DMCA Musings and Muso

I found Muso DMCA Takedown service through Twitter. A well-known author in my genre tweeted about it and I thought I would give it a try, because I have to tell you the truth: I gave up playing whack-a-mole with illegal downloads of my work last year. I was spending an hour a day every morning tracking down the torrents and files, keeping records of the URLs, and serving DMCA notices through e-mail. When you’re already pressed to find time for writing, that hour becomes very precious. I realized I could either write new work, or I could spend my life trying to keep illegal downloads of old work out of the hands of readers.  When you look at it like that, the choice becomes easy.

Muso’s price is a little steep, around $20 a month in USD. I still haven’t decided if it’s worth it and I’ll need to compare sales numbers from before and after I began using Muso to see if it’s made a difference.

Not every pirated ebook automatically means a lost sale. I can’t make an accurate guess of the percentages, but my gut tells me that at least half of all of these types of downloads are acts of laziness. It doesn’t mean that every downloaded novel was actually read. It doesn’t mean that every downloaded novel would have been purchased if only it hadn’t been made so readily available for free. It doesn’t even mean that the person who downloaded it was necessarily looking for a book written by me, since I will often find my books being offered in a gay fiction compilation of hundreds of novels. Therefore, I can’t say that when I go to a site and see that the book has been downloaded 1,500 times that I’ve lost royalties for 1,500 novels. I haven’t. A large percentage of those downloads do not represent and would never have represented a sale, and that’s because when it comes to ebooks, downloaders tend to just grab everything, shove it on to the drive or their Kindle, and hope that they’ll get around to reading it someday.

So, generally speaking, an illegally downloaded e-book does not necessarily mean lost money for me.

Back to that laziness thing: people will not pay for something if it’s being offered free right under their noses. We can debate the morality of this mindset forever, but I’m more interested in the facts. Specifically, I’m more interested in how these facts can result in better sales numbers for me, and one of the ways to do that is to remove temptation from the board.

If it becomes difficult to find free stuff, if you make people work for it, they’ll often decide it’s just easier to cough up the pittance for the e-book at Amazon rather than spend an hour scouring torrents and visiting dodgy websites loaded with malware that could take their computer down in flames.  Again, not addressing the morality of taking stuff that doesn’t belong to you or of depriving us hard-working authors of our income, just observing how the system works.

And how it works is this: Muso removed over 30 pirated files of my work from general circulation in the past month, including 4 files from one site I had written off long ago as completely unresponsive. Since Muso will automatically re-file a DMCA notice for any copyrighted work that is not removed within 48 hours, it could be that I simply annoyed them enough to start deleting. When it comes to getting what you want, there are benefits to being a bother

The pros: you only have to fill in your information with Muso once. After that, everything is automatic or 1-click. You still need to maintain your campaigns, but the process becomes streamlined and much easier to deal with. You save time and you have the satisfaction of clicking a button and having something that was previously a huge pain in the ass taken care of for you.

You can never underestimate the value of kicking a pain in the tuckus to the curb.

With Muso, I feel like I’m actually getting something done about the piracy of my work, taking action instead of just passively letting it happen. It’s empowering to take back some control, and while it’s impossible to police every pirated copy, it’s satisfying to be able to deal with some of them.

The cons: Pricing could be cheaper. I don’t think they realize it, but breaching that $9.99 cap for digital service turns clients away. I mean, I love Lumosity.com, but I don’t love it $14.99 a month. At that price, my brain will have to do its own training. Writers Market is $5.99. Domain hosting for my author website is $11.00 a month. You see where I’m going with this? You have to budget your Internet services, because we all have more than one. $20 is a large bite. That’s one third of my total monthly billing for cable Internet service, and it will be at least another quarter before I find out if was worth it. It would also make Muso the most expensive digital service I subscribe to. Perhaps an option for Indie authors at a reduced price level would be in order here.

Muso’s web interface is not difficult, but you’ll need to spend time getting familiar with it. On an organic intuition scale, usability is quite good. However, the “Add Files” option is almost useless. Human beings can find pirated files in ways that a search engine can’t, and that’s what the Add Files option is for, but of the more than a dozen times I tried to enter a file location, the form rejected all but one entry. The dynamic nature of the Internet is the culprit here (and the ingenuity of piracy sites, who are doing some sneakily clever things with Java) but I think that option could be improved. As it stands, if you find a pirated file on your own that Muso’s interface can’t handle, you still have to do the paperwork yourself.

So in conclusion, despite the price, I’m inclined to give Muso a few more months. My workload is lightened and there have been results. Only time will tell from here, but I’m going to recommend it to my fellow authors and see how it goes for them. Good luck, guys!

*BIG HONKING NOTE: I always add a addendum here about file sharing in countries outside the US, Canada, and Europe: In a lot of places around the globe, my novels are either not available, the price range is beyond the means of the reader, or homosexual material is forbidden by law.  In those cases, I can have no objection to file sharing.  All I ask is that once you find the books you want to read, just read them and enjoy. Heck, write and tell me about it. I’d love to hear from you. 🙂 Just please DO NOT RE-UPLOAD them back to file sharing, piracy & torrent sites. Share small!

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