Checking my e-mail one Sunday morning, I immediately noticed
a message. A chill went down my spine. The subject line said,
“your e-book has been stolen”.
I always knew something like this could happen, but never
thought it would happen to me… and so soon! I have only
released my e-book a few months ago, and already the
“digital pirates” went to work.
E-book theft is the biggest fear authors have, especially if
they are working on their very first e-book, their “baby”.
Most new authors take months writing their e-books, and are
worried that as soon as their e-book “hits” the Web, it will
be stolen, copied, illegally sold, or even given away.
I. How exactly does an e-book get stolen?
Sharing computer files between friends, family members and
colleagues is not a new concept. People have been doing it
for decades. But now that they can do it remotely, the number
of files shared (e-books and software) has greatly increased.
This is not the authors’ main concern, though.
It’s the people who get their hands on your e-book and make
money reselling it to others in some shape or form. An e-book
may be copied, re-written, extracted from, packaged with
other e-books, and illegally sold on thieves’ web sites.
The worst case, though, is when a thief decides to really make
a big chunk of money on your e-book and offers Resale Rights
to his customers. This simply means that anybody who buys
your e-book from him will also be “allowed” to resell it to
Now the Internet is literally flooded with your e-book, and
you begin to notice a huge drop in sales AND your income.
Every author’s worst nightmare.
II. Why would anyone risk getting caught?
While e-books are extremely easy to publish, they are just as
easy to steal. “Digital pirates” know it, and take this risk
in exchange for making a few bucks (well, actually “my” thief
claimed to have made over $10,000 selling my e-books. To this
day I don’t know if this is accurate, but I am sure it turned
out quite profitable for him).
Most people who steal other people’s digital products have no
respect or appreciation for hard work and talent it takes to
produce a quality product. “You put a few words together and
now charging $50 for it!”, complained the thief in one of his
messages to me. (How ironic – I thought it was my place to
An e-book is mostly prone to theft when 2 things are true:
a) The topic is hot and in demand, so it will be easy to
make money selling it.
b) If you sell Master Reprint Rights to your e-book, which
makes it difficult to track who resells it legally and who
has not paid for the rights to sell it.
(See more about Reprint Rights at:
III. What steps to take when it happens to you?
If you have just discovered that your e-book is being illegally
sold on another web site, stop. Take a deep breath. Has your
e-book been really stolen? Go through this list to rule each
a) You sold Reprint Rights to this person and forgot about it
b) This merchant simply sells a demo version of your e-book
c) This merchant has purchased Reprint Rights from one of your
authorized reseller (who holds the Master Rights to your e-book)
d) The e-book has a similar title and content, but is not YOUR
e) The seller may be not aware that he is infringing on your
rights, and is selling your e-book by mistake (this is only the
case if you offer Reprint Rights to your e-book)
If you ruled every item on this list, it’s time to take action.
1) Find out the name of the person who is reselling your e-book.
You can do this by doing a “Whois” search on Network Solutions
web site (www.netsol.com). The search will reveal to you the
name of the person who registered the domain name for the
illegal site, his e-mail address, mailing address, and a phone
number. There is no guarantee that this information is 100%
accurate, but it’s worth a try.
Your perpetrator’s web site may also contain his name and e-mail
address. Your first step is to send him a polite but firm
message. Ask for an explanation, and wait 24 hours for his reply.
If you do not get a response, or he refuses to remove your e-book
from his web site, move on to the next step.
2) Find out the name of the hosting company, domain name
registrar, and the Internet Service Provider (ISP). The hosting
company may be listed under Technical Contact when you do the
“Whois” search, or under “Domain Servers” at the bottom of the
listing. It may look something like this: NS181.PAIR.COM.
Enter this address into your Internet browser location bar and
you will see that this site belongs to http://www.Pair.com.
The ISP may be located right in the person’s e-mail address. For
example, if the e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org, then the ISP is
Earthlink.com. If the web address is hosted by a free hosting
company (e.g. http://www.tripod.com/members/~jsmith) then grab the phone
number of their customer service or even a fraud department.
Contact as many of these agencies as possible to inform them of
the situation. Firmly ask them to suspend their services for
this client. Always be calm and polite in your first message.
Charles Petit, an attorney and the webmaster of authorslawyer.com
says that “Some ISPs… claim that they will not take any
action without seeing the certificate of copyright registration.
