As paid WordPress solutions like Themes, Plugins and eBooks rise in popularity so does that act of piracy with people downloading illegal copies of developers and authors content for free. Mostly all the popular paid wordpress premium products on the market today have been made freely available through the mediums of BitTorrent, eMule along with Websites which link to uploading sites like rapidshare, uploading etc. Of course this is a problem many larger industries Music, Movies etc have faced for years now so how can it be best combated by wordpress developers without making the mistakes other industries have and still continue to make each day where piracy is concerned.
WordPress Developers who sell digital content like WordPress Themes, WordPress Plugins or WordPress eBooks on the internet are always going to be susceptible to piracy, unfortunately that’s just part and parcel of the digital download new media game. You see anything that’s a digital download product can be shared or copied hundreds of times over and the wonder that is the internet allows you to easily share that product with hundreds or thousands of other people for free.
I decided to write this article to share my thoughts, explore the subject in greater depth and maybe give out some information that can help others if their content has been pirated.
How The Content Gets Shared In The First Place
There are several typical people and reasons why Paid WordPress Content will be shared for free on the internet.
Release Groups – People who share all the latest web design paid content for kudos or access to a larger share dump
Web Site and Forum Owners – People who share all the latest web design paid content for kudos and to get more traffic to their sites.
Casual Spreader – People who share what they have downloaded on other nulled script, warez sites
Friend to Friend – One of your friends has bought the paid product and emails you a copy for free.
Typically professional sharers referred to as a Release Group is a single person or a group of people who share, race to get the latest copyrighted content available to download for free. They do it for kudos within a Scene “Nulled Scripts”, “Warez” or access to larger file dumps with a lot more copyrighted content. Up until now WordPress Themes, Plugins have seen nearly no Release Groups take their marketplace on, eBooks however have been hit by so called eBook Release Groups just ask Packt Publishing for example.
Believe it or not people who own websites release copyrighted content for free download, usually the file has been uploaded to rapidshare, megaupload, uploading etc and a link supplied in a blog or forum post. This is currently one of the most popular ways of sharing wordpress paid content with other unknown users on the web.
A casual spreader will share a paid file he has downloaded for free on other websites he is a member of, sometimes he will answer a request for the file other times he will replace broken download links with working ones.
Otherwise known in old-skool real world terms as sharing, we have all bought a DVD, Game, Book and lent it to a family member or friend haven’t we?
Impact Of Sharing Pirated Content On WordPress Developers
In theory a single person would pay for a product like a wordpress theme then share that theme on rapidshare where another 1000 download it for free. Now of the 1000 people who have that file 25% of them share that on other websites they are members of spreading it even further. When all sharing activity on the internet is combined from Download links, P2P, FTP, NewsGroups, IRC etc you can see how one file can suddenly explode into tens of thousands of illegal copies in circulation.
Now to be realistic if 10’000 people downloaded the file illegally there is a percentage of which would never have bought it anyway so no revenue is lost on them. But what about the percentage that would have bought the item and would be considered as actual lost revenue, how big that percentage would be is however largely unknown. Currently and most probably in the future there is no clear-cut way to tell how many illegal downloads would actually have led to a sale had the item not been pirated. The best attempt you could make at estimating lost revenue unfortunately is a complete guesstimation ie, simply pull a number out of the air and say we have lost this much due to piracy.
Can’t Put The Rabbit Back In The Hat
Can’t put the rabbit back in the hat refers to the fact that once a file has been distributed on the internet that’s it out there, you can’t take it back or eradicate its availability. If 10’000 people now have that file on their hardrive that’s 10’000 possible re-shares and uploads, if the file is available now it will also be available in the future with their being nothing you can do to change that fact.
How To Approach WordPress Piracy
You may have already figured out the sad fact that there is no way of stopping piracy of paid wordpress products, even if your product has callbacks, verification measures it will eventually be nulled and released for free. The best approach is to largely ignore it using the saved time to find ways of adding continued value to you business through membership, support, customization, consulting etc. If you try to tackle internet piracy you will be chasing your tail for years and have very little if any impact for time, resources and money spent on the matter.
Now I’m not saying do nothing at all if you find web sites – forums that share you content through uploading sites like rapishare, depositfiles etc monitor them with a dedicated Google RSS Reader. This way you can keep track of the constant offending sites that share your products and contact the upload host with details of an infringement, this gets the link removed from rapidshare etc and hassles the uploaders. Also this way if somebody re-ups a new link in a comment etc you can easily send another infringement notice to the upload host.
When it comes to bittorrent sharing basically forget it and completely ignore it, you will get no results from complaints or take-down requests. Time better spent else where than searching torrent sites that will usually throw up fake keyword results just to get traffic anyway.
Friend of a Friend should for obvious reasons also be ignored for one you will never know if somebody has emailed your product to their brother hence you cannot do anything about this one.
