Stop Thief! A Pro Writer’s 5 Tips After Her E-Book Was Stolen

Hacker stealing e-book from writerIt was an evening like any other… poking around on Amazon. But tonight was different. There, before me, in all its glory, was my new e-book with someone else’s name on it!

Thus began an emotional roller coaster of confusion, shock and anger. “Ojuola Infotech” had come to my website, downloaded my newly finished e-book, and put his name on Pricing Basics for Copywriters & Consultants: Meet Your Income Goals — Guaranteed!

Worse yet, it wasn’t just that my e-book was stolen. He stole my brand as well. CHRIS NOTES was now OJUOLA NOTES.

Did I see red? You know it. And it cost me emotional turmoil, enormous amounts of time, and lost income to do what I did next.

Namely… I went after him. But not before I got my e-book back… and my authorship.

I’ve been dealing with this professional tragedy for nearly five months, and I’m still not finished.

Because I don’t want you to suffer an experience like this, I’m going to give you my top five newly learned tips for protecting your work, so the Ojuolas of the world can’t hurt you.

 

Tip #1. Get your work copyrighted.

In the U.S. it’s commonly believed that simply putting a copyright notice on your work is sufficient. But as I discovered… it’s not! The only reason I got my e-book back was I because could prove legal copyright to the booksellers I contacted. Register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office, or if you’re in another country, the governing body in your country that handles intellectual property protection.

Tip #2. Start with Amazon.

When I proved to Amazon that I was the rightful owner of my stolen e-book, the fraudulent version of my e-book quickly disappeared from the catalogs of many smaller booksellers, too. Going to Amazon first saved me lots of extra work in booksellers I didn’t have to contact.

Tip #3. Avoid Web page downloads.

DO NOT put your intellectual property on a Web page for download — either for free or for purchase. This is how my Nigerian thief, Ojuola Infotech, got my e-book. He uses keywords to find the kind of book he wants to steal. Then, he uses advanced knowledge of how websites work to find the digital file.

Tip #4. Choose other delivery methods.

Rather than have your work on a downloads page, email the file to your subscriber or purchaser. I use e-Junkie and AWeber, but there are other service providers who can deliver your file securely, either via email or by placing your file behind a firewall.

Tip #5. Call on your relationships.

There is astounding power in community. I’ve been fighting this beast on my own, but now that I’ve regained my property, my writer friends are getting the word out on this predator. There is social sharing, commenting, blog posts, and copywriters are even creating video sales letters exposing Ojuola Infotech.

Have you had your writing ripped off online? Leave a comment and tell us what you did.

Chris Marlow is a writer entrepreneur who shows other writer-entrepreneurs how to use their writing skills to make money in copywriting, information publishing, and ebook sales. Learn more at chrismarlow.com.

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67 comments on “Stop Thief! A Pro Writer’s 5 Tips After Her E-Book Was Stolen
  1. Angela says:

    When I was working at a content mill (this is another reason to avoid them) I had a client steal several of my articles. I discovered that he stole them when I hadn’t been paid for my work and decided to find out if they had been published anywhere (Copyscape), and it had. I contacted the websites and asked them to remove the contact and then had the client removed from oDesk. The worst part was that I had been writing most of these articles in a hospital because my husband’s grandmother had had an accident and was in a coma and I didn’t want to miss my deadlines. I was pissed… but I learned a huge lesson. I refuse to submit work without a contract and if I don’t know the client very well (or I can’t find out a good deal about them) I don’t submit work without at least a partial payment.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Good lessons to live by, Angela!

      There’s nothing more galling than knocking ourselves out for clients in tough circumstances, only to find they don’t treat us respectfully.

  2. Leigh says:

    It appears the scammer has other stolen books associated with his profile. I just wrote to another author to let her know he stole one of her recipe books. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have her email address on her site, so I had to leave a blog comment. I hope she sees it.

  3. Mili says:

    If you do not want to use an email to deliver your content, Gumroad seems like a nice platform for selling digital content on your own website. You can also offer your files for free if you want.

    However, I do not know if there is anything preventing someone from sharing your downloaded copyrighted file with their friends.

  4. Hi Chris,

    You handled this really well, and I’m glad you turned it around into an opportunity to help other writers protect themselves.

    One of the writer’s biggest fear is to have her work plagiarized/pirated, and this fellow did much worse by removing your name from your work and selling it as his.

    I’d be furious if this happened to me as well.

    I believe piracy is a problem in every country, and in every industry; it’s not isolated to Nigeria, and it’s something we writers should unite to attack; your response to this, especially in rallying around other writers and educating them on how to protect themselves is commendable.

