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Avast, ye scabby sea bass!

Amy Leibowitz books piracy

The pirates are (as always) at it again. I recently had one of my books pirated. The amusing part is that the person used a real name, making it easy to track and report them. Obviously, we got lucky, since that’s not always the case.

I’m torn on my opinion about book piracy. I don’t mean that I think it’s acceptable or right, and I definitely don’t believe any of us should be working for free. However, those of us who write LGBTQIA+ books are in an interesting position.

There are places where people have no access to the kinds of books we write. They may be banned entirely or limited in availability. Some of these folks don’t have the means to purchase what for them would be expensive items, and there may not be a way to deliver it safely or at all.

Ideally, we would live in a world where this is not a problem. People would be free to read whatever material they chose, any time they wanted it. There would be easier ways to gain access, and everyone would have enough funds to buy the books they wished to read instead of having to choose between that and food on the table. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the majority of book piracy hurts small presses and indie authors, and some these piracy sites are scamming readers equally with writers and publishers. I don’t believe most of it is by people who couldn’t otherwise access the content. What’s sad about that is how much actual free material exists that many people can read 100% free, with the blessing of the author or publisher. Some people are choosing not to do this, and others may be attempting to sell the work and pass it off as their own.

There isn’t much we can do about the problem aside from requesting these sites take the books down. There are some services that will do a limited number of cease-and-desists for free, and some services require a fee. Personally, I don’t use them, but others have had some success.

How I’ve chosen to balance this issue is that I don’t pay for a service to detect pirated copies of my work. If I receive a report (as I did this time) from a reader or a friend, then I will take care of it. If a publisher becomes aware and chooses to deal with it, that works too. I periodically check known piracy sites. Otherwise, I don’t go searching.

Does it mean my books could be available on other piracy sites? Yes. But my hope is that somewhere, there’s a person reading who couldn’t have found my book any other way before it’s removed.

My solution isn’t right for everyone. Each author has to make that decision, and it may also be dependent on the expectations of the publishing house. Some are more aggressive than others about weeding out piracy. It’s a risk we take when we make advance copies available for reviews, and we all understand that.

This isn’t a problem that’s going to go away, so we need to address it from multiple angles and strategies. May you find the one that works best for your needs.

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