How Not To Approach WordPress Piracy
First thing is don’t be running around the internet shouting your displeasure and issuing take-down requests it will get you no where and most probably draw more attention to your files spreading them further. A badly thought out comment that brings resentment from sharer’s will make some more determined to share your content and future content even more so. Also get to know some basic copyright law and legal country boundaries as USA law is not applicable in Europe and vice versa.
An example below of what not to do comes from Jeff Star and concerns the Digging Into WordPress eBook. It’s with regret that I have to say this as I admire Jeff’s work but on this occasion he got it wrong.
Personally I would never comment on a blog post or forum asking for one of my products to be removed if its rapidshare link or the likes. I would simply contact the upload host with details of the infringement and get that particular link removed, then as I said previous subscribe to the blog or forum for monitoring future posts or re-uploads.
Jeff’s comment as you can see does more harm than good along with doing nothing to get the offending link removed, also Jeff’s threat of filing DMCA notices to all the major USA search engines and re-coup the costs from the offending site are misguided and seem more of an angry “Thats My Book Your Giving Away” rant approach. For one how can Jeff re-coup Income loss and Damages when he cannot provide exact figures and proof detailing the amount actually lost, as I explained previously this would be a complete non statistical guess of lost revenue without any proof as to the volume of actual real world lost sales.
To file a DMCA (USA Only Law) request to google for example you need to fax or snail mail it in, and it needs to contain the correct DMCA notice structure or it wont be accepted. Jeff could specifically target this site’s adsense income though as it serves ads from google, you can then imply that Google are helping them (Offending Website) monetize your copyrighted content which is actually owned by you but being given away from free by them. This in turn could see the offending site banned from the Google adsense program.
Accepted Google DMCA Notice Letter Structure
Notice of Copyright Infringement
The copyrighted work at issue is the text that appears on www.mycontent.com/page1.html and www.mycontent.com/page2.html
The URLs where our copyrighted material is located include www.copypaste.com/abc.html and www.copypaste.com/xyz.com
You can reach me at [email protected] for further information or clarification. My phone number is +1-202-393-3984 and my mailing address is John Q Public, 323, Park Avenue, Willcity 39232 CA.
The email address of the website owner, who has reprinted our content illegally, is [email protected]
I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.
As a workaround to snail mail and fax, you can take a picture of your signature and paste that as in image in the Word Processor. Then you fax the document to Google DMCA department via Skype, Email or online.
The site Jeff is complaining about is hosted within China and using USA only DMCA laws against a Chinese based and hosted site on its hosting provider would be completely incorrect in its approach should Jeff consider that as an option. Any legal action by Jeff in this case would have to be taken against the site using China’s own DMCA equivalent laws and not the USA DMCA laws as they have no jurisdiction in China. This is sometimes a common mistake made by copyright holders when raising complaints, each country has different copyright laws and only those countries laws can be actioned in a take-down request against a site, hosting or it’s content. USA DMCA laws cover America and are only valid within it’s borders, they do not apply to the whole world so with a site hosted in China they won’t apply.
Thinking out of the box I may leave a comment however with a link to my original product along with some benefits of why you should purchase the original rather than download it for free. State the benefits of buying the original and getting access to support, updates, community etc, even if 10 people read you comment and make a purchase it’s 10 sales you would never have gotten. You can still voice you displeasure at seeing the product available for free but keep it toned down like “I am disappointed to see our product available here for free as you are missing out on all of these great benefits of purchasing the original”.
Turning a negative post into a positive one will reap more benefits, avoid the words illegal, piracy, legal action etc in any of your replies as it won’t help this strategy and most probably result in resentment and mocking from the share community.
WordPress Piracy Conclusions
I’m sure some of you will agree and disagree with my opinions on what the best way to handle wordpress product piracy is, hopefully though I have made some valid points for conversation and debate. The conclusion I come to is you can’t and will never be able to completely stop piracy of your products but you can maybe turn it to your advantage with some out of the box thinking and well positioned strategies other than chasing the culprits. Yes it’s disheartening to see your work being pirated, yes you a probably losing some revenue, but it’s a war that’s been fought by much larger industries than wordpress developers and they have all lost and are continuing to lose each day. Do what you can but don’t waste money and time that could be better spent adding value to your products fighting piracy.
Finally why should you actually purchase original wordpress themes, plugins and ebooks. As I mentioned earlier because of all the added benefits like Support, Regular Upgrades, Community Help and most of all to keep developers working and developing new awesome wordpress content. Pirated Themes and Plugins are also particularly vulnerable to having malicious code inserted into them that include virus’s before being made available for download, yes it happens and more often than you would think so buy the original.
Please feel free to discuss this topic further in the comments I would love to get everyone’s feedback on this subject, thanks.
And go buy a copy of Chris & Jeff’s awesome book Diggin Into WordPress you wont regret the purchase.