Posted by & filed under TUEBL. 24 comments

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:

Hey Caitlin,

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!

Go libraries!

Caitlin’s Reply

— On Fri, 10/28/11, Caitlin Kittredge wrote:

From: Caitlin Kittredge 
Subject: Your comment
To: aeliusblythe@yahoo.com
Date: Friday, October 28, 2011, 3:36 PM

Hi there,

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,
Caitlin Kittredge

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.

Hi Aelius,

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 . . .

24 Responses to “TUEBL’S first takedown letter”

  1. Travis McCrea

    A small addition, they have gone after my PayPal account and had it turned off… and are not going after my hosting companies.

    We asked for two additional pieces of information:
    1) A copy of the agreement between MacMillian publishers and the agent who asked to have this taken down, to prove that they have that authority.
    2) A link to the content that they want removed (not a link to the epub file itself, but a link to the page where the epub file can be found).

    Our redundant hosting system would make deleting the file itself pointless because it self-replicates over our servers. I delete it, it would come back. Apparently those were too difficult of tasks to complete.

    • aeliusblythe

      GET FLATTR! Sorry. *ahem.*

      I swear I’m not a Flattr sales person, it’s just one of the more reliable systems for funding (for direct donation as well as regular flattring.) (And actually one of the only ones I can use since I finally hit an impasse with PayPal.) Anyway, I guess the issues with PayPal were inevitable, weren’t they? They’re not exactly known for proportional responses to controversy.

      ” 2) A link to the content that they want removed (not a link to the epub file itself, but a link to the page where the epub file can be found). ”
      Yeah, I thought that was really funny because I totally downloaded the first book on the list by accident when I clicked on the link. Way to NOT get people to pirate something . . .

      And by the way, I commend TUEBL for it’s diplomatic response. Not that TPB’s responses to legal threats weren’t hilarious, but it probably didn’t help their case too much.

      • Travis McCrea

        I wanted to be lulzy in my response… but we *JUST* setup wonderful infrastructure, and we are still getting “things together” we want to release TUEBL 2.0 soon and if we are forced off one of our current hosts that means we have to spend a day or so migrating servers again. Of course, with the new system we no longer have downtime…even if our service gets turned off… but we want TUEBL2.0

        Besides, we have no problem taking down the content if they give us a valid take-down request. Our uploaders will probably upload a new copy anyway. 😀

        You don’t look very Chinese

        • aeliusblythe

          Hey I understand. I don’t want more trouble for TUEBL than is absolutely necessary in its position. Though if in future you have the room for lulzyness at the expense of some copyright trolls, that will be much appreciated. :-)

          And no, I’m not Chinese, I just teach English like all the other white people here. Here, I am qualified to teach. At home, I’m qualified to dig holes. :(

    • Nurul

      One really does diaespr about the competence of people at the helm in Publishing when Mr Suchomel feels that these comments will be taken in any way seriously by anyone.The Bandwidth comment is just stupid. there is no other description. The security comment is also plainly stupid. Corporations across the world, small and large distribute highly confidential documents every day of the week with no problem, yet the Publishers can’t learn to use something like DropBox ?I am not sure I really understand the comments Mr Suchomel makes about the relationship between paper and e.Is he really claiming that eBooks cannot be successfully promoted unless there is a paper version in existence first ? I ask because it is so irrational and bizarre. I wish his comments had been more fully quoted or tested when he was being interviewed, to give him the chance to dispel the obvious conclusion about his competence.

    • aeliusblythe

      Just posted! Sorry, I was running off to work this morning when I was in the middle of writing my response. Not sure if I’ll get another though…

      My qualifications? For teaching or digging holes? I can teach because 1) I’m a native English speaker and 2) I studied linguistics in college and did some ESL/tutoring stuff.
      I’m can dig holes because I also studied archaeology. Unfortunately, linguistics and archaeology are both subjects that are pretty useless below the PhD level. Hence, China.

  2. Travis McCrea

    😛 I would do something like that (maybe not china, S. Korea is looking for native English speakers as well), but no college degree.

    Apparently they want proof you are educated!

    ==For her response:
    It’s not her fault, it’s an industry which is trying to manipulate it’s subjects. Copyright doesn’t help artists it helps the industry as a whole. Without copyright we would just have more content in the hands of the creator and more money.

    • aeliusblythe

      Bah, education! I got more of that here than I did in college. And I bet you’ve got more than you would have with a degree too…

      I do feel bad for writers and artists in this type of publishing climate. As she says it’s MacMillan’s policy to pursue pirates and what can she do about it? (Well, I’m sure speaking up wouldn’t hurt–well, it would probably hurt her actually.) It’s too bad really. How many opportunities are lost because publishers have a stranglehold on who gets to read their books and how?

      I wasn’t lying in my letter to her, I am reading the copy of her book that I accidentally downloaded. Definitely not the kind of thing I would have ever taken home from the bookstore (just not my style, not to say it’s bad.) But it’s fun and entertaining and good for some light reading. So there’s one more person who she’s reached via a free (and accidental no less!) download.

