To Protect Your Ebook From Unscrupulous Pirates And Plagiarists, There Are Simple And Elaborate Ways. (Some Thievery Can Actually Help Drive Up Sales).
There are two ways to consider creating and selling ebooks online. One, is to build substantial price-points and make your ebooks your money-spinners. Two, is to price ebooks low, so they can whet buyers’ appetites for your pricier knowledge products.
If you are writing ebooks to give them away free, or are pricing them low to make your ebooks a trailer for bigger, and pricier knowledge courses, you may actually benefit from turning a blind eye to some ebook theft that helps proliferate your brand and your name.
The only thing here is to “co-opt thieves” by offering them a good fee for selling your ebooks and insisting that your name is always on the ebooks. If they agree to these conditions, you both win.
At Solohacks Academy, we think ebooks can foster “co-petition” rather than “competition”, if you can spot, befriend and do business with your ebook thieves. But, on the other hand, if your ebooks are priced high as your main money spinners, you need robust ways to prevent piracy, theft and plagiarism. Read on …
1. The ebook thief’s payment gateway can be your greatest ally to cut his earnings
Obviously ebook pirates, plagiarists and thieves intend to use your ebook to sell as their own. Without the involvement of earnings, the whole deal is a waste of their time, right? So if you want to hit every ebook thief at the places where it hurts them most, cut off their supply to earnings.
This means you have to track down their payment process providers. If they have used big-name payment systems like Paypal, Stripe, Razorpay, 2Checkout and so on, all the better. These big payment providers would hardly like their own brands to be sullied by ebook thieves selling off their platforms.
Here are the steps to follow, if you spot your ebook thief selling your ebook under his name:
- Identify the payment processor company he uses.
- Read their rules of Acceptable Use Policy. See if they have mentioned “infringements of others’ rights” or similar phraseology.
- Raise an objection with the payment processor that a certain person (name and shame the thief) has pinched your ebook and is selling under his own name via the payment gateway.
- Show proof of your book and its prior existence, and point out passages (or the whole book) depending on how much has been copied.
- Tell the payment processor to immediately stop all sales of the contentious ebook, and to stop working with the dubious author.
If the tone of your letter is legal-ese (i.e. drafted by a legal professional), the payment processor will get the drift that you mean business and he will want to wash his hands off the less-than-ideal author pronto.
Once the payment gateway has acted, I would go further and publish social updates and press releases stating you have had to take this action against a Mr.Ebook Pincher (email, address, social accounts) in the public interest, and as a service to other authors.
A hardened thief may go and start a new business doing the same pinch-and-sell as before, and you’d have to be watchful to see if this happens – so you can do your “I am the bigger dog” strategy. There are services like Copy Sentry that can follow up on your behalf to catch all such plagiarists and bring them to your notice. If your ebook is really valuable it’s worth this “doggedness” from your side.
2. Copyright, or better still, trademark your title – it makes pirates a bit wary
There are many budding ebook authors who aren’t aware to the fine nunaces of certain legal protection terms for intellectual property (and your ebook is your intellectual property). Do you, for instance, clearly know the difference between copyrights, trademarks, and registered trademarks? Do you know how exactly they can protect your ebook? Well, if you are not clear, you should read up on all this.
Legal protections of various levels (like copyrights, trademarks, and registered trademarks) are important when you want to take action against an ebook thief, and have to prove that you are the real owner of the orignal work. Without the legal protection it’s hard for you to prove this – espcially if the thief challenges who was the earlier author, and makes you look likea later plagiarist of his original work.
I have done a whole article titled “How To Protect Your Brand And Its Assets In Knowledge Commerce”. Check it out because I’ve covered every question you may have in mind to ask.
- What exactly is copyright?
- What can you copyright?
- What does copyright entitle you to do?
- Does your copyright have a time limitation?
- Do you need to register a copyright?
- How do you correctly state your copyright?
- Why get your copyright registered?
- What is infringement of copyright?
- How can you discover if someone has infringed your copyright?
- What is a trademark and how is it different from a copyright?
- Should you get a country-wise trademark or an international one?
- What is the difference between a trademark and a registered trademark?
- When can someone use your trademark and get away with it?
- What are the most common mistakes people make with trademarks?
- Why is plagiarism so hard to check?
- 3 protection tools to use against those pesky plagiarists
There are just a few of the common questions most authors ask. There are many more in my article. It’s worth a read – and worth preserving too.
3. Give your file some gibberish name so it can’t be easily searched by thieves
Chances are that you would usually find it easy to give a filename to your ebook that reflects its actual title. For example, if your ebook title was “How To Get More Traffic To Your Website In A Month Or Less” your filename for the final PDF file would be “https://mysite.com/how-to-get-more-traffic-to-your-website-in-a-month-or-less.pdf”.
This would make it uber-easy for the thief to figure out the path and filename to search for and pinch, if he knows the title. Instead the best thing to do is to give the ultimate PDF file a gibberish filename, like “https://mysite.com/JDVGC89TcgDl2i$O^*4OMTb0.pdf”.”
