By Kathryn Miller Goldman, Esq.: I recently wrote a post for this blog called Has Your eBook Been Pirated? What To Do: Step 1. Molly had identified General eBooks as a website that offered pirated ebooks for free download, and her books were on the site without permission.
In that post, I explained how I had Molly’s work removed from that site so her readers could take similar action. The plan was that I would come back this month and explain how to eliminate the illegal download links altogether, not just make them disappear.
Instead, in this post I’d like to talk about how I got it wrong. As much as it may look like a pirate site, General ebooks isn’t a “pirate” in the classic sense. General eBooks is not in the business of distributing free stolen ebooks, thereby depriving you of sales. Nevertheless, it is a site that I believe is engaged in online criminal activity. They are tarnishing your good name by using it – and the title of your book – in what seems to be an illegal enterprise.
Report on last month’s link removal requests
The General eBooks site is designed deceptively to make it look like a distributor of ebooks and other digital content. They include actual Kobo and Amazon links, and below them on the webpage a link for unauthorized, presumably “free” downloads.
On Molly’s behalf, I submitted link removal requests to General eBooks so that the supposed illegal downloads of her books from that site would be stopped. As a result of my request, the free download links were removed. As I mentioned last month, however, the links still exist. They are just no longer visible.
I offered to submit link removal requests on behalf of any readers who left a comment on that post and signed up for my Digital Artists Rip-Off Protection Report, and submitted nearly 100 takedown requests to General eBooks on behalf of readers of this blog. In addition, many readers successfully submitted requests in their own name using the language from that post.
Links to the supposed “free” downloads of every ebook for which I submitted a request were removed. A spot check reveals that the removed links have not gone back up. Again, the links still exist. They are just no longer visible. I kept a record of the URL for each link and I can still revisit those locations.
Not only were the free download links removed, the entire page for each author on whose behalf I requested removal has disappeared (except for those who may have had a co-author). That’s a good thing. In my view, no author would want her name associated with General eBooks.
If General eBooks is NOT a pirate site, what is it?
The fact that the legitimate links were removed as well as the free download links suggests that General eBooks was only really interested in having users click on the free download button. General eBooks is not interested in selling books or being a conduit for distributing illegal copies. I believe that General eBooks exists for another purpose entirely: malware.
At least that’s my conclusion after looking at the matter closely. It is highly likely that visitors who go to General eBooks looking for a copy of a book and who click on the free download button will end up downloading and installing malicious software on their computer.
Even though General eBooks is not, in my opinion, a classic pirate site, having your books and name on the site is not a good thing. You should take the steps outlined in the earlier post to have your work and name removed.
Policing your intellectual property and your name is important to protect your rights. If you fail to protect your rights, you may lose them. One way to do it is to set up Google Alerts for your name and your book titles. Google will email you each time your alert is mentioned on the Internet. Then, if you find your book on a torrent site, you can file a Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) removal request with Google and other search engines. Here is Google’s DMCA form. If Google receives a sufficient number of takedown requests for a particular site, their algorithm may downrank the torrent site in search engine results pages.
Suppressing search result rankings may be the best option for an individual author with respect to the problem of work appearing on illegal torrent sites. A concerted effort from a community like the readers of this blog could very well prove to be effective.
You should be aware that personally identifiable information related to the takedown request will be made public by Google.
Kathryn Goldman is an intellectual property attorney who protects writers, artists, filmmakers, and businesses from having their work and art ripped off. Since she’s a lawyer, she has to mention that she’s not *your* lawyer so this article isn’t technically legal advice.