The self-publishing industry is nothing short of a revolution, and a midst the chaos there are people looking to profit. No, I’m not talking about the authors, I am talking about the thieves.
The self-publishing thief is a new take on an old breed. They are, by nature, parasitic and desperate. They operate by scouring forums, blogs, and the e-book market to find good work, and then they claim it. An e-book author may receive an e-mail that they have “stolen” the thief’s work. Soon after, the publishing platform (Amazon, WordPress, CreateSpace, etc.) will receive an email notifying them that the work is stolen and they need to take the piece down.
Next, when the author fights back, the thief will provide documentation. By now, they will have obtained your work and edited it terribly, dating it with a pen so that it appears they have an earlier draft.
The thief has one goal. They do not want your work. Odds are, your work is not worth that much to them. If they gained intellectual property of your piece, they would need to market, to sell, to essentially be the publishing house for the piece. No, what the thief wants is what all thieves want: Your Money.
See, the thief knows that your work is valuable to you. And as a self-published author, they are betting that you don’t know a lot about the industry. What goes and what doesn’t. They are taking the chance that you will pay them off so they don’t sue you. They will threaten and curse, and they will play the part of the victim. They want your money, because they know your work is something you are willing to pay for. It is like seeing your child being held hostage, rationality just isn’t always present.
So what can you do?
Intellectual Property Rights
You own your work. You have the rights to it from the second it is conceived. No matter where you put it, it is legally yours until you sign it away to someone else. These rights allow you to control the means of distribution, which is why the parasite is able to make take down notices. Don’t let them trick you. You have a right to your work.
Your thief will have records too, but it helps if you have them. Don’t keep your work in one document, make a new save each time you edit or advance. Having the multitude of files and a record of the writing will provide you with further proof that the work is yours. When you finish a draft, print it, date it, and seal it in an envelope. Label and date the envelope in pen. Having these things in writing is invaluable.
Do Not Pay Them
They are not worth your time or money.
Do Not Be Afraid to Fight
They will play the victim and you will either feel confused or like a bad guy. You can not be either. Be respectful, because e-mails can come out and be used against you. Like most parasites, the thief is not used to resistance. It is used to a sneak attack, one that will knock you off your feet so they can go for the neck. If you are prepared, the thief will back off. They know the work isn’t theirs, and they know they can’t win a legal battle with you. Lawyers are expensive.
Don’t Call Bluffs
You don’t want to go to court either. Do not provoke them or threaten to counter-sue. The legal system is not a weapon. When they back off, let them run. If they don’t back off and do genuinely intend on taking you to court, be ready with your documentation. Do not be the aggressor, being the aggressor makes you look guilty, especially when the opposing side is crying wolf. Don’t be the wolf.
Obtain the Official Copyright
Yes, you do retain the copyright of your work upon creation but that can be hard to prove. In the United States, you can pay $35 to register original authorship of your work. Registered Copyrights are public information, and are pretty definitive in court cases. If you have a registered copyright, there are solid chances a thief wouldn’t bother messing with you. If they do, telling them you have the registered copyright should be more than enough to make them back off. $35 can seem pricey, especially to the more prolific authors, but for people with longer pieces I recommend it as a precaution.