You haven’t offered it free on Amazon or any of the other sites selling your e-book, and no one has asked your permission to do so. You are a victim of e-book piracy. You are shocked, angry. How did they get a copy? Did they hack into the Library of Congress Copyright Office, Bowker, or one of the sites selling your e-book? What will people who have bought the e-book think of you?
It’s done; it’s there. What can you do about it? The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides you with the means to remedy this infringement of your copyright: The DMCA Takedown Notice. The webhost is legally required to takedown the offending site. This notice can be used for any infringement of your copyright, whether it is a portion of your book, an article on your blog, or one of your photographs. Following are sites that provide you with a template of the takedown notice form and background on the Act.
Ah, but then you learn that the webhost is in Poland or some other place outside of the U.S. (and sometimes it’s difficult to find who the webhost is despite looking for the information on WHOIS). If this is the case, you are dependent on the good graces of that host because webhosts in other countries are not bound by it. Your only recourse is a lawsuit. Frankly, it’s not worth it. You could, however, send the DMCA Takedown Notice to U.S. search engines like Google who are listing the URL of the piracy site.
Another protection for digital products (e-books, music, etc.) has recently evolved. According to “E-Books & Evolving Law” by Steve Gillen, an article in the June 2013 IBPA magazine Independent, the first-sale doctrine does not apply to e-books. (First sale means once a book has been purchased, the buyer is free to resell it at a deep discount because the buyer owns the book.) The Supreme Court has recently determined that since a physical item cannot be transmitted over the Internet, and an e-book is not a physical item, and e-books use a licensing business model, the first-sale doctrine does not apply. Any reselling, copying, etc. of the e-book is an infringement of the author’s copyright. The article provides an example of an end-user license agreement and suggests that publishers advise their retail customers at the time of purchase that they are getting a license to the digital book, not ownership of a digital copy.
I suggest you read the article in its entirety. In fact, even if you’re not an independent publisher or self-publisher, you may find many perks in joining the IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association). Explore the IBPA website at www.ibpa-online.org.
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