks of all their authors.

    I warned them that “many years to come” was at most a few years, and I’ve been proven right. It remains to be seen whether they’ll rue the day that they gave away their backlist which is a steady income producer for most publishers and authors, but I’m certain they are praying to the gods of science fiction that the market and marketplace for paper books remains, or they are screwed royally.

    One thing you must understand about the economics of publishing is that the smallest are hurt the worst by pirates. A rich man who has $500 stolen only faces a mild inconvenience, a poor person risks losing their home or being unable to buy groceries. The big publishers have a hedge against loss by theft because of their big incomes and the large number of writers and books which help even out some of the loss.

    A small publisher lacks both of those hedges. The average writer has absolutely no hedge against loss.

    Authors and publishers who have a secondary or primary market in paper have a hedge that those in only epublishing do not.

    The tipping point of not surviving the theft is not that far away for the little guys.

    One of the sad things in this is that the Internet and ebooks have been a way for niche writers and niche readers to write and read books that the big publishers don’t see as profitable. These niche dwellers may soon find that the market will dry up because of the lack of profit.

    The only hope we have is that enough people will recognize that ebook theft is not okay, and that they are hurting themselves in the long term and authors in the short term so publishing will stay alive.

    I always laugh when a non-writer talks about how all of us writers will keep writing for the “joy of writing.”

    Let me think, should I spend years learning the craft, take hundreds if not thousands of hours away from my family and my own pleasures, spend thousands of dollars on education, then even more money to promote my books so my “fans” can treat me like a slave by not respecting me or my work by stealing it? Only a masochistic fool will keep writing with those results.

    And, you really should read my article on creativity. Most of your assumptions are completely wrong.

    Also, FYI, I am an ebook pioneer of over a dozen years, I’m expert on the publishing aspects of it, I was an expert on libraries and ebooks before most librarians knew what they were, I’ve been chatting on this forum for years, and I’ve been a publishing news junkie for over thirty years. So, no, I’m not some newbie idiot spouting nonsense on a subject she knows little about.

  52. Nice story, Frank, but there are pirates and then there are pirates.

    The major or professional pirates make their money running the sites that make all the money. The amateur pirates are the ones who upload and download all the books on those sites.

    Most of us in publishing know that there’s no talking to the professional pirates because they are major criminals. We don’t bother. Instead, we sent the FBI, other assorted agencies, and the players with the big legal funds like Disney and JK Rowling after them.

    The amateur pirates who are fueled by immaturity, emotional issues and other petty reasons we ignore because they aren’t worth trading barbs with. We use takedown notices for them.

    The casual pirates who should know better can sometimes be reasoned with, and we are happy to talk to them. If that doesn’t work, we send takedown notices until they drown under them.

    Knowing where and when to use ire saves lots of time, money, and words helps a bunch.

  53. @Marilynn And there you go again, making assumptions about me, just like I made assumptions about you, and then gave you the benefit of the doubt with the data you provided about yourself. There is a reason I do not boast about things outside of the knowledge I gained from studying Information Technology. Do you know why? Because even though IT is what I majored in, there isn’t a single thing I put my entire focus on to making a living that is why. Out of all four books listed under my writer profile on Goodreads, although only two books were rated, both got five stars and only one was from somebody I did know, because I know for a fact that the one I did know is not in the habit of creating multiple accounts at sites. Also, after an aunt got one of my stories, one of her grandkids read it and took it to school and praised. Another time, another relative got at least one of my stories and I somehow got word that somebody at a school was interested. You call that not being a writer? Yes, you can call of those hearsay, but so is your evidence for how piracy hurts writers. Yes, writing is not my main source of income, but neither is anything else, such and iOS and Android programming and onsite troubleshooting for computers, with potential that somebody who has tons of experience and has Microsoft certification, as well as A+, can confirm. I guess that, unlike me, your assumptions don’t change based on new data.

    As for your comments, regarding that writers do not continue to write for the joy of it, I guess that is the reason why John Grisham and them have been going downhill. After all, I know somebody who liked John Grisham, but noticed a decline in quality. However, experience blinds people to truth, just as much, if not more so than ignorance. Just like I have most likely revealed my form greed, you have shown your greed, the same form greed that every pro writers suffers from called pride. Being a writer, you should understand that what Christians call the seven deadly sins is really just one item with all the other six being a sub item either because it is a form of that item or it cannot exist in darkness without it. Even if there have been a lot of times, you are bound by your mortality be wrong at some point. All I know, is that I doubt that the point when a writers becomes obsessed with money over writing for the heck of that they will enjoy it or produce good stories anymore, just like almost every movie in America is terrible because it lacks a story.

