I Was Pirated: The Truth About Copyrights
The feeling of publishing your first book is unlike any other. You’ve spent months, possibly years, working on the thing, and now it’s out there.
The hope, of course, is that it will generate an income for you.
So what happens when the book is stolen by pirates?
You’re crushed! Everything you’ve worked so hard on, spent money advertising for, and built a loving community around, has been stolen. For anyone who cares to look, the work can be found online for free, undercutting the cost of entry and stealing an income from a likely broke creative trying to make it in an unfair world.
What worse: when you didn’t formally register your copyright because you were told that you didn’t need to.
Without protections, life as a creative isn’t so grand.
What I was told
Before I looked into publishing my first book, I looked into copyright costs and asked a friend who had been in the business for some time. He gave me the following advice:
- Being the first to place the copyright logo is enough, so get it published
- Mail it to yourself through certified mail
- You don’t need to pay for copyright registration as the protections are not perfect
Learning that I could forgo the costs of registering for copyright gave me hope. This guy had been in the business for quite some time, so I trusted that he knew what he was talking about.
I went ahead with his plan, slapped a copyright notice inside the book, and certified mailed a copy to myself.
Two years later, my work was stolen.
When somebody infringed my entire catalog on a site that blatantly posts creatives' hard work for casual download, I contacted the FBI’s Cyber Crimes and Intellectual Property Division, the Internet Crime Complaint Center, and a personal lawyer.
The FBI said they couldn’t help me because I had not formally registered the copyright.
They said they’d look into it — that left me with all the confidence.
Fortunately, I got farther with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, who was more interested in shutting down the site than helping to resolve my copyright concerns. This worked in my favor since there were other (properly registered) copyrights being infringed there.
The personal lawyer wasted my money. Got nothing done.
How to protect yourself
Copyright registration is not cheap. However, if you can pony up the dough, it’s the absolute best way to protect your work — still not perfect with our global jurisdictions and all.
The other best way is to stay ahead of the pirates. Produce and publish faster than they can receive the work. Dishonest consumers of your work will eventually tire of having to wait and will purchase the goods.
Unfortunately, until the global community cares to depose this evil, it will be a painful thorn in the side of all creatives.
I talk more about this sort of thing in my newsletter.