Not only should you make the filename difficult to remember or search for, and totally unrelated to the title, but it would be a good idea to change the filename often.
One other thing you could do is to store your downloadable PDF ebooks (meant for sales) in a separate folder on your website server, which you can then mark as private. For instance, you may create a folder in your website server called “Ebooks” in which you store all your ebooks, but the folder itself is made inaccessible to people to see what’s inside. They can’t,therefore, purloin any of the ebooks in there.
To know how to make your folder private and inaccessible, contact your webhosting service provider for help, since different providers may allow these features through different methods.
4. Use a service like the DMCA online – let professionals help with ebook protection
I’m not sure if you’ve heard about the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act Services Ltd.), but if you haven’t you absolutely should read up every inch of their website. They are a firm that offers every kind of protection any website may need, from A-Z … covering all manner of brand assets on the website, including your ebooks. Since most of us, Knowlege Commerce marketers, work off our websites which are the main repositories of all our asset libraries and ebooks, working with DMCA is a terrific option.
Despite the range of services they offer, their charges are small – starting at about $10 a month for protection and going up to $99 if you should need their help to take down a thief’s website.
I’ve given you a screenshot of their website below. Visit their site to see how many types of protection they give to the brand assets on your site, and how they also engage in monitoring and full takedown services if they find theft from your site. In fact, if your site sports their badge, they even offer to “do take-down free of charge”.
They even advise you on compliance issues, and maintain a record of your support cases, apart from having a vast and up-to-date knowledge database on brand protection.
At Solohacks Academy, we have found the DMCA service really inexpensive and yet very exhaustive, especially since we have a fairly vast library of ebooks. To date, the DMCA is about the best site we have seen with some great services done professionally, that are also immensely helpful for small or solo businesses.
5. Prevent file sharing by “unethically generous” buyers – with some right tools
There are plenty of solutions in the market to protect ebook-file-sharing via email, but you have to know what to search for. What most of us authors would like, ideally, is that if we email an ebook after purchase to a customer, they alone can see it and read it, but if they forwarded the email very generously (and unethically) to another “friend”, that person shouldn’t be able to see or read the PDF ebook.
To find the solution I’m giving you below you have to search Adobe or Nitro PDF for the term “Digital IDs”.
PDF converter tools like Adobe or Nitro PDF allow you to create Digital IDs which act like certificates that can be given to any one person who has them.
That person alone can use those credentials to see the PDF file he receives, and he can see the PDF on any device he decides. But no one else can see and read the PDF file even if he gives them his Digital ID credentials to use. That is because the Digital ID can be used only by a single user, who will register himself, and his devices, for the first time when he receives the PDF file.
6. Get to know all about ebook DRM pros and cons – stay aware of them
DRM (or Digital Right Management) provides a form of digital content protection, set out by booksellers, which works in addition to traditional copyright laws, to keep your intellectual rights intact. As Kotobee, a full-service ebooks publishing company, write in their article “Ebook DRM & Security: What is it and How it Works”:
You can use DRM much as a security system protects a house, in that it’s a protective barrier for your artistic property. It works in the same way as digital music and films are protected against file-sharing tools by their own forms of DRM. In a nutshell, DRM stops users from copying, printing and sharing ebooks – and protects revenues coming in from each sale. In the capitalist context, to protect sales and revenues, you need DRM to restrict how, when, and by whom the books are used, to make sure people keep buying the ebook.”
DRM can help your ebook in several ways, including: controlling ebook distribution (e.g. preventing downloading, uploading, accessing, lending); controlling how many devices you can download the ebook onto; restricting the copy-paste feature; and so on.
Unfortunately DRM has not been as successful as expected. Just Google the search keyword “DRM cracking” and see how many tools there are that make mincemeat of DRM. I just saw “Top 5 DRM Copy Protection Removal Software”, “How to remove ebook DRM”, “How Do I Get Rid of the DRM on My Ebooks and Video?” and “eBook DRM Removal”. So much for any kind of protection!
But don’t lose heart. Worldwide, many laws have been created (and continue to be created) which criminalize the circumvention of DRM. And besides, some very big ebook publishers use some form of DRM or the other, so they are sure also to pour big dollars into research to stop DRM cracking.
7. You can watermark a whole book, or key parts of it, in many ways
By far the easiest method of protecting your ebook – with its images, audio and video content – is by a process called “Digital Watermarking”. The leading company in this business is Digimarc.
What are “watermarks” for protecting ebooks, images, audio and video? The dictionary defines watermarks for physically printed books as “a faint design made in some paper during manufacture that is visible when held against the light and typically identifies the maker.”
In the online world of content theft, a watermark would be best described as “… a logo, text, or pattern that is intentionally superimposed onto another image. Its purpose is to make it more difficult for the original image to be copied or used without permission.”
