UPDATE: The Author’s response and mine are below.
Last week, TUEBL, The Ultimate E-Book Library, received it’s first DMCA takedown letter in reference to a handful of books by Caitlin Kittredge. The original letter is posted over at TorMovies. The more . . . um , creative version of the story is over at the TUEBL blog. Both are worth a read. [EDIT: since the upheaval at TUEBL, these links don't work. The original letter was a pretty standard DMCA form letter. Let me see if I can find it somewhere.... ]
This makes me sad.
I guess I have more empathy for authors, since I’m struggling to be one myself. But this really turns my stomach even more than the fuss kicked up my movie and music industries. As if authors don’t have it hard enough! Caitlin Kittredge seems to be doing pretty well for herself, but what about others in her genre? No doubt dark YA fantasy and urban fantasy writers share at least some fans. Do other less successful or aspiring authors want to enter a community intimidated into silence? Intimidated into not sharing or not even reading their books for fear of legal repercussions?
As one of these aspiring writers, I’d answer with a resounding “No.”
But of course, this might not be the faut of the author. Sometimes letters like these do not come at the request of the author, or even with their knowledge (like when they are dead!)
I’ve never read any of the books in question. But as a writer–ok, aspiring writer–I thought I had to say something. So I went to the contact page of her website to drop her a line, a friendly heads up, just in case she wasn’t already aware of the situation. My comment is still “awaiting moderation,” and very well may never appear there. So here it is:
Did you know that your books are being used to harass the mild-mannered librarians over at TUEBL? You probably do, but I had to say something because publishers can do crazy things like hire someone to write intimidating letters about a writer’s books without even letting them in on it. (And without so much as a seance for the dead ones. Now that’s just rude!)
I just wanted to let you know (in case you didn’t already), since piracy is known to increase sales and it would be terrible for you to lose money and support because a scary lawyer is driving away potential fans!
— On Fri, 10/28/11, Caitlin Kittredge wrote:
From: Caitlin Kittredge
Subject: Your comment
Date: Friday, October 28, 2011, 3:36 PM
I wanted to address you directly since I got both your comment and pingback and you seemed to think I wouldn’t respond, so I wanted to make sure I did since I make it a point to respond to comments and mail if it’s at all humanly possible.
Unfortunately, MacMillan, my publisher, has a zero-tolerance policy on unauthorized ebook sharing, be it for profit or non-profit, since they are in fact the rights holder, and are representing authors, the copyright holders. They maintain a large team of DMCA legal personnel who scan the internet for pirated works for all of their authors (I’d hate to see what their Google alerts folder looks like) and if the letter you received happened to have my name attached, I hate to tell you, but it’ll probably shortly be followed by more with the names of other MacMillan authors.
As for piracy increasing sales, well, we’ll have to agree to disagree there.
Thanks for writing me,
And my response to her:
Thank you for responding. I have to admit, I didn’t expect it.
That’s too bad about MacMillan. I submitted to them once before. I’ll have to take them off my (rapidly shrinking) list. It is unfortunate that they choose to spend what must be a considerable sum of money on a legal department instead of on their authors, their readers, or any number of other things it could go to (don’t their offices need new espresso machines or something?)
As far as piracy increasing sales, it’s what the evidence suggests. The 2009 study by O’Reilly is still one of the most comprehensive studies specific to the publishing industry. In their research they found a lift in sales with the books that were pirated. This is one of the few I’ve been able to find that looked at the effects of piracy on specific titles. Many others only look at X number of dollars lost by the industry–which is completely useless in determining piracy’s effects (show me the industry that hasn’t lost money over the past few years!)–or X number of downloads (as in 1 dl = 1 lost sale, a faulty system at best and at worst a deliberately deceptive one.)
The stories of specific authors are worth looking at, though they can’t be said to represent all authors across the board. (For a more representative sampling I look to the studies.)
Perhaps you could do your own experiment, ala Paulo Coelho?
Incidentally, if you do still want to pursue TUEBL (or even if you don’t but you can’t stop McMillan,) you may want to tell Attributor, the company that sent the email not to include a direct link to the download in their takedown letter! (They should rather include the link to the books page on TUEBL where the download link is.) I downloaded Daemon’s Mark purely by accident when I clicked on one of the links in the letter!
And for the record, I figured the least I could do was read it. While it’s not the type of book I would normally pick up I am enjoying it, and if my budget allows it, I may spring for the real thing. I hope you know that this is the type of thing TUEBL exists for and encourages. They really love books over there. It’s much less of an Arrrrrrr matey! type of place and much more of the Shhhhh. people are reading! type. Though I haven’t yet been Shhh-ed.
cheapass-in-residence at www.CheapAssFiction.com
And she was kind enough to get back to me again.
Yeah, I have no control over what MacMillan does, sorry to say. Giant media corp. and all that. Most pubs. these days have anti-piracy teams, FWIW, just like they have a marketing team and an HR department. Since you’re on their radar now, you’ll probably continue to receive the takedown notices.
Someone else linked me to the study while we were discussing piracy on Twitter yesterday, and I confess because I’m on deadline I only skimmed it, but this situation has inspired me to write a longer post, so I’ll be looking it over in detail. For the record, I definitely know the loss isn’t a 1/1 ratio…I have access to my own proprietary sales data via my publisher, and those numbers make that obvious.
I do want to say thanks for being civil in our exchange. Most discussions about ebooks and sharing have devolved into screaming by this point, so I’m glad to be raising the discourse.
I’ll respond in the morning. It’s almost 2:30 here, so if I want to write something coherent it’ll have to be in the morning . . .