There’s been a lot of talk about book piracy lately. It’s a topic that resurfaces from time to time, as newer authors or bigger authors discover that it’s happened to them and turn to the internet to ask why it’s happened and how to stop it.
Piracy of entertainment will unfortunately never be completely stopped. There are valid reasons people pirate entertainment, and there’s not so valid reasons. We’re not going to talk about any of those reasons.
Instead, we’re going to talk about what author’s can do WHEN (not if) your book shows up on a pirating site. This is not a post that will condemn or praise piracy. This is an informative post that will go through US copyright laws, DMCA protections, and where to go to send takedown requests if you want.
This is a compilation of my own research and time. My sources are documented in links where relevant, and if you have questions, please feel free to email me.
DISCLAIMERS and NOTES
I want to make it clear that you will have your book pirated. It happens to all authors, so understanding the process going into publishing will help. It’s emotional, it hurts, and take the time to process your feelings about it, but understand you’re not alone, and you do have some recourse. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to work through it.
This post will be especially important if your ebook is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, which requires exclusivity. Amazon is staunchly protective of this and will actively seek out your book on other sites and inform you that you’re breaking the terms of your KDP Select contract.
If you’re not enrolled in KDP Select and have no exclusivity contracts, some authors choose to not bother with takedowns at all. That’s a personal decision, and I’m not going to advise one way or another.
But if you’re in KDP Select, you have to be able to prove to Amazon that you’re actively trying to get the pirated copies removed, otherwise they will find you in breach of contract (because you are) and will either remove your books from KDP Select, or terminate your entire KDP account.
So, if you’re in KU, or if you’re not and you just don’t want your book being pirated, here’s what you can do.
Note: This is not a guarantee that following these steps will get your book removed or keep you in Amazon’s good graces. A lot (most) of these sites are operated in countries with very lax piracy/copyright laws and what they’re doing is not illegal there. However, if you can prove to Amazon that you’ve taken the required steps to get your content removed, it usually satisfies them. Usually.
Disclaimer: The information in this post is based on US copyright laws.
What IS COPYRIGHT?
Copyright is the assertion that you own the work you created and that other people are not allowed to take that work and use it for any purpose that you do not grant permission for.
In regards to books specifically, it means that others cannot take, copy, reproduce, or sell your book without your express permission.
In the US (again, this entire post is based on US copyright laws), you hold the copyright of your creative project from the moment you write it. This is referred to as inherent copyright.
That being said, if you plan to publish said creative project, it’s highly recommended to pay the fee and file for a US Copyright Certificate. This is physical, tangible proof that you hold the copyright, rather than just your word that you’re the one who created it. It also gives you a registration number and is filed in the US Copyright database.
While there are places and sites that will file your copyright for you, I recommend just going through the copyright.gov site and doing it yourself. This way, you have all the control over your information. (Plus, it’s usually cheaper too because you’re not paying a middleman to do it for you)
Copyrighting one work typically costs $65 if you go directly through the US copyright office. I recommend filing before your physical book is published, because then you can just submit your ebook for the record, and you don’t have to mail them a physical copy. If you file after, they will give you instructions and a shipping label to send your book in for record keeping purposes. (You can also get a Library of Congress number at the same time, but that’s another post)
DIGITAL Millennium COPYRIGHT ACT (DMCA)
This act is the protections provided by law for copyright holders to pursue action against those who infringe upon that copyright. This is a US law, but it’s upheld by several other countries through various treaties.
The DMCA criminalizes:
- Production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted works (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM)
- The act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself
- Heightens the penalties for copyright infringement
So, how do you use the DMCA to go after pirating sites to have them take your book down? I’m glad you asked.
Under the DMCA, copyright holders are allowed to send takedown notices to sites stating that they, in good faith, believe their copyright has been infringed upon and requesting the infringing material be removed.
Also under the DMCA, there are provisions that copyright holders may not abuse the takedown notices, and that if takedown notices are determined as fraudulent, action could be taken against them.
The DMCA does provide certain exemptions, including: books that are no longer in print, books that restrict control access (DRM) to assistive technology, books with content regarding medical devices implanted in the body, as well as other exemptions for various types of content.
You can read all the details about the DMCA here.
THE General PROCESS
When you find your book on a pirating site (and this is a matter of when, not if), what do you do?
- Find the site
- Do not click or download anything to verify the file is actually there or not. You see it, you want it down, that’s enough. Grab the URL of the page showing your book, and put it in a note or somewhere easy to grab later.
- Go to the sites contact page. They may have a Contact/About/DMCA page, go to one of those and find an email address. Some sites will try to hide these, but all will have one somewhere.
- Go to your official author email and email them. Some may ask for proof you hold the copyright. This is where that copyright certificate comes in handy. If you registered with the US copyright office, provide them the registration # and the link to the .gov copyright database search (see my template below for an example)
- In the meantime, complete a Google Search Results takedown request to get the link removed from the Google results and fill out their forms to get the search results removed from showing (template and link below)
- If the book is still up after your email, you may follow up on your request with another email. However, it’s likely they will not respond if they haven’t already.
- If you would like to take further action, you also have the following options in no particular order (US based solutions):
- Get an IP lawyer (some cities have volunteer lawyers for authors for this purpose)
- If you’re a member of the Author’s Guild, they provide legal services to members as part of the membership fee.
