One thing I’ve learned during my relatively short stint as a guy who sells something on the Internet is that people steal. A lot. Every now and then, I’ll do a Google search for the name of my ebook (or the filename of the download itself) and I’ll be staring at a big list of document hosting sites, Bit Torrent trackers and other such business. I would be lying if I said that my heart doesn’t sink a little when I see this stuff; not because of the lost revenue (which sucks), but in response to how quickly my fellow human beings will screw each other as long as they’re fairly confident they won’t get pinched.
As much as this bugs me, I’ve never felt like I had much recourse. Admittedly, I haven’t sent many sternly-worded emails to the operators of the sites illegally hosting my stuff, but that’s only because I was fairly certain I wouldn’t get a response. Perhaps I’m just cynical.
But all this is sorta beside the point.
A couple of weeks ago, I was doing one of the aforementioned “vanity searches” for my ebook and came across the entire document available for viewing on Scribd, a place where you can host documents, share them, etc. I’ve known about the site for awhile, but had never used it. Anyway, seeing my PDF up there was, as usual, frustrating.
Just for shits and giggles, though, I scrolled down to the site footer and found a link called “Copyright”, which I visited. The page briefly described what to do if you find material that infringes on a copyright. Turns out, you have to issue a DMCA Copyright Infringement Takedown Notification, which I’d heard of but always imagined needing a lawyer to put together. Turns out, it’s this teensy half-page document that a partially inebriated chimp could fill out between Jager bombs.
I downloaded the template, dropped in my name, email and street addresses and the URL where the infringing content lived, then pasted the whole mess into an email and sent it off.
About 6 minutes later, I got an email from a guy named Jason at Scribd informing me that my request had been received and that the document had been removed. Wow.
Clearly, it doesn’t always work this way. I imagine many, many notices like mine are received every day and immediately deleted without any action being taken. I must say, though, that I’m really impressed with Scribd. I don’t know that I’ll ever have much use for their services, but I’m happy to know that they’re taking this copyright bullcrap seriously.
I guess the big takeaway here is that it may be worth the time to fight back. Maybe.