    Best Regards,
    Bamidele
    Bamidele Onibalusi recently posted…6 Silly Writing Mistakes You Should AvoidMy Profile

  5. Linda H says:

    Chris,

    I’ve followed your ordeal since you first published it and am glad you are getting such support on your efforts. Making the online writing world aware of this is a great move for awareness.

    Good luck on your continued efforts. I’ll follow your tips and ensure I’m protected from such a nightmare. Thanks for sharing.
    Linda H recently posted…What Do You Say When an Interviewer Asks — Why Should I Hire You?My Profile

    • Chris says:

      Thanks Linda… and thank you Carol, for the platform. it’s time we could have spent lolling by the pool, LOL.

  6. Carol Tice says:

    Hey folks — here’s one of the videos Chris was mentioning, that people are making to help bust this plagiarizer: https://youtu.be/zHXzLAS5ABg

  7. Maxie says:

    Hello Chris, As a Nigerian who reads this blog regularly and have richly benefited from the quality of the ideas and inspiration from this platform, I am deeply embarrassed and saddened that a fellow compatriot would cause you so much harm. The issue of piracy and intellectual theft is the bane of a lot of Nigerian creatives who have been denied the full reward of their creative endeavours. The dysfunctional state of the Nigerian legal system, poverty(especially that of the mind), and the get-rich-quick mindset prevalent among Nigerian youths have all contributed to fuel this problem. While the Nigerian government through the relevant authorities are doing their best to fight this menace, poor funding from the government, corruption within the government, and the high level of creativity and ingenuity among these pirate gangs have seriously undermined the effort of the agency responsible for fighting this menace.

    But having said all that, I must add as well that Nigerians are generally law-abiding citizens who are curious, accommodative, fun to be with, creative, innovative, entrepreneurial, and love literature.

    I commend the effort you took to stop this thief, and exposing him for who he is. Do not let this abuse your mind about Nigeria and Nigerians and begin to be suspicious about anything Nigeria, as the Ojuolas of this world does not represent the true “Naija Spirit”. With a population of over 170 million people and over 70% of them below 30 years, there is so much energy flowing in this country. Nigerians are very active online and on major social media platforms, and they are at the forefront of an emerging new Africa. With increasing broadband internet penetration and proliferation of smartphones, there is huge potential for creative individual who would want to seek for a very constructive and engaging way to access this emerging knowledge economy.

    We must also understand that piracy is not only a Nigerian problem but an international one and we must all combine to fight it.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Maxie — I feel bad for all the Nigerian creatives that people like this give a bad name to. I know how hard it is with Paypal blocking your country.

      But we all know Onibalusi around here, and that Nigeria is certainly not a country made up of thieves.

      A lot of the scams I’ve seen and hack attempts on my blog and such have come out of Ireland. It’s everywhere.

    • Chris says:

      A wonderful response and much needed insight, thank you! On my blog a fellow from Nigeria also commented… he said he would take this info back to his Internet marketer friends there and see if he could do some ‘clean up’ from his advantageous position. As with here, everyone felt bad that he has to fight the perception that Nigeria is rogue. In the past weeks I’ve also had to work with my phone company to help me block robocalls from the US and India. So yes, it’s everywhere.

  8. Hope it’s not too off-topic if I recommend an article that offers a little perspective on the e-books-vs.-print-books question: Books: Read and Delete, Or Read and Share? at writing-world.com. I thought of it when I read about the (relative) ease of plagiarizing e-books as compared to print, because it talks about the complementary concern: e-books are harder for customers to give away [legitimately], so why not stick exclusively to e-books so I can earn money for every reader and not just for every copy?
    Katherine Swarts recently posted…Seven Deadly Sins of Self-AbuseMy Profile

    • Chris says:

      You make an interesting point Katherine… if you do print only it would be harder to steal. Much harder. But the other side of the argument is that something like 30% of sales of books (ebooks) are digital. People are making a lot of money just writing ebooks. It would cost you a lot of income to forego digital just to protect your work from the random thief… if I understand you correctly?

  9. Shauna says:

    I’m sooooo sorry you went through this! I just don’t understand how people can steal – no matter what it is.

    I will be providing a link to this post to my writer friends who produce eBooks.

    Frankly, I’m old school; I prefer hand-held books, but each author has his/her own preference. The Internet is a double-edged sword. It makes life easy for those of us who are honest and working hard at a living. Unfortunately, it makes it easy for thieves as well. They think that because they’re located outside the US that they won’t be caught. They are so wrong!

