How many writers put the title(s) of their book(s) in a search engine and check the results?
Mostly these results are for legitimate book sellers, reviews and publicity notices but occasionally a result is a link to a site offering a free download. Whenever I find such a site, I send a DMCA notice to both the search engine and the site itself. From experience, the sites generally ignore DMCA notices but search engines comply. This means the site still offers a free download but it’s harder to find because it’s been removed from search engine results pages.
I only target sites that are offering an unauthorised download of the whole book, in breach of copyright and breaking the law.
Why bother to try and stop unauthorised free downloads?
- The site has not bothered to ask permission from my publisher or myself, therefore, how much care has gone into the products it’s offering?
- I will not have seen the copy being offered as download so don’t know what quality it is – is it a properly formatted file or hastily scanned pages?
- Is the format in the downloadable file the same as in the published book? How sure are you that you can read the poems in the layout the poet intended for them to be read? Line endings, stanza breaks, where the text is positioned on the page are hugely important in poetry and any deviation from the original text can put a completely different context on a poem.
- Is it complete or are there pages missing?
- Has the file corrupted?
- Is it actually being used as a vehicle for downloading a virus or malware?
- Is it not a free sample – it’s allegedly the whole book so it not comparable to offering an extract as a free sample to entice readers to buy the book.
- Reviewers can ask for a free copy so don’t need to risk downloading a dodgy version.
- Some who have purchased a legitimate copy will loan it to friends who may or may not buy their own copy, however, this is done on a small scale and does not have much effect on overall sales.
- Those who have downloaded a free copy will not go and buy a legitimate copy – it’s human nature to love a bargain and the consequences of obtaining things for free or reduced prices are not always thought through.
- If someone can’t afford a copy, joining a local library is free and libraries can make a copy available.
- I have no objection to someone who has purchased a legitimate copy wanting the book they’ve bought in a different format – on some occasions it’s easier to read a printed copy and on others it’s easier to read via an electronic device but a copy of the book has still been bought.
- The availability of free downloads undermines the value of the book itself – why pay for something when someone else can provide it for free?
- Those who argue that eBooks are cheap and easy to produce overlook the fact there can’t be an eBook unless there is a manuscript to create an eBook from. Creating that manuscript will not have been cheap and easy for the poet. If you like the poet’s work, buying a book is a good way of showing support.
- If you don’t like the poet’s work, why are you wasting time and storage space downloading a file for the sake of it? There are no ‘biggest illegal library’ awards.