Watermarks can be either of the faintly visible variety, or even the invisible variety. Marketers often debate on whether watermarks on ebooks, images, audio or videos should be visible or invisible – they wonder which method would deter thieves more? I would say, use both.
How do you watermark ebooks in PDF formats? If you have Adobe Acrobat, you can use its built-in watermark feature to add a watermark to a PDF file you’re editing. Go to the “Document” menu, click “Watermark” and then click “Add.” If you want to add a text-based watermark, click “Text” and enter the text that you want to add to the document.
Here is an example below.
Image credit: InvestInTech
The only change I would make is to not use the words “Do Not Copy” which look tacky. I would instead subtly use my own brand name, or the title of the ebook, as a watermark, and make it look like part of the background design of the page.
Photo editing software like Photoshop usually allows you to apply a visible watermark (or an invisible Digimarc watermark) on your images. For the visible watermark, you can add a Photoshop layer with faint font-color and maybe apply your logo like a stamp on the image.
For the invisible Digimarc watermark, you may have to buy a package from Digimarc at a little over $100. It works by applying a small amount of “digital noise” to your image, and thus creates a pattern unique to your photo. This pattern is invisible to the human eye, but readable through software like Photoshop – so you can check if it’s your invisibly watermarked photo the thieves have taken.
You can also watermark audios (if you have an audio ebook, for instance) in a way indiscernible and inaudible to the human eye or ear, but discernible to a watermark reader. Digimarc can introduce a slight audio or video distortion which the human eye or ear cannot catch, but you can then catch out thieves if you have the Digimarc identifiers.
8. Get this best book you can learn all the legal angles from – be forwarned
If you intend to be a regular ebook author, there’s no point being entirely dependent on your attorney all the time to tell you your rights against ebook theft, and to teach you about the processes involved in suing or asking for a takedown of the offending website. Having your own knowledge is power.
So here is a fabulous book I can vouch for (it’s my bible), that every author should own – and READ.
Click the image to see it on Amazon.com.
Actually, this is the second edition of the book, and it builds vastly upon the first edition. It’s also more up-to-date on the technologies now available to authors.
I really liked one review by a reader, which I found to be very correct after buying the book. “It is direct and honest about the risks and potential dangers of self-publishing without being “foreboding” or negative. The author points out the pitfalls, but does not give you the impression that the whole process would be “too much” for an inexperienced person to handle. If you are looking for a valuable self-publishing guide and legal reference tool, a resource to help you make informed decisions about how to set up your own self-publishing business, this book would make a great addition to your library.”
The point I’m trying to underline is that you need enough knowledge on the legal side even to choose a good attorney. You can’t get yourself a sound attorney unless you know enough to know if the attorney knows his onions.
9. Make your “free extras” the most valuable and unpinchable parts of your ebook
Some authors throw in a bit of free access to themselves with their ebooks. They think it will increase the value perception of the ebook. They also believe it will create a validation for the money charged. But those are not the only reasons why you need to add some access to yourself for readers – there’s another important reason too.
Adding your personal availability to students to make your ebook piracy safe.
People can copy every word of your ebook text. They can copy your downloadable worksheets, if you have them as extras to your ebook. But they can never replicate your after-book “group Q & A discussions, masterminds or workshops”. This is where readers can have access to you directly. Add these free to your ebooks. Make these interactive sessions about “brainstorming” about the ideas in your ebook.
If you can build a Facebook Group where readers of your ebook can congregate and share ideas and opinions on an ongoing basis all the better. The increasing numbers of old and new members can make the group lively and an interesting hangout.
The idea is to be able to offer that extra personal contact that goes beyond the pages of your ebook. Nobody can pinch the unique value your personal touch and accessibility can offer, even if they pinch your book wholesale.
10. Using WP PDF Stamper Plugin – a “psychological” PDF protection system
In my search for a near-foolproof PDF protection system I came across this absolutely nifty WordPress plugin called the WP PDF Stamper Plugin from the company TipsAndTricks.com. Look at the clever little idea it uses …
When a person buys your ebook from your site, he naturally has to give you his postal address, his email address and so on, doesn’t he? Now, at that stage the PDF Stamper kicks in … and just before he is about to download his ebook, it stamps all the pages of the ebook with his personal data (in the clever guise of licensing the book to him).
It takes his personal data from the data he gives you at the time of purchase, to complete the purchase online. What is this personal data that gets stamped on all pages of the ebook like a licence? Look below to see the result …
Image courtesy: TipsAndTricks
Who’d ever want someone else even seeing this ebook? Stealing and selling it, or lending it out to friends, is hard when very personal details are indelibly stamped on every page. The buyer (who is often the first culprit of re-distribution) will be your safest ally – because he has to protect his own personal details from other eyes.
Isn’t this kind of preventive tactic far better than suing thieves after they have done the piracy? Works for me every time.
So What Are Your Thoughts? Do Share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of Knowledge Commerce solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
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