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Sunday, 1 July 2018

Copyright ... and the mealy-mouthed way that so-called 'free download' websites deal with infringements

My recent difficulty regarding the infringement of the copyright of my most recent book by Yelich Mulac has led me into contact with the murky world of 'free download' websites ... and the mealy-mouthed way that they deal with copyright infringements.


It appears that these websites will blithely host all manner of 'free downloads' without having to check that any copyright exists on what they are making available. They 'rely' on their 'contributors' or 'members' to do that, and then try to argue that they have acted in good faith. To get an illegal download removed, it is up to the copyright holder or their agent to submit a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Notice to each hosting website before the review process can begin prior to the possible removal of the download.

A typical DCMA Notice has to contain the following information:
My name is (My name) and I am the author of (Name of book). A website that your company hosts is infringing at least one copyright owned by me.

The text of (Name of book) was copied onto your servers without my permission. The original book, to which I own the exclusive copyright, can be found at (URL of my author's page with Lulu.com)

The unauthorised and infringing copy can be found at (URL of website where free download is available)

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 on behalf of the owner of the copyright(s) involved.

Should you wish to discuss this with me please contact me directly.

Thank you.

(My name, address, and email address)

A search of the Internet revealed that every single book I have written, including some that are no longer in print, has been turned into a 'free download' by someone, and that the hosting websites are spread all over the world. The thought of having to track down each one and then send them a DMCA Notice almost made me give up ... and then Antoine Vanner came to my rescue.

Antoine Vanner is a fellow author, and the creator of the excellent BRITANNIA'S ... series of novels about Nicholas Dawlish. Antoine recommended that I try BLASTY, a service that monitors the Internet for any possible illegal downloads of books etc., and which then allows an author to send batches of DMCA Notices to websites that are hosting the downloads. As I write this blog entry, BLASTY has so far identified nearly two hundred such websites, and I am giving very serious thought to signing up with them. It will not be cheap to do so, but the end result could be very, very satisfying.

Please note that the basic text of the DMCA quoted above was provided by IPWatchdog.com.

26 comments:

  1. It's a result. Copyright is an economic thing - now the calculaton is 'is it economically more viable to just let it go or sign up.'

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    Replies
    1. Rob Young,

      Very true. It is something that I have to consider in terms of financial cost and time expended ... especially as I suspect that trying to stop one 'free download' will only move the problem elsewhere.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. The effort required to take back your IP seems daunting. As Rob points out, the economic effort may exceed a publication’s NPV. Has this episode altered your position on publishing eBooks?

    There is one, well known website that republishes uniform plates from many books. I continue to wonder how he gets away with this.

    This is so disappointing to witness.

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    Replies
    1. Jonathan Freitag,

      If I use BLASTY - which costs $7.99 per month - it will monitor and blast any websites with relevant DMCA Notices. This seems what I need ... but I have to offset the annual cost of BLASTY against the estimated loss in sales. As the average return on each book I sell is approximately £1.00, I'd have to sell six more books per month to cover the cost of BLASTY.

      It us something I am going to give serious thought to. In the meantime I'm certainly going to continue to publish my books in eBook format

      Websites that publish other people's work without permission are just electronic thieves, and deserve to be punished.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. Bob,
    I find this all very disturbing that all your books have been turned into 'free downloads' on the internet...unreal situation which isn't easily fixed. Sounds like a huge scam to get your money to fix it all up. Thank goodness for your Hard Backed Books and Soft Backs- at least they are not being physically copied for sale. Regards. KEV.

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    1. Kev Robertson,

      As I have outlined in some of my earlier replies to comments, I have a dilemma; do I live with the problem and accept that it is going to happen regards of what I do, or do I take poitive action using BLASTY or something similar?

      As eBooks sell as well - if not better - than the paperback editions of my books, I will continue to publish my books in eBook format, but encourage purchasers to buy the printed versions.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  4. 200 download sights … that makes me sigh. Am I right in thinking that Blasty just discovers sites and then sends notices to providers, after that, you are simply HOPING for compliance and I presume there is a delay anyway while the provider looks into the matter to check out both sides of the tale. If the notices are ignored, what happens then? It seems it is against that background that the relative value and effectiveness of that £7.99 per month sits.

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    1. Norm,

      BLASTY finds the sites and will then - when I have checked them - send DMCA notices to them. The sites SHOULD then remove the offending files. The person who uploaded the file originally has a right of appeal ... but they have to show that their upload was licensed/approved by me.

      I understand from another author who recommended BLASTY to me that it does work.

      I'm not sure if I will use BLASTY as I need to work out if it makes economic sense to do so.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  5. sights !!!!!!! sorry, predictive text, how do you switch it OFF (shouting at screen).

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    Replies
    1. Norm,

      Don't you just love predictive text!

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  6. 200 download sites...blimey. I bet that was hard to take in. I think Norm has a point about hoping for compliance. Sending a DMCA Notice doesn't mean compliance. If you still have to do all the legwork following every notice up that's a lot of admin for you.

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    Replies
    1. Lee Hadley,

      I think that there would be few problems with compliance in the EU and North America, but I'd be less sure that websites that are hosted elsewhere would comply.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  7. Very frustrating. The urge to do something in retaliation against this intellectual theft must be overwhelming. However as many of these sites are outside this country I suspect the odds of more than temporary success must be small. Yet another downside of the internet.

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    1. David Bradley,

      I wish that I could do something that would solve this problem once and for all ... but as another commentator wrote, what I am faced with is the electronic equivalent of whack a mole. Hit one website ... and the upload will appear elsewhere. What I've got to do is either let it get to me ... or learn to live with it.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  8. This happened well before the internet. Back in the day The Courier published a set of ACW ruled entitled On To Richmond. Fire & Fury is derived from that (with permission). The author was putting on a large participation/demo game at his local hobby shop to promote sales (this is in the late 70s, I believe. Of the 12 players who showed up, 7 brought their own xeroxed copies of his rules!!!

