I discovered a web page last month alleging that my book Guns and Utu (Penguin 2011) was available for free PDF download from a company named Playster.
According to the page I found, some 2048 copies had reportedly been downloaded in the last month. This was odd: I hold the copyrights and publishing license. Neither Penguin Random House, nor I, have ever licensed it to a free download service.
What’s more, the book was briefly issued by Penguin in DRM-protected Kobo format – now withdrawn – but has otherwise only been available as the original Penguin print edition. There has never been a ‘PDF’ edition, and the book has never been free, anywhere.
The next word is ‘piracy’, although the only way anybody could pirate Guns and Utu as PDF would be to scan the hard copy.
A search led me to bulletin boards wondering whether Playster was legitimate, including complaints from people who had signed up on promise of Book X or Y, only to find it wasn’t there: http://www.kboards.com/index.php?topic=219428.0 – and this: https://www.reddit.com/r/ebooks/comments/3l0lz5/what_is_playster_and_how_legit_is_it_seems_when_i/
I contacted Playster, advised them that any PDF they had of Guns and Utu was pirated, and requested a take-down. I also asked them to desist from advertising it. Their communications manager personally got back to me within 10 hours despite the time-difference between New Zealand and the United States. Excellent response. He confirmed that they didn’t have my book, said that third-party sites outside their control occasionally misrepresent their content, that Playster has strict criteria for use of its advertisements, and that they’d approached the offending page-owner with a take-down request.
The page disappeared within 24 hours. That’s good – apart from anything else, advertising non-existent products is an offence under New Zealand law. And I suppose elsewhere too. I have to thank Playster for being so prompt and professional when approached.
The experience got me wondering who else might be falsely claiming my books are available. I’ve since found a site listing virtually all my books (plus others by other Matthew Wrights, mixed up), claiming I ‘released’ them to be ‘corverted’ [sic] for availability on ‘Donnaplay’. This is a lie. They do not have any of my intellectual property and the claim on that page is fraudulent. Here is a page commenting on them: http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/donnaplay-false-advertisement-c758540.html
When I clicked on these listings, I was sent to this page (here’s a screen shot). The ‘sign up’ bar takes you to a site called ‘Lilplay’.
There’s also: http://books.jottos.com/view/14757035/1guns-and-utu-a-short-history-of-the-musket-wars-14757035.html – in which my name is mis-spelt and where, again, they are lying about availability.
I am well aware of the ways people exploit pay-for-click advertising, in which traffic gets driven by any means and they collect the click-pay, all without the authority or control of those named in the advertising. I expect trying to shut down every fraudulent web page alleging non-existent pirate versions of my stuff will be a game of Whack-A-Rat.
Bottom line? My books are NOT available on Playster, Donnaplay or Lilplay, or anywhere else rogue web pages point to claiming my books are routinely ‘free’. I am not associated with any of these organisations, and none of my material is licensed to them.
The only distribution channel where any of my books are legitimately promoted free at any time is on Amazon, and only briefly – by discussion between me and my publishers. That’s because both I and my publishers want to sell you my books – genuinely through proper channels. We do that because we know you’ll enjoy them and that genuine readers are happy to pay fair sums to genuine authors and publishers in recognition of the hard work and expense that goes into creating a reading experience. Everybody wins.
Want to buy any of my books? Talk to me, check with your favourite bookstore, or look online at Amazon.Right now, my book Fantastic Pasts is up there, available for pre-order until 2 April – after which it’ll be released.
And if you want Guns and Utu, I have the last few print copies in captivity. Brand new. Autographed. You won’t get that by following internet scam-scrape adverts. Call me.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016