E-publisher E-Reads and the Curtis Agency are launching a joint venture to target pirated e-books uploaded to filesharing sites such as Rapidshare, Megaupload, and so on. The venture uses a search bot to “spider” the Internet to detect unauthorized files based on author’s name. The results are collected on a search page for human users to review in order to issue takedown notices. A recent test detected 3,500 illegally-shared files on a Friday. The process of sending removal orders for them took 45 minutes, and by Monday almost all of them had been removed.

The two companies have begun taking down unauthorized files of clients and “We will also extend, at no charge, antipiracy coverage to all new clients of both firms,” said CEO Richard Curtis. Authors, agents and publishers interested in Muso’s services may enroll by signing up below.  Enrollment with Muso is $15.00 per month per author. In the event that more take-downs are needed, Muso offers them at the rate of $25 per 250. Full disclosure: E-Reads receives a modest fee for referrals.

Authors, agents, and publishers are certainly well within their rights to try to get pirated files taken down. I wonder, though, just how many false positives a system like this is going to generate? I rather doubt they took the time to review every single one of those 3,500 files to make sure they were all the illegitimate files the search bot thought they were. Indeed, with the 45-minute claim, they seem to be pushing the idea that this can be done lightning-fast. And that reminds me of something Mitch Radcliffe once said: “A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than almost any invention in history, with the possible exception of tequila and handguns.”

This is the kind of thinking that led in 2007 to the SFWA issuing a mistakenly-broad DMCA takedown that affected many legitimate files, including some of Cory Doctorow’s famously free e-books. The SFWA hastily apologized, but nonetheless reinstated Andrew Burt, the man responsible for the takedown, as its copyright committee chairman after just a couple of months.

I suppose that charging the authors, agents, and publishers monthly and per-takedown fees does shift the cost of fighting piracy away from the publishers doing the searching, and offering it for free to new clients is a way to attract new business. But given how links proliferate, how far is that money going to go for authors?

Those 3,500 illegally-shared files would have cost an author $350 to get taken down. Granted, those files represented multiple authors, but I have little doubt that some authors could hit that number by themselves, as people re-upload their works over time if nothing else. And given that there’s conflicting evidence over whether piracy actually harms sales (and some feel it actually helps), that’s money out of the author’s, agent’s, or publisher’s pocket that may not even buy any positive results.

And, of course, it doesn’t do anything about BitTorrent piracy.

(Found via GalleyCat.)


  1. Hooray, thanks to this service we can finally rid the internet of the scourge of instantly replicable text files. Authors: If you’re even *considering* giving these guys your money, please drop me a line first, I have a bridge to sell you.

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