  10. You should definitely copyright anything you make public, and over which you wish to retain some sort of control.

    It only costs $35 and takes 10 minutes, if you do it electronically at the Library of Congress Copyright Office. There’s just no reason not to do this!
    Marion Gropen recently posted…Stupid Things Pirates SayMy Profile

  11. Hi,
    amazing Article and It is very helpful tips for Writers learn new things
    Thanks so much for sharing with us
    keep up it Have a nice week Ahead
    Bilal Khan Meo recently posted…Mobile SEO Tips To Help You Survive The Coming Google MobilegeddonMy Profile

  12. YIKES! That is scary! Thank you for letting the writing community know about this so we can do our best to protect ourselves. I sure appreciate that you shared this.

    • chris says:

      You’re welcome Melanie. If we know about it we can reduce our likelihood of getting hit. If we work together to get the word out, we can shut them down. As I learned through my post, some copywriters have had their online identities stolen. That would be even worse! There are some resources for reporting theft and will blog about it next week in order to share what I’ve learned so far.

  13. If the work is long enough, you may also want to consider getting an ASIN number for it. The same as an ISBN for non-digital books. I’ve had plenty of work taken from websites I’ve written. Truly, the same copyright rules should apply to dig as to books and mags.

  14. Allen Taylor says:

    Yikes! I hate to hear stories like that. Unfortunately, the digital ecology has made it very easy for scoundrels to rip off other people’s work. And it’s not easy to fight.

    These are excellent suggestions, but I have to say that registering your copyright only affords you the benefit of seeking damages should you need to pursue someone legally. Your work is copyrighted the moment you put it into form.

    Also, registering your work won’t guarantee that no one will steal it. There are free conversion software that will allow anyone to convert your book from one format into another easily. All they have to do is download your book (whether free or purchased) and convert it into another format, edit the work, add a new cover, and re-publish under their own name). It’s truly unavoidable.

    The best defenses are to price your books so that they become an unnecessary financial risk to those who would go through the trouble (but this has a downside that could cost you sales) and to use secure websites like eJunkie to manage the download process.

    This is a good cautionary tale. It’s the first time I’ve heard of it happening with e-books.
    Allen Taylor recently posted…Case Study: Carol Tice Finishes Strong with ‘Start Here’My Profile

    • chris says:

      HI Allen,

      Having a copyright with the U.S. Library of Congress got Amazon to work with me, or I would not have gotten my book back. But yes, you are right… thieves will find a way and it’s a never ending battle. In the info-publishing business we accept that there will be some loss. But this wasn’t just a book for me… it’s part of a set that represents 30 years of pricing knowledge so I wasn’t willing to let this one go. Also I have worked hard on the branding… which I have now changed at a cost of time and money.

    • Carol Tice says:

      We’re a big fan of firewalls around here — we use Digital Access Pass.

      “Security by obscurity” does NOT work.

  15. Nida Sea says:

    Oh, I was following her story in the emails she sent out. I have to admit, it made me mad, too! I couldn’t believe (Well, it is the internet) that someone would stoop so low. Yet, thieves exist everywhere, including online. I’m glad she was able to get her book back in her name.

    • chris says:

      It was a lot of work Nida and isn’t over yet… we are making videos (“we” means some of my copywriter friends), to get the word out even better… Ojuola Infotech is everywhere but when we work together as we are now, it makes a difference. He has taken my book off his private sites like his FB page… he knows we are coming after him!

      • Nida Sea says:

        I bet, Chris! I feel for you, but good thing you’re going after him. And, your experience definitely makes me consider getting a copyright for my book when I do publish it. I wonder how many other writers have experienced this? Geez, that’s such a scary thought.

  16. Franki says:

    What a complete & utter nightmare. I thought putting one`s copyright on a piece was enough – evidently it isn`t and I`ll get down to finding out more about that law in the UK.

  17. Harris says:

    That’s really terrible to hear! Really interested to hear about the whole process too.. This is something that I’ve not factored into yet too, should really start looking into it to have a contingency plan!

  18. Kimsea Sok says:

    I am so sorry to hear your eBook was stolen, He was a really bad guy.

    You know? Your article is very useful to me because I believe that my first eBook will be finished at end of this month, or maybe on Middle of June.

    Actually, I plan to upload it to my blog. Thanks, god that I found this article first.

    I think that I may send it directly to my subscribers through email attach.

    Anyway, I know nothing about Amazon publishing. Do you have any advise for me..

