fines for illegal downloads

Astatalk and Other Pirate Sites Where People Download Free Books Illegally

I’ve posted about astatalk, which is an illegally operated pirate site that allows people to download free books and infringes on copyrights without thinking twice about it. I’ve mentioned how these entitled people steal books from authors who work long hard hours and rarely make enough money to pay their rent. I’ve even gone so far as to post the fake profiles of some of the people who join these pirate sites and interact as though they’d paid for the books they’ve read.

But the fact of the matter is that right now the only thing authors and publishers can do is keep on top of their books and make sure they continue to file abuse forms to have their books removed from the sites. I know first hand how daunting this can be. Sometimes it only takes minutes for a book to be taken down and then added again by someone else. And if you’re like me, and you have over forty books out there, it becomes a part time job to keep filing abuse forms.

I’m writing this post in part because I’ve been receiving a lot of e-mails from new authors asking about book pirates. Most are shocked They have just had their first book published and they’ve never even heard of book pirates, illegal downloads, and filing abuse forms. But more than that, they are even more shocked when I tell them there’s nothing they can do except keep filing the abuse forms. And though it’s a vicious circle that never ends, at least they are doing something to protect their copyrights.

I also receive e-mails and messages from readers who actually download free books on these pirate sites. They are a bold crowd, indeed. One just sent me a long message stating that the only reason he goes to these sites for free illegal downloads is because he likes checking out the e-book first to know whether or not he’ll want to buy the print book. In other words, this reader doesn’t think e-books are important enough to take seriously as valid stand alone books…at least not compared to print books. He views e-books as samples, with a lesser value. Evidently, this person hasn’t been keeping up with what’s going on in publishing. I doubt he’s invested money in an e-reader either. And though he seems like a nice guy, aside from the fact that he’s not getting the point behind e-books in general, he’s way off base from a legal standpoint. Even if his argument were true, which it isn’t, he’s still stealing books. If he went into a restaurant and ordered an entire meal just to see how the food was there, and then refused to pay until the next time he returned, the owner would call the police and he’d be arrested. In New Jersey, where I come from, the owner would probably take him out back and break both his legs, too.

So while the issue continues to frustrate authors and publishers, the only thing we can do is keep up with our books and file abuse forms. We need to take a few hours each week to learn as much as we can about these pirate sites and continue to fight back. And though it seems futile right now, I do think we’ll eventually find one or two book pirates and punish them as an example. I know there are now many authors working with the law, undercover, and they are getting to know the people who download books illegally and they are going to scoop them up eventually. A free ride can only last just so long. And then you have to pay for your actions.

Do Readers Fully Understand Book Pirating?

While I was filing abuse forms this week with book pirates, I wondered if readers who download illegal e-books know what they are doing. Since I have always followed the law, and I believe in the law and respect the law, I truly don’t believe readers fully understand what they are doing. Maybe I’m being naive, though. If you want to read another post I wrote last summer about book pirating, here’s the link: http://ryan-field.blogspot.com/search?q=abuse And if you do a search on my blog, there are even a few more.

This post is more for readers than it is for authors or publishers. Frankly, I’m emotionally flattered when readers go to pirate sites and download my books for free. At least they are reading them and talking about them, even if my hard work is being completely ignored. I do file abuse forms all the time, but it’s virtually impossible to keep up with book pirates. They are making a lot of money by doing this, and a lot of people are supporting them. But I don’t think the people who are supporting them fully understand the magnitude of what they are doing.

One fact about book pirating is clear. No matter how much anyone wants to justify downloading e-books for free from pirates, it’s still illegal. I don’t make the laws; I don’t decide what’s legal or not. And when someone goes to a book pirate site, signs up, and pays a fee to join, their information is permanently recorded forever. People think they are getting away with something by using fake names and fake identities on these sites. And on the surface, they are correct. If you sign up with a pirate site and download books for free, and discuss those books and leave comments and reviews under the name Chantw0968,” or something like that, you are protecting your identity on the surface. (Chantw0968 is an actual person with a profile who downloads books for free; click the link on Chantw0968 to see how it operates. If you’ve never done this, it’s interesting to see how dark and furtive and creepy this whole underground world really is. I actually feel bad for people like Chantw0968)

However, your information is still there. Whenever there is a crime, especially when it comes to things like sexual child abuse, the first thing the authorities do is confiscate the computer. They do this for a reason. Anything you do on your computer is recorded. Anything you download can be traced back to you and the computer you used. A while back, there was a well known cigarette web site. They sold cigarettes cheaper than anyone in the world. Millions of people ordered from them and they made tons of money. But they were doing this illegally. And the government caught up with them, confiscated all their merchandise, and then went after the people who purchased illegal cigarettes from them. These customers (most didn’t know how illegal this was) paid hefty fines and back taxes. And they never even received their cigarettes.

In the world of technology, even if you think you’re doing something anonymously, you’re not, Chantw0968. If someone with the right power and knowledge wants to find out who you are and go after you, they can. Personally, I wouldn’t want to take that chance. The laws between what is legal and what is not are clearly defined. And they are becoming clearer each day.This isn’t an emotional issue up for debate; it’s not even a moral or ethical issue. Downloading books from pirate sites is illegal and you are infringing on the author’s copyright.

Update: As of today, Dec. 6th, the user, Chantwo968 that I linked to on the pirate site has hidden his/her profile from public viewing. Interesting, and most likely not a coincidence. So if anyone is interested in checking out another profile, here’s a fresh one:
pmac_xer 595 ♠ 1076 ♣

Be interesting to see if this one disappears, too. By checking this link, you can see the books they’ve released and the books they are requesting as free downloads, which infringes on the author’s copyright and is highly illegal.