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    1. Dick Bryant,

      I bough a copy of both ON TO RICHMOND and FIRE AND FURY ... and thought that the former (which was written by Greg Novak, I seem to remember) was the better of the two.

      Illegal Xerox copies of rules were to found in the UK as well, although very few people tried to see them sell them as genuine.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  9. I wonder if BLASTY is owned/operated by the same people who set up these pirate sites? That's my suspicious mind at work. Maybe better to ignore the sites? The people who download the pirated copies are not going to buy them legally, so you won't get the extra 6 copies sold to them. Perhaps better to write to some representative at the EU and suggest "guys, its time to up the penalties for this sort of fraud."

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    1. Phf,

      I cannot find any link between BLASTY and the offending websites, and as I replied to an earlier comment, it has been recommended to me by another author whose opinion I value.

      The problem with stopping illegal downloads is a workdwide one, and it only needs one country to choose to ignore it to render the efforts of other nations null and void,

      As to the EU doing anything about the problem ... well I don't think that I can wait that long!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  10. Sorry to read all this Bob. It must be very off-putting.

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    1. Maudlin Jack Tar,

      I started off annoyed, then became angry, then vengeful, and now ... well, I'm determined to do something constructive.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  11. The bad part is that copyright, 'intellectual property', patents and such do have to be defended, and that is not easy, not for someone with limited means. It is especially difficult in this milieu. One of the reasons the big noters are quick on the trigger is that, unless defended, such protections can lapse.

    In some circumstances, one can defend use of copyrighted material as 'fair use'. Of course, ripping off someone's entire work with neither acknowledgement nor recompense in NOT 'fair use'. But my using your published rule set, and writing up the game on my blog spot is 'fair use' - or at least, so we imagine!

    The whole area is a can of worms, and only the big corporations have the financial muscle and legal expertise to negotiate it. But that has led us down the the road to 'renting'. In my view, it is possible to demand more than is reasonable from ownership of copyright, patent, etc. Of course, the people in such a position are way out of our league.

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    1. Archduke Piccolo,

      I do feel that the stakes are very much stacked against the person whose copyright has been infringed, particularly in this electronic age. I can state that the copyright is mine, give proof that it is, and notify hosting websites ... but without big money behind me, I have no big stick to wave.

      There is a wealth of difference between 'Fair Usage' and downright and unashamed copying. For example, I have written a short review of a new Oprey book for my blog and included an image of its cover. That is 'Fair Usage' and as I have attributed the book to its author, illustrator, and publisher, I think that I have done all that is required of me. Had I copied all the colour plates and put them online with a 'see what had just been published' without any attribution, that would not have been 'Fair Usage'.

      As far as I am concerned, anyone who writes a battle report that mentions my rules falls under the 'Fair Usage' umbrella, and when they make suggestions regarding changes and amendments, the copyright on those are shared between us ... which is why I always try to mention the names of people who have contributed to the development of my rules.

      I wish that I had a big stick ... but I'm certainly going to try waving a small twig!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  12. Bob, I read these posts with dismay - as someone who has suffered at the hands of copyright thieves in a small way, I can also confirm Blasty works - but its main benefit is the rather empty satisfaction of seeing DCMA notices get sent out, rather than actually increasing sales. Unfortunately there is little in the way of enforcement and those few notices which are complied with are usually replaced on another site within minutes.

    I sell around 10 - 15 copies of my 2mm rules every month, and Blasty membership was very satisfying - as your friend correctly stated, it does work at getting things taken down - but it doesn't affect my sales. I find that, particularly among the wargaming fraternity, people don't tend to search the web to try and find free versions of rules that are available. If they find rules that they like, particulary priced at £5, I don't think many will go to the effort of scanning criminal websites. At least, when Blasty was taking down 10 websites a month with free versions of my rules on them, I didn't notice a proportionate increase in sales.

    I think the explaination is that these criminal sites simply harvest as many books as possible, regardless of their content, in a process which is probably almost entirely automated. Perhaps the wargaming community just aren't avid downloaders of copywrited material.

    That's a long winded way of me saying that I eventually decided to cancel my Blasty membership because, the obvious moral and criminal offence notwithstanding, the sad truth is I was spending money just for the satisfaction of sending DCMA notices out - that were frequently ignored.

    I would be interested to hear your perspective and whether or not you do decide to go for membership.

    Ed

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    1. Colonel Scipio (Ed),

      After my initial indignation and a desire to wipe out these offending downloads, I've had a chance to think things through, discuss it with other authors, and have come to a similar conclusion to you.

      The cost of using BLASTY to electronically try to 'wack-a-mole' each and every illegal download just is not economically viable. It would also occupy too much of my time as well. I doubt if the downloads are affecting my book sales that much ... and if someone is going to use a 'free' download, the likelihood of them buying 'legal' copy of the book is probably very small.

      I'm therefore going to accept that I cannot stop the illegal downloads and move on. I will - however - support the introduction of Articles 11 and 13 of the new EU Copyright Law as best I can, and will continue to decry to practice of infringing copyright at every opportunity that arises.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. Bob, very interesting, I think we are of the same mind. I hope that this doesn't detract from a highly sucessful project into which you put so much work.

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    3. Colonel Scipio,

      I think that we are of one mind ... and I can assure you that the current copyright problems will in no way deflect me from my plans to publish more PW books.

      All the best,

      Bob

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