Don’t believe them. This is really just lawyerese for “we won’t
resolve disputed copyrights.” The United States Copyright Law
(17 U.S.C. section 512) makes the ISP responsible once notified
of the infringement in writing, and is signed “under penalty of
perjury.” The copyright need not have been registered at all,
mentions Mr.Petit. “It is required only for a lawsuit, and
late registration only limits the remedies available in court.”
Be sure to “immediately print the outgoing message and sign and
date the printout”, mentions Mr.Petit. Mr. Petit’s more-detailed
discussion, including sample letters, is at
3) Be sure to also contact the payment processor. Most thieves
use a third party processor such as PayPal or ClickBank. Contact
them immediately asking them to close their client’s account.
4) In most cases, by this time your problem will be solved.
The hosting company will suspend their services, the payment
processor will stop processing payment, or the ISP will stop
the theif’s Internet Service.
If not, you may need an attorney who handles intellectual
property disputes such as an e-book theft. It may take just a
letter from him or her to resolve this situation.
You may think, “I will let it go – it’s only one person, how
much harm can he possibly do?”. One illegal reseller is most
likely not going to hurt your business. But if you don’t take
measures to stop more than one thief, you may slowly notice
a drop in sales, as the Internet becomes saturated with your
Do take basic measures outlined in the steps above. It won’t
take you more than a couple of hours, but will save your
business cash flow in the long run.
IV. How can you prevent e-book theft?
Catching and pursuing your thieves is not easy and
time-consuming. Many e-book authors choose to prevent such
situations before they even write their e-books. Here are
some ways that you can stop theft before it happens.
1) Use an e-book compiler that makes your e-book 100%
theft-proof. “E-book Pro” offers you such protection.
With it you can remotely cut off access to anyone who
stole, illegally redistributes, or otherwise loses
their right to your ebook. Developed by the Internet
Marketing guru, Cory Rudl, this is the ONLY software
on the market that offers such protection for your e-books.
You can check it out at:
2) Always hide the contents of a directory where your e-book
file is located. There is not much you can do if your
customer decides to resell your e-book, but for those who
are looking for easy-to-steal files, be sure to place
“index.html” in that directory. This will insure that
your files are invisible to Internet users.
3) Give your e-book a creative file name. I noticed that
at least once a day someone tries to “guess” my e-book file
name by typing different ones in. Don’t name your e-book
file close to its title.
4) Password protect your e-books, and change your password
at least once a month. This can be easily done through your
hosting company control panel, or via a CGI script.
5) Do a search on your e-book title (and your name) at
least once a month to see if anyone is selling your e-book
without your knowledge. When you start selling Reprint
Rights, be sure to save all the names of your resellers.
This way you will always know whether this person is
authorized to resell your e-book.
IV. How can you take advantage of e-book theft?
Yes, you read it right. Some authors actually take advantage
of their e-books being stolen, especially those writers who
have been in such situations before.
Here is the thinking behind this concept. If a thief truly
wants your e-book, he will find a way to get it. Even if it
means typing it up manually!
Instead of doing everything possible to stop the theft, authors
take it into consideration BEFORE writing their e-books. Here
is how you can do it, too.
1) Promote yourself, other e-books, your services, your
newsletter, and your web sites throughout the e-book. If you’re
giving examples, try to use your own web sites and your own
experiences to illustrate.
2) Always have at least one more product for sale as your
back-end product. Mention it throughout your e-book and link
to it where needed.
3) Be sure to offer an incentive to your readers (whether they
come from you or your thieves) to subscribe to join your mailing
list. Give away a free report, a free e-book, a free newsletter,
a free pen, etc. just to capture their e-mails. You will then
be able to send them follow-up messages and special promotions.
4) Create more and more e-books of interest to the same
audience. Since they can’t get more from the thief, they
will get it from you!
5) Put a lot of personality in your e-book. It will make it
harder to steal and claim as somebody else’s, will make you
develop close relationships with your customers, and will
make your e-book better.
In my own e-book development, I try to combine all of the
above – prevention, pursuing, and promotion. But here is to
your e-books never to be stolen!
Milana Leshinsky is a full-time Internet Entrepreneur,
and the author of a web design manual for beginners,
“Create Your First Business Web Site in 10 days”.