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Executive Director’s Message: The changing face of piracy

Michael Spinella

I invite you to try an experiment. If you have authored a textbook or monograph in the past 20 years, go to your favorite search engine and type in the title of that work. Scroll around a bit amongst the results and scrutinize the sources that claim to be able to provide your book, in full text, for a fee or for free. Did you find any that you were unaware of?…any that are giving it away for free that you did not know about or that your publisher tells you are illegitimate? How far down your list of search results did you have to go to find an instance of one of these illegitimate copies of your work?

You may well already be aware of this issue. Perhaps you have tried to exercise your rights under the DMCA (the law governing digital copyright matters) and issued a takedown notice to the website where you found the illegitimate work. How did that go? Many authors find this experience frustrating and ineffective. Some host sites ignore takedown requests, relying on their location and technical camouflage to evade authorities. Others are slow to react, or only take down literally the one pirated copy that is specified by the author rather than making a good faith effort to locate and remove all illegitimate copies. Still others, even when they act with due speed and thoroughness, find their efforts easily thwarted by the pirates who can readily post new copies.

Welcome to the modern age of piracy. Only these are not the quaint good guys like the ‘dread’ Pirate Roberts of the delightful movie The Princess Bride. These fellows simply have their hand in your wallet. Argghh.

Efforts are afoot in our broad community of authors and publishers to fight intellectual property piracy more aggressively. Notably, our colleagues at the Authors Guild have joined with a dozen of their members, with support for some large publishing interests, to launch a lawsuit against Kiss Library, described by Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger as “a notorious Ukraine-based network of piracy sites.” You can read more about the effort here.

We’d like to hear from TAA members who are facing this problem, and how you have addressed it. Please share your feedback to