The relationship between copyright protection and piracy:
Do I Need Copyright Protection?
Before I get into this post I wanted to clarify a few things.
Because one of the most common questions I get from my clients is “how do I copyright my book?”, to which my response is – you don’t. You do not need to.
This leaves them confused, so I elaborate by saying that once you create your works and you put those works online, they automatically have copyright protection.
For peace of mind, you can put the copyright symbol (©), your name and year of creation somewhere on it, too. But with or without this, you are still protected. There is no copyright fee or transaction you need to make to receive this protection.
However, as the conversation goes on I discover that my clients’ actual concern was piracy. Piracy when hiring and piracy when selling ebooks, specifically. And sadly, while copyright covers you legally, it actually does nothing to deter or stop pirates!
Having been in the game for a while I am convinced that if it is online and somebody is determined to get it, one way or another they will. Don’t be too disheartened, though, there are still many things we can and should exercise to prevent and minimise any damages piracy might cause.
What piracy costs publishers each year
Imagine spending months researching about a topic that you are passionate about, spending a long time writing a book around those ideas, going through an excruciating editing process, and then finally publishing your book online – only for someone to make pirated copies and distribute it all over the internet for free. You would want to pull out all of your hair, wouldn’t you?
As painful and soul-destroying as it may sound, eBook piracy and the illegal distribution of eBooks on the internet is more common than people think. A 2017 Nielson consumer survey reported that publishers lose $315 million in lost sales every year due to eBook piracy. To put this scenario into perspective, think of a business owner who gets $315 million worth of goods stolen from his warehouse over a year – without ever even finding out about it.
Of course, this does not mean that you should let go of any plans that you had to self-publish your book online through digital channels; we are all still here cracking on and making new books so it cannot be all bad!
Note: I must add, that the people who will download your book illegally were never going to buy it anyway. People spend money on things they value – and you will have plenty of customers who value your work and will also leave you a glowing review afterwards!
The rise of eBooks and self-publishing has been a much-needed breakthrough for writers and publishers. It has allowed the distribution of content at an unprecedented scale, and essentially ‘democratized’ publishing.
So let me show you the measures that will help you to reap the benefits of your hard work and help to protect your eBooks from being copied. Implementing these should ease you mind a little so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the hard-earned cash your eBooks rake in!
7 Tips To Prevent eBook Piracy
#1: Use a Digital Rights Management software
A Digital Rights Management (DRM) service will take your eBook and place it in a safe and secure location behind an encrypted ‘gateway’.
How will this prevent the theft of your eBooks? Anyone who wants to access your eBook will be issued a unique authentication key that cannot be transferred to anyone else. They will not be able to download it to their devices and will have to log in to a secure environment (that grants access to your eBook) every time they want to read it.
#2: Register Your eBooks
Let’s say that you end up catching someone copying and re-publishing your eBook under a different name and that you want to sue them in court. How will you prove that you are indeed the actual owner of the eBook?
This is why some people choose to get their eBook legally registered under their name so that in the eyes of the law, they are the actual owner of the eBook. Once you’ve secured the copyright, you can easily sue anyone you catch illegally distributing your eBook across the internet.
However, as mentioned before this is not a must – please see here for more information on what the laws are in your country and state.
#3: Let everyone know who’s boss
There’s a reason the law prescribes strict punishments for crimes – these are meant to act as deterrents. You can do something similar by making a public announcement about your copyright claim to the eBook and adding a ‘Copyright’ page to the start of your eBook.
This way, anyone who is in the business of piracy will think twice before copying your eBook – they will know that if they try to touch your work, you will come at them with the force of law behind you.
#4: Watermark your eBooks
There are 2 ways to go about this. The first one involves watermarking the personal details of anyone who purchases your eBook to the digital copy they receive. No one will take the risk of distributing this copy through illegal means if they know it contains their personal information and could potentially lead to them getting caught and sued.
Note: You can only do this if you are selling from your own site as there are plugins you can enable to do this automatically when a customer buys and downloads a book. This is not an option on things like Amazon KDP howver they do have DRM protection inbuilt (Kindle books are very difficult to pirate).
The other way is to watermark your name all over the document. Watermarks are digital signatures and so cannot be removed from a document, and so it will be impossible to infringe and copy an eBook that has your name plastered all over it.
#5: Only share PDF versions of your eBook
The text editors and word processors we use to write and format eBooks are incredibly vulnerable. If they get in the hands of people with ill intent, they can easily copy everything and infringe on your copyrights.
You can prevent this from happening by making sure that you convert your documents to the PDF format before you send them to anyone, even your publisher. However, sometimes it’s not enough to just use the PDF format – pirates have become quite technologically adept.
This is where the PDF format will save your day again – you can put in place several controls and restrictions in your files such as restricting editing, copying, and reading options. With these measures in place, you will have an encrypted document that is safe to transfer over the internet.
#6: Issue unique passwords
If your eBook is lying armour-less on a web page, anyone who happens to come across it will be able to download it and use it for whatever purpose they have in mind. However, if you put the download option behind a password, you can prevent this from happening.
Every time someone purchases your eBook, you will email them a unique password that will allow them one-time access to the download option. Note that even though this will protect you from downloads from unknown users, those who buy your eBook can still share it around with family and friends.
#7: File a DMCA complaint
Let’s say that you’ve found a website that is illegally distributing your eBook for free. What do you do? One method is to sue them in court (like I mentioned above), but what if you don’t know who is behind that website?
You can file a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notice and then sit back and relax. The DMCA authority will, upon verification, contact the website illegally distributing your eBook and ask it to remove it from the website. If they do not act accordingly, the DMCA will get their website shut down for copyright infringement.
You should take every possible measure that you can to make sure your eBook remains safe from pirates and illegal distributors on the internet. After all, it takes a gigantic amount of effort to write a high-quality eBook.
I hope my list of ways to protect your eBooks will prove to be incredibly helpful to you. Keep writing awesome eBooks!