  3. Travis McCrea

    Even if you don’t buy her book… at this point she has another person reading her writing, and she didn’t lose a sale over it.

    Also you might want to tell her that it’s not your website, because she has made a reference in both emails suggesting it might be. 😛 You can take credit if you want to… but I wouldn’t advise it.

    • aeliusblythe

      Uh yeah, I’ll be mentioning the whole not-my-site thing in my response. Not that I wouldn’t want to take credit for the awesome thing that is TUEBL, but it’s just… you know, orange jumpsuits, they’re SO un-flattering and orange is SO not my color; I really have more of a winter complexion.. OK sorry, not funny. I’ll let her in on the big secret when I reply right after this.

      But for the record, I want to do anything I can to help out the site, I’m not really afraid of trouble. I’m in CHINA for fuck’s sake, I’ve seen the need for cultural freedoms and it pisses me off to no end when I see Western countries failing to protect such basic things as sharing cultural material.

      • Ingrid

        I have a question, I see that you can acsecs the ebooks from a ipad or iphone can you download them to your apple device or is it just like a page that you can acsecs? I guess the question is can I download them straight to my ipad and then acsecs them without the internet like the old ebooks or will i always need internet to view the content?

  4. Travis McCrea

    ^ Or using legal force to protect peoples hobbies.

    I was thinking about that this morning (it’s something I have always thought about, but I was thinking about it again this morning):

    The guy who spends 7 years building a boat by hand doesn’t impose legal issues on mass boat builders.

    When my web development friends build a website, they don’t expect to get paid out on it for every day they are alive and then more so 70 years after they die.

    Writing, making music, even making movies are all hobbies. You got into it because it’s something you love to do, and you like sharing your art with others. If you are good enough that people want to give you money for your work, that’s awesome… but using the force of law to protect your hobby is just as silly as if commercial boat makers got sued by hobby boat makers.

    • aeliusblythe

      “The guy who spends 7 years building a boat by hand doesn’t impose legal issues on mass boat builders.”

      And “a guy who builds a nice chair doesn’t owe money to everyone else who’s ever built a chair.”

      Yeah, I think that’s something that’s difficult to get through to artists, not least because it’s extremely difficult to talk about period. The fact is, most artists don’t make it professionally. Hopefully, they can still enjoy their art and have a nice life anyhow. And they’re still in a way contributing to culture (because maybe they share their work with their kids or their friends or whatever) but it’s just a fact that you can’t force people to buy that culture.

      That’s something I want to address because I GET it. I moved to the other side of the planet in order to find a job where I had time to write, and before that I worked digging holes all day and before that I wrote when I was a student and I had some shitty jobs then too. Look at the people who do NaNoWriMo–many of them have kids and 40hr/wk jobs and they still write even though most won’t ever get a cent out of it.

      It’s just hard to look at people and say “Hey, I know you love this, but you won’t ever get any compensation out of it–probably.” Hard, but true. But let me tell you, if you have a hobby that you love, you keep doing it regardless.

      • Olga

        It depends on the wesbtie you are writing for and the area you are writing about. An article offering financial advice will probably be better paid than a piece about a trip to Disney World. These days it is very difficult for freelance writers to make money on the web but even so, $10 for 1000 words is very poor pay. Our magazine would pay $50 and we are only a minor publication for teachers but the article would also appear in print.binky

    • aeliusblythe

      I hope so–maybe I should add some orange to my wardrobe to see how it looks… Or I’ll just hope I’d get to go to one of the places with blue outfits. Or white. OK, white would suck because it get’s dirty so easily…. Ok, now I’m creeping myself out again thinking about it. Probably not going to go there (though to be completely honest, I can’t help considering my piratey escapades when thinking about whether to move back to the US. Ironically I feel somewhat safer here… )

      • Ari

        Somewhere in the middle of rediang your account, I thought, This sounds like a Preston Sturges kind of story. Then I realized it IS a Sturges story. Guess it’s another one for my to-watch list, because it’s one of his I haven’t seen. And so is The Great McGinty.Almost off the subject: Did you see the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou? I read somewhere that the title came from Sturges. Since I haven’t seen it, I don’t know if there’s any further connection.

  5. Travis McCrea

    Seriously need an edit button 😛

    😛 That was me who provided some links to various studies (from her email).

    If you convert her to pro-piracy I will seriously fly to China and hug you.

  6. Jelske

    I’m not sure about writing, but a small (or huge, depending on how you look at it) part of getting better is avoiding common grammatical errors like the use of the contraction it’s.

    • Auth

      For what it’s worth. I have spent quite a bit of time with little kids. Ryland, Gram and Nevin trneud out okay .alright, well they are still breathing .And Maggie just trneud one!I’m just not use to having to add that powder junk to organic mush. But now I know.And this weekend was Nolin’s favorite weekend ever!

  7. Sheogorath

    There’s one thing I don’t get, why do you even have a DMCA policy? This site’s top domain is .ca, which indicates that it’s in Canada, and the DMCA is part of the Copyright Act 1976, which is part of US law. Basically, the DMCA Safe Harbors don’t apply to this site, so you’re under no obligation to follow the other parts of that legislation.



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