To early to be sure, but not too early to hope.
Last night, before shutting down for the night, I decided to check a pirate Web site I’ve been monitoring to see if any new ebooks had arrived. I’ve been finding my books — and the books of author friends — on a number of pirate Web sites, but one of them was especially blatant and offensive. It listed literally hundreds of ebooks and complete training DVDs by dozens of publishers and scores of authors. If you can’t figure out why this bothers me, read this.
After a long wait, an error message appeared in place of the site’s home page:
The requested URL could not be retrieved
While trying to retrieve the URL: http://[omitted]/
The following error was encountered:
* Connection to [omitted] Failed
The system returned:
(111) Connection refused
The remote host or network may be down. Please try the request again.
I tried a few more times and got the same result.
Then my normal state of paranoia set in and I thought that the site’s owner may have blocked my IP address. I’d been checking the site with an alias user ID that pointed to a domain name I never use for personal stuff. But I didn’t mask my IP address. So I asked Jonathan at Plagiarism Today to try. He got the same result (and taught me a trick for checking for IP blocking another way).
About the Site
The site was hosted somewhere in Asia or the Pacific, although the guy who ran it wrote in perfect English. So there wasn’t much to be done as far as DMCA notices to the guy’s site hosting ISP.
Most of the pirated files were being hosted on a Germany-based free file hosting site. That site’s gimmick is that people can download one file at a time unless they pay for a “premium account.” So I think one could make a good argument that the hosting company was selling access to our files.
To the hosting company’s credit, they made it pretty easy to get the files taken down. All I had to do is get the complete URL to the file and send it to them via an online form. Within 24 hours, the link simply stopped working. So even though the pirate site still listed my ebooks, none of the download links would work. To me, that was almost as good as taking the whole site down.
But I do have reason to hope that the site may have been taken down. When I saw the extend of the copyright infringement there, I was outraged. I spent almost two full days contacting authors and publishers to tell them about what I’d seen. Among the publishers I contacted were Pearson, McGraw-Hill, O’Reilly, Symantec, Lynda.com, and Total Training. I thought that if I got some big guns out against this guy, he’d get taken down.
And maybe it did work. Maybe one of them threw a big enough legal staff at either the site owner, his ISP, or the file hosting sites to get the whole thing taken offline. Or maybe just having all those publishers and authors going at him with e-mail and other communications made him realize that his efforts to earn a few dollars by setting up illegal downloads just wasn’t worth the hassle of fighting all these people.
I don’t care what the reason might be. I just rejoice in the possibility that we may have succeeded in “whacking this mole.”
Because as one of my publishers pointed out: “Trying to stop these guys is a game of whack-a-mole. You hit one and another one pops up.”
I agree. But there are more people and resources on our team than on theirs. If we work together, we can keep those moles in their holes.