Monday, March 21, 2011

Another insight into how book thieves work

Another insight into how book thieves work | Feb 27th 2011

I have a little search robot that scours the web for new mentions of my work. A few years ago it used to be a good way of picking up reviews. It still is, but more often than not what it picks up today is book theft: pirated copies being spread around willy-nilly.

I’m not going to go over the arguments about book theft again, or grace it with terms such as ‘file-sharing’ or even ‘piracy’. I write books, publishers publish them, retailers sell them. These are copyright works. It’s wrong, morally and legally, to distribute them electronically across the web without permission, without paying any of those whose livelihoods depend upon them. And no, this is not the same as passing a copy of a paper book to a friend, taking a book out of a library, or buying it from a second hand store.

It’s deliberately ripping off copyright digital material, often by hacking the code to remove the copy protection. And boy is it rife. The Fallen Angel came out three weeks ago. It’s up there in cracked form already, of course, in multiple locations, none of them openly hosted, naturally, but hidden away in parts of the world where copyright laws cannot reach.

Here’s one…, the thieving toerags who are hosting this stolen material, are in the Ukraine. If you want a laugh try reading their ‘copyright policy’ here. It basically says, ‘We don’t want to host copyright material but we may remove if it you can prove it’s here’.

The entire site consists of links to ripped off books and software, of course. It even allows the thieving bastards who patronise it to advertise for ripped off material. Should I be flattered that ‘boraz’ would like someone to provide him with my entire back list as ripped-off ebooks?

Not really. If he likes the books that much why can’t he buy them himself? Each one of those books took a year to write. I don’t think it’s unreasonable of me to expect some reward for all that work.

And before I get swamped with the ‘it’s digital, it’s all free’ nonsense it’s worth pointing out that the people involved in ebook and software piracy aren’t doing it for love. They’re fences, effectively, keen to make a bit of money themselves out of the stolen material they handle.

Mobilism want you to pay them a subscription fee for access to their stolen goods. Happily Paypal, who used to provide them with billing facilities, have cut them off. Can’t imagine why, but judging from this posting below they’ll be trying again soon…

There’s also a ‘currency’ called WRZ$ which the book thieves exchange among one another to encourage yet more theft. They also get ‘rewards’ from Mobilism themselves for putting up ripped-off stuff…

I’ve no idea what 5 WRZ$ is worth, but none of it is clearly coming back to the author or publisher who made the book possible in the first place.

Are many people involved in this kind of theft? Well, yes. Here are the user stats as I write this…

Yes, you did read that right. It currently has 381,117 members, 1,615 of whom are online as I write. Won’t take many of them to fork out the $10 basic sub fee or $80 ‘premium’ fee to Mobilism to make this a nice little earner. I do hope the people who patronise it have handed over their credit card details to those charming people in Ukraine too. I’m sure they’ll have plenty of ideas how to deal with those.

But here’s the richest thing of all. Mobilism is an illicit site that’s trying to live off stolen intellectual property. So how does it feel about people ripping off its own site and services?

Get this gem from the ‘terms of use’.

Personal use
You agree not to reproduce, duplicate, sell, trade or exploit any Mobilism services for commercial gain.

Yeah. Must be awful if someone steals from you, especially if you’re a thief yourself.

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