    As for the link that you keep referring to, as well as the fact that you look down on me for my inexperience, just like I looked down on you for appearing to not understand technology or even thinking that achieving 0% piracy is more possible than having 100% of your target audience buying your work , I cannot really take that link as truth. I sure do not link to sites or servers I run in discussions like this because I know that I do not know everything and such linking is not credible, but the basic knowledge I have gained. I will give you credit in that article though that people definitely inspired by other works and ideas, but thinking your experience outweighs my secenarios sure tells me that you forgot that experience is not everything.

  54. @ Howard observed, “Frank – you really have to laugh don’t you … you would learn more from reading Alice in Wonderland.”
    What an apt comparison.
    Of course crying would be an equally appropriate reaction. The summary execution that is a “takedown notice” illustrates how filthy lucre has overtaken even the temple of literature where we thought that truth had safe harbor. A takedown notice has the effect of judge and jury finding for the plaintiff, all without the inconvenience of a trial, all without the inconvenience of due process.
    What have we sold for those few shekels enumerated in our royalty reports?

  55. Frank:: indeed.

    Alice: “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see? ”


    “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it”

  56. Pride? For stating my credentials in a matter-of-fact way when you questioned my knowledge?

    I thought about that while I ate supper and decided I don’t feel any particular pride about that part of my life when I acquired so much knowledge and history in the early days of ebooks. I’m not ashamed of it, but I have no real pride.

    I have plenty of regret because I should have been concentrating on my writing career rather than helping to build the ebook market one reader at a time. That did sh*t little good for my career.

    Damn us writers all you want when we decide that the price is higher than the reward. You’ve not been there when we work so hard for so many years then watch that work stolen. Or we are brutalized by the business. Or the arrogant insults of the readers.

    You’ve not been there when we offer free stuff, see thousands of hits at our websites a month, then not receive more than a few thank you notes in a year’s time and most of those want some help with their own writing. The blank nothingness of an ungrateful audience offers very little incentive to keep writing for free.

    If most of us writers were obsessed with money, we’d spend the time we write working at a second or third job or buying lottery tickets. Both offer considerably more money or a chance at a big payoff than a writing career for a vast majority of us.

    And you still haven’t bothered to read that article on creativity. If you had, you’d know why I think you have the wrong idea of what is and isn’t copyrighted which you stated in detail.

  57. There are hundreds of thousands of ebooks on the market that are vastly overpriced. There are hundreds of thousands of others that are cheap or free but still not worth reading. The ebook era has seen untold numbers of low talent “authors” crawl out from well deserved obscurity and bombard unsuspecting readers with painfully poor prose.

    The main effect it’s having on me is to drive me back to the classics. The wife was watching Jane Eyre on Netflix the other day and it occurred to me that I never actually read that fine novel. Off to Project Gutenberg I went. While I was there I grabbed a few other interesting older books.

    What really pisses me off is that virtually nothing new will ever enter the public domain. Corporate driven copyright extension means that great literature that should revert to the public in a timely fashion is now locked under copyright for the obscene term of 70 years after the death of the author.

    The Founding Fathers wrote in the Constitution that copyright was for a “limited term” and set the original copyright length at 14 years with registration. They would be rolling in their grave to see our modern automatic no registration copyright that often stretches well over 100 years. But in modern America we don’t really have culture. We just have lots of stuff for sale.

  58. FYI, Binko, a publishing company is currently in the process of inserting erotic scenes in great classics like JANE EYRE in the same way as some have inserted zombies and vampires. Soon, Jane will be having girl on girl action with her dying school friend and her teachers, and she and Mr. Rochester will be screwing like porn bunnies. Another great example of how public domain has “enriched” current culture.

    As a former high school and college literature teacher, I seriously doubt that many will go back to the classics. Even books as accessible to modern readers as JANE EYRE make most kids run screaming to their video games and copies of TWILIGHT because classics are too hard to read and are boring.

  59. The publishers arguments regarding copyright infringements are vacuous, as it is the publishers themselves who are primarily responsible for limiting authors incomes from sales. Publishers actively limit the distribution of books by region, and distribution chain, and price. Few authors promoted by publishers ever sell more than 100,000 copies because it is not in they listers interest to place all authors on a level field. Authors who complain about illegal distribution to millions of readers are both ignorant and gullible and serve the publisher more than themselves.
    If only 1% of those millions of readers (who would not otherwise have access to the authors work) then go on to purchase a legal copy (having migrated to another region where the price is favourable) then then author has gained via so called illegal distribution.
    The issue is that publishers will need to cut the fat out of their distribution chains, and get with the new opportunities provided by a networked world. It is always more profitable to sell items at an affordable price, to a larger market, than to go overboard marketing an overpriced item into a small saturated market. The problem is that many publishers wish to maintain the margins of yesteryear, on books that were written decades ago, by dead authors -hence life+70.
    Authors need to wake up and renegotiate publishing contracts to suit contemporary cultural realities.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail