How Do I Stop People From Illegally Sharing My Ebook?

As an author, one of your biggest fears may be that someone will pirate your ebook. Piracy can be devastating to an author’s income and can be difficult to stop. However, there are a few things you can do to make it more difficult for people to share your work without permission.

One way to deter piracy is to use DRM (digital rights management) to protect your work. You can also add copyright notices throughout your book to remind readers that it is illegal to share without permission. Another effective method is simply to ask readers not to share your work in a notice inside the book.

In this article, I will cover:

  • Do ebooks get pirated?
  • How common is ebook piracy?
  • How can we prevent book piracy?
  • What to do if someone steals your book

Do Ebooks Get Pirated?

Digital piracy is when someone takes a copy of a digital file, such as software, a movie, a game, or an ebook, and then puts it online where other people can download that file for free.

Ebooks are digital files, so it is incredibly easy for pirates to offer unauthorised copies of an ebook for free. This can be through readers sharing their own copy with friends, or websites offering the ebook as a free download.

How Common Is Ebook Piracy?

According to the Author’s Guild, “Online piracy is a major factor contributing to the decline of authors’ income.” They see a “clear correlation” between a loss of income and an increase in digital piracy. However, ebook piracy is still not as widespread as many authors believe.

Very often, the websites purporting to have a panicked author’s ebook available for free download are nothing more than phishing or scam websites looking to steal data.

However, there are still many pirate sites that do offer downloads of stolen ebooks, and as soon as they have shut one site down, another one pops up. But there are still some things we can do as authors and independent publishers to make life more difficult for pirates.

How Can We Prevent Book Piracy?

The best way to prevent book piracy is to make it as difficult as possible for pirates to access your ebook with encryption, and to assert your rights as a copyright holder of the work. Another way is to make it as easy as possible for legitimate readers to read your work (see below).

What is a DRM-protected eBook?

DRM is a data encryption method that protects your digital documents, eBooks, and web-based content from unauthorised access and misuse. By embedding your content with DRM protection software, you can ensure that only authorised users can access and use your materials.

This is a good way to prevent copies of your ebook from being easily shared online. Kindle, Adobe, and Nook all offer DRM solutions for the self-published author, but remember, determined pirates can find ways around the DRM encryption.

Also, DRM can make it more difficult for legitimate customers to read your book on their preferred devices or share it between devices. As a result, many authors prefer to avoid it.

What is Social DRM?

Social DRM is a process where the customer’s ebook is stamped or watermarked with details such as the customer’s email address and date of purchase. It will only work on PDF files that are less than 250MB in size, but it won’t currently work if the PDF is contained in a ZIP file.

Social DRM doesn’t negatively affect the customer, and it can discourage piracy, as it would be obvious who’s shared the file, but only if the ebook is in a PDF format.

Can you copyright an eBook?

Copyright is automatic, and there is no need to purchase or register an ebook for copyright. However, it is best to place a copyright notice within an ebook stating the name of the copyright holder and the year of publication.

Registering the copyright of a work of art is expensive, but it offers some peace of mind for the copyright holder, as it is straightforward to produce proof of copyright should a case go to court.

If you’d like to learn more about copyrighting your ebook, you can read my article How Do I Copyright a Self-Published Book? (A simple guide)Opens in a new tab.

How do I stop people from sharing my eBook?

Using DRM and copyright notices can help prevent piracy. Another simple and effective method to prevent readers from sharing your work is to ask them not to with a simple and polite notice inside the book.

Advanced Review Copies (ARCs) and Beta copies of the book before publication are the books most at risk of being distributed. If you use beta readers or ARCs, ensure you remind them they are not to distribute the book without permission and place a notice within the ebook highlighting that it is not a finished or published copy, and should not be distributed.

If you also place contact details inside the book, you may have readers contact you to let you know they found the book online. If you keep track of your ARCs and beta readers, you may be able to track down which copy was leaked and who leaked it.

How to make it easy for readers to access your work.

Many readers pirate work as a last resort, when they cannot access the work via any other means. Making your work easier for readers to access can make it less likely that your ebook finds its way onto a pirate site.

1. Publish in all formats

Make your book available in as many forms as possible, including paperback, hardback, and audio format, as well as digital.

2. Publish worldwide

Ensure that whichever publisher you go through, be it KDP or Draft2Digital, you enable worldwide distribution, so everyone everywhere has a legitimate way to access your work.

3. Sell at an attractive price

If you are self-publishing, don’t price your book as if you are one of the big five publishing houses. The better your price, the more you sell, and you will make up the difference if you take the right approach.

Also, try to make good use of promotions and sales, so even if a reader cannot afford to buy your book at full price, you can give them an opportunity to purchase at a discount.

4. Make your work available in libraries

This isn’t as difficult as it sounds. By making your work available to book distributors who work with libraries, it becomes far easier for the reader to request their library purchase your book so they can read it for free while you still get paid.

What Do I Do If My Book Is Pirated?

If you find your book being offered for free on a pirate site, the first thing to do is assess the damage. The site may be a phishing site, with no books at all, in which case nothing needs to be done. Or it may be an established pirate, in which case you can offer a takedown notice.

How can you tell if a book is pirated?

Before you can stop piracy, you need to find it. You cannot spend all of your time trawling through pirate sites just in case your book is one of many digital files being shared. However, you can set up Google AlertsOpens in a new tab. to warn you about sharing.

Setting up Google Alerts for your book title and the author’s name can help you monitor the illegal copying of your work. If someone offers your book for download, a Google Alert will notify you.

As a bonus, this will also alert you when readers are talking about your book! This can help you keep track of reviews, recommendations, and even blogs and articles in which someone mentions your book.

How do you report book piracy?

Most sites that offer free books are scams. All they want to do is take your data or send you a virus. Out of a hundred websites you find, ninety-nine of them will be fake and not worth a second thought.

If you have found a website, and you are certain they are pirating your book, and you really want to spend the time and energy on dealing with it, there are a few steps you can take.

Report it to the site owner

Often, piracy is easy to stop. Simply send a polite email to the owner of the website where you have found your book for free. Most times, the site owner will be happy to remove your work from their pirate library.

However, you may not find the site owner, or they may refuse. In this case, if you feel there has been a serious breach of your copyright, you can look up the website’s hosting service and registrar via WhoisOpens in a new tab., to highlight the copyright infringement.

What is a DMCA takedown notice?

A DMCA takedown notice is a legal request that a website owner removes copyrighted material. In the case of book piracy, it would be your work that is being illegally shared.

The DMCA is a US law, but many website owners worldwide will respond to a DMCA takedown notice, as it is seen as a serious infringement.

To file a DMCA takedown notice, you will need to send a letter to the website owner, requesting that they remove your work. You will also need to provide proof that you are the copyright holder and that the website is illegally sharing your work.

It’s important to note that you should only send a DMCA takedown notice if you are certain the file is a pirated copy of your book. If you send false or misleading notices, you could be liable for damages.

If all this seems intimidating, you can hire a service such as DefendoxOpens in a new tab. to take care of the issue for you, but this service does cost.

In Summary

Piracy is a problem that all content creators face at some point. It can be difficult to stop people from sharing your ebook, but using DRM and copyright notices, asking readers not to share, and monitoring ARCs and beta readers can help.

Making your work easier for readers to access can also make it less likely that your ebook finds its way onto a pirate site.

You can set up Google Alerts to monitor the illegal copying of your work and, as a last resort, report book piracy by sending DMCA takedown notices.

But remember, pirate sites offering your work are likely to be fake and will send people viruses rather than free content.

Rather than spending your time and energy pursuing takedown notices, you might be better off focusing on writing your next book.

Good luck, and happy publishing!


Niamh Murphy is a bestselling author of YA adventure fiction, proudly publishing independently since 2013.

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