- Write a letter to the closest FBI Field office (note that a single complaint likely won’t result in action, but if there are a lot of complaints, it may prompt action)
- Report the site to your state’s Consumer Fraud division of the Attorney General’s Office (same disclaimer as the FBI one)
- File a complaint with the BBB
- File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center or the National Fraud Information Center
- File a claim through the Copyright Claims Board
- An important note about the CCB: this is a new process and is largely untested. Their requirements and processes are still being refined. Read this article from Writer’s Beware to learn more.
I want all authors to understand that you may not be able to get your book removed, even if you take all of the above steps.
Again, some of these sites exist in countries with very lax copyright laws and what they’re doing is legal there, so they will ignore your emails.
Make sure you keep ALL of the documentation proving that you have attempted to get the content removed.
TEMPLATES and OTHER RESOURCES
I’ve put together some templates you can use if you’re overwhelmed and don’t know what to write. These comply with the DMCA standards for sending takedown requests.
If the website has a form instead of just an email (for instance, Soundcloud or Apple), those fields will correspond to what you see in the template.
My name is AUTHOR NAME and I am the author and copyright holder of the book BOOK TITLE. Your website or a website that your company hosts (according to WHOIS information) is infringing on at least one copyright owned by myself. You can find evidence of my copyright here (under registration number REG#).
An eBook was copied onto your servers without my permission. The original eBook, to which I own the exclusive copyrights, can be found at:
LINK TO AMAZON OR OTHER AUTHORIZED STOREFRONT
The unauthorized and infringing copy can be found at:
LINK TO UNAUTHORIZED CONTENT PAGE
This letter is official notification under Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (”DMCA”), and I seek the removal of the aforementioned infringing material from your servers. I request that you immediately notify the infringer of this notice and inform them of their duty to remove the infringing material immediately, and notify them to cease any further posting of infringing material to your server in the future.
Please also be advised that law requires you, as a service provider, to remove or disable access to the infringing materials upon receiving this notice. Under US law a service provider, such as yourself, enjoys immunity from a copyright lawsuit provided that you act with deliberate speed to investigate and rectify ongoing copyright infringement. If service providers do not investigate and remove or disable the infringing material this immunity is lost. Therefore, in order for you to remain immune from a copyright infringement action you will need to investigate and ultimately remove or otherwise disable the infringing material from your servers with all due speed should the direct infringer, your client, not comply immediately.
I am providing this notice in good faith and with the reasonable belief that rights I own are being infringed. Under penalty of perjury I certify that the information contained in the notification is both true and accurate, and I have the authority to act as the owner of the copyright(s) involved.
Should you wish to discuss this with me please contact me directly.
GOOGLE SEARCH RESULT TAKEDOWN:
The link to the takedown request form can be found here.
Description: My copyrighted book, BOOK TITLE, is being infringed by being offered for free at this URL, beginning with the text “[insert first line of book or blurb.]” My book is copyrighted with the US copyright office under registration number [INSERT REGISTRATION NUMBER].
Authorized URL: [insert authorized storefront link]
Infringing URL: [insert infringing link]
APPLE DMCA TAKEDOWN:
If you find your KU book on Apple books, complete this form to submit a DMCA takedown request:
It will ask for the same information from both the email and Google, including your contact info, a link to an authorized storefront, and the link to the infringing content.
Document submission of the forms (screenshot) and any response from Apple to submit to Amazon if needed.
Note: Several authors have previously tried to sue Apple for lost royalties from the pirated copy’s sales. Thus far, all have been unsuccessful.
SOUNDCLOUD DMCA TAKEDOWN:
Soundcloud has increasingly become a hot pirating site, with pirates putting the download links to epubs or pdfs in the description of the track. If you’ve never heard of Soundcloud, it’s a very large, very reputable music sharing platform.
To submit a Soundcloud copyright claim, you have to have a Soundcloud account, and then you can click on the track to report.
It will take you to this form: https://soundcloud.com/pages/copyright/report/form
From there, it will ask you for similar information as the Apple form. Take screenshots of the success pages.
Soundcloud will not email you that the removal was successful, you will have to check for yourself, so keep track of the URLs and tracks you’ve reported. Typically, if they’re going to remove them they will within 48 hours.
A Note: I’ve seen a lot of people…outraged (?) that Soundcloud and Apple ask for “personal information” to confirm you are the copyright holder. I hate to tell you this, but they don’t know you. They need that information to check against the copyright registry and confirm you are who you say you are. They’re not just going to take your word for it. So if you don’t want to give them that info (which is on the copyright registry, just FYI), then maybe you shouldn’t be focusing on DMCA takedowns.
SERVICE PROVIDERS & Outsourcing
More and more, authors simply don’t want to deal with the either time consuming task or emotionally burdening task of seeking out illegally obtained copies of their books and sending takedown requests. So, let’s talk about how to outsource this task if you want to and are able.
Both have mixed reviews from the authors I’ve seen, though Pirat.io does seem to be more favorable. Both sites often miss places in their scans, based on lack of visibility to their AI software, and both are not infallible with getting things taken down.
These sites will find the unauthorized copies and send the takedowns on your behalf, but be under no illusion that these sites will respond any better to them than they would if you were sending them individually. Know that going in. Just because you’re paying them doesn’t mean they’ll be any more successful than you were.
In fact, Muso in particular has some sites that they won’t even try to send DMCAs to anymore because of their “ongoing pattern of non-response.”
Your other option besides these automated sites is to hire a personal/virtual assistant to send the emails for you. If you’re wondering how to find a PA, I will do a post on that soon (if there’s interest), but some good places to start are:
I can also make recommendations for individuals who offer these services if you message me, but I won’t put their names or profile links in a public blog post!
I hope this post was helpful, and as always, please do your own research. If you have questions, please feel free to reach out!