    Thanks for sharing..
    Kimsea Sok recently posted…6 Monster Blog Marketing Mistakes You Have to Stop ItMy Profile

    • Chris says:

      Kimsea, I joined Geoff Shaw’s Kindling course/community. I think he is the best to learn from as I believe he is not your typical internet marketer who sees an opp to teach. He is a longtime full time book author.

      • Kimsea Sok says:

        Chris,

        Thanks for responding and recommendation, but could your please give me more information about the course..

        have nice day..
        Kimsea Sok recently posted…How to Start Best Small Business With BloggingMy Profile

        • Chris says:

          HI Kimsea… it’s all about publishing on Kindle. He has a lot of content. it’s all self-directed but he does have a private facebook page. He isn’t hands on, but he will respond to light requests. I bought it two years ago and he keeps adding content. I don’t remember what I paid but I did just ask for a refund from another outfit selling Kindle-how-to and they were NO comparison. Hope this helps 🙂

          • Kimsea Sok says:

            Thanks Cris..

            Actually, I’m not completely understand about what you said. However, you make sense about that. I’ll find more information about that..

            Thanks for your support..

  19. Robert says:

    In addition to the above, be extra wary of shysters who want to help design a website for you. These guys know when you’re on the lookout for designing a new website for your book or company, and will send an email (no company or last names) offering their services.

    You call them up, and they will ask for a few hundred dollars via PayPal or similar to design the website upfront, never be heard from again.

    Also, learn the differences between a “creative commons” license, versus “copyright” for your books and writings. Each have their benefits and flaws.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Ha, I get several of those offers every week…set phasers to ignore.

    • chris says:

      Good tip… I always use ONLY people who are referred to me… via LinkedIn contacts, communities like this one, etc.

      • Carol Tice says:

        We like to hire editors and such from our Den community around here!

      • Linda H says:

        I made the mistake of hiring someone from LinkedIn who wanted to set up my website and move it from GoDaddy to WordPress, years ago. Said he was a web developer. I did what research I knew how to do, and hired him. In exchange, before I knew better, he wanted me to guest blog on his website. I allowed him to move my website, which was great, but then he started designing it to suite himself not me. I eventually fired him and after that he hacked the website, using my business URL for SPAM. I was blacklisted from five search engines, listed as DO NOT FOLLOW, and my SEO ranking fell from a 5 to a 0.5 in two months.

        I had no clue what happened until I took an SEO course through a professional web developer, Jason McDonald, owner of JM Internet Group, and saw my website was blacklisted. I followed up and discovered the hack job. It was a nightmare to block this guy, repair the SEO damage, and my SEO rank has stalled at 2, but it’s up from 0.5.

        Background check everyone. Later, I believe the same guy that hacked my website pirated my image using it on 10 profiles under a different name. A client from France alerted me on that and I spent months getting those removed, including from LinkedIn.

  20. Hi Chris

    Thanks so much for sharing this – it makes my blood boil! I’m in the UK so would have to check more about our intellectual property laws once I start publishing larger amounts of my own content (I’m hoping to write an ebook this year)

    The only experiences I’ve had with having my work ripped off is through ghost-writing – where I have written short stories and ebooks for clients, and then they haven’t paid me (usually stating that they are no longer in need of the project).

    Then, perhaps not surprisingly, I see the published ebooks for sale on Amazon a few weeks later. This has happened twice – and both times concerning clients with whom I thought I had a decent, trusting relationship.

    I’m not sure there’s really anything I can do about this, aside from getting payment upfront in future. The amount I was owed for the work wasn’t really worth a big battle – but the principle of it all was still pretty shocking.

    I’m glad you shared this story – I’m definitely going to make sure I go about things more cautiously from now on!
    Steph Simpson recently posted…Growing My Income: How Gina Horkey’s Freelancing Course Helped Me Land More ClientsMy Profile

    • chris says:

      HI Steph… your terrible experience is probably because they are small businesses. I always get 100% up front from small businesses. One of my copywriter friends lost $3,000 that way. Sickening. Do use a contract with everyone that has legal in it so you can sue them if need be.

      • mark says:

        Do you have a suggestion for a contract? Just going to an atty doesn’t really mean anything unless they are familiar with copywriting and Kindle books

        • chris says:

          HI Mark… I do… I sell it in one of my products that you can find on Amazon… I just revised it and uploaded it to Amazon last night (with the new brand) and brought the price down to 99 cents for a promotion I’m getting ready to do. It’s called the Copywriters Pricing Toolkit. The Toolkit contains several forms but the Fee Agreement is what’ we’re talking about. It’s ironclad and will save you from many bad things!

