This week, we sent a letter to Congress asking for help in fighting piracy.

Authors care about e-book piracy. We hear this increasingly from our members. From 2009 to 2013, the number of Internet piracy alerts we received increased over 300%. In the next year alone, from 2013 to 2014, it doubled.

There is a direct connection between e-book piracy and authors’ pocketbooks. The publishing industry as a whole loses $80 to $100 million to piracy annually, according to the Association of American Publishers. Many publishers have the resources to adjust their business models to absorb piracy-related losses, but individual authors don’t. Each time a standard frontlist e-book is pirated rather than purchased through a normal retail channel, its author forgoes what would have been nearly $2 in royalties. This adds up and make a real dent in the typical author’s earnings. (According to our recent survey, median writing-related income for full-time authors in 2014 was only $17,500.)

Despite many publishers’ implementation of anti-piracy software and technological protection measures, the problem continues to grow. According to the International Intellectual Property Alliance, the effectiveness of protection measures is limited by “business models built entirely around manufacturing and distributing technologies, software, devices, components, or tools, or around providing services, to gain unlawful access to the content or to copy it without authorization.”

So we’re asking Congress to do something about it. This letter, addressed to the House Judiciary Committee (which is spearheading a review of U.S. copyright law), reminds members of Congress that Internet piracy directly harms authors’ ability to make a living. It asks them to consider key changes to the U.S. Copyright Act to give authors a productive remedy for online infringement—not the ineffective, Sisyphean system currently in place, known as “Notice and Takedown.”

Court decisions have construed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s Notice and Takedown provisions to mean that a copyright owner is required to send a notice for each separate instance (i.e., copy) of infringement, specifying the URL. But as soon as a pirated copy is taken down, it is usually put right back up. Needless to say, copyright owners cannot keep up with this senseless game, and individual authors do not begin to have the resources to send a new notice every time a pirated copy is posted or reposted.

We are asking for a “Notice and Stay-Down” regime: once a webhost knows a work is being infringed, it should not continue to receive “safe harbor” immunity from claims of infringement unless it takes reasonable measures to remove all infringing copies of the same work.

You can help supplement our efforts to create more awareness among members of Congress by contacting your Representative to express your support for this change. Feel free to pass along our letter or write your own. And, as always, if you’ve been a victim of Internet piracy, let us know at staff@authorsguild.org.


Letter to Judiciary Comm 7 9 15 (Text)