          • chris says:

            oops… update… the price is $2.99… I was working in it late last night and meant to go down to .99 for a promotion starting next week… but KDP won’t let me go lower than $2.99. I’ve been studying Kindle and learned yesterday that you can “price match” to get the price down on your book but I don’t have it anywhere else so can’t do that. Sorry… fuzzy memory from being up too late PLUS I’m afraid it’s also called “age”!

            • chris says:

              For what it’s worth, I’ve spent the last couple of days packing my brain with Kindle info from Geoff Shaw’s Kindling course. I’m a bit brain dead.

  21. Join the Author’s Guild. Check their qualifications to join and see if it’s a match for you. If it is, it’s the best $95/year you will ever spend. They give you free legal support. Also check all contracts.

    • chris says:

      Fantastic tip Meredith… I will certainly do that. I used LegalZoom for this as I already had a contract there. But the Author’s Guild may be much better!

  22. Very interesting article, I always wondered what would happen if someone stole your work. There was no court case or anything like that? How did you prove the file was yours?

    • chris says:

      I had to refer Amazon to the Trademark Company who verified that I had bought a copyright for that work. Once Amazon took the book down the other booksellers were easier to work with but the all required me to jump through the same hoops, responding to their specific requests for proof. It was easy to show them that I had components that made up the book, and also that it was part of a 4-book set.

  23. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for sharing this story, and I’m so glad you’ve been able to fight back! Could you share more about why you think ejunkie and Aweber will help prevent this?

    I originally sold my ebook as a PDF download from my website using ejunkie to house it and distribute it via email. I love ejunkie, but anyone can email the PDF out to as many people as they’d like. They are still downloading it, just from an email attachment or a link to ejunkie. Now I have it on Amazon as that seems to prevent this particular issue. I’m very interested in your thoughts on this! Thanks!

    • Leigh says:

      Unfortunately, even using Amazon isn’t enough to prevent persistent thieves from making off with your content. I’m not sure if there are programs available to rip content from Kindle books, but if there aren’t, all a thief has to do is hire someone to re-type the book content in a Word document and then convert it to PDF or paste it into a new Kindle book.

    • chris says:

      I’m sure a behemoth like Amazon has their books behind a firewall… Aweber allows you to send an attachment with your autoresponder… ejunkie has a similar set up where it emails your files – and it can send a LOT of files at once!

      • Carol Tice says:

        Mailchimp also allows you to upload and deliver via their platform.

      • Leigh says:

        I’m sure they do, but a scammer who stands to make hundreds or thousands of dollars by stealing the content wouldn’t hesitate to spend 99 cents to $12.99 to download the book legitimately and then copy it.

        • Chris says:

          Well I have just learned how to “lock” a PDF. Now thethief can’t copy and paste. He has to type everything by hand, then copy the design. It’s a deterrent for the small timers. And even the career criminals may look for easier prey. These kinds of guys want E-A-S-Y.

    • chris says:

      A thief will find a way… but even one layer of protection could help a lot. Had I not had those files on a page for download, this whole 5 months of hell might not have happened.

      • Carol Tice says:

        Chris — what sort of legal avenues do you have with an international case like this? Besides just getting it taken down, obviously, which you’ve done.

        • chris says:

          Carol, I had no legal recourse because he is in Nigeria. Even if I could sue him I probably would not simply because of the time and money issue. On the other hand, some countries we may have copyright agreements with (like the U.K. most likely). A big question would be damages… if someone stole from me and I suffered damages, then I would consider suing. I was told by Books-a-Million that Ojuola Infotech / Bolakale Aremu did not earn any money. I found them out before the pay cycle had completed. Plus of course I left lots of comments that the book was stolen, where ever you are allowed to leave comments on a book.

    • chris says:

      Truth is Stephanie… there is much “sharing” going on. I have had copywriters tell me that a friend gave them my Pricing Surveys… a clear “theft” that many think is ok.

      • Stephanie says:

        Thank you for your replies, Chris! Yes, there is much “sharing” and I think the digital culture is really changing how people think about these issues. I teach at a university, and this is something we talk with our students about. One of my colleagues researches copyright issues and particularly around who owns copyright in various situations. I’m glad you’re fighting back and talking about this! And, again, I appreciate knowing all the tips you shared.

  24. Lem Enrile says:

    That’s terrible news. So what happened to the thief?
    Lem Enrile recently posted…Job Board List: Where to Find Freelance Writing GigsMy Profile

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "Stop Thief! A Pro Writer’s 5 Tips After Her E-Book Was Stolen"
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