Stop stealing from writers. I’m not going to ask nicely. Just stop.

Just don’t.


If you are getting my books from someone who provides “free” PDFs for a monthly subscription, you’re breaking the law and helping a criminal steal from me. If you’re getting them free online without paying for them, it’s the same thing: stealing from me.

Sure, the guy providing the PDFs is worse — he’s actually doing the stealing. But you’re really no better.

Okay, okay. I know YOU don’t do it. But I bet you know someone who does.

So clever, right? Sticking it to “the man” — big publishers, Amazon, whoever it is your friend thinks is making zillions of dollars when he buys a book the legal way. We all know that guy — the one who knows how to get the soda from the machine without paying, or how to manipulate the restaurant into giving him his meal for free.

Why am I going on about this? I was made aware this week of a site — I’m not going to help the criminal who runs it by publishing the website name — that offers a monthly subscription and in exchange, subscribers can get all the “free” PDFs of books they want.

Mine are on there, as well as many of the authors on this blog site.

The site’s owner has a page of legaleeze that says he’s in “compliance” with 17 U.S. Code 512, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I’m not a lawyer, but from what I can tell after looking it up (think he’s going to tell you what it is? Of course not), all that act says is that the guy who owns the site isn’t liable for monetary damages for “transmitting” the copyrighted material that doesn’t belong to him as long as he’s not directly charging for the books.

I know he’s not the only one doing it — I stumbled on the site. I’m sure there are many like it out there. Some of my fellow Maine Crime Writers wondered if it was a phishing scam — something designed to get you to send information. I don’t believe it is. The owner of the website didn’t send me the information, I found it by accident. The information I had to provide to attempt to get my books removed is information easily found anywhere — my email address.

And if it is a phishing scam? The site still offers copies of books it doesn’t legally have a right to offer.

I know some countries don’t have the same copyright laws we have. But since he’s marketing to Americans, taking money from Americans and offering American books — still illegal.

Because he’s not directly selling the books he and those who take advantage of the site may believe that somehow the law isn’t technically being broken. I don’t give a damn.

Those of you who are writers know how hard we work and how little money we make.

Those of you who are readers often tell me how impressed you are with how hard we work and what the end result of all that work is.

Every single writer on this blog, as well as countless others across the country, works his or her butt off to do something few people have the talent or guts to do. I’m not going to apologize for not being humble about it, because it takes a lot of dedication and fortitude to get it right and those of us who do it have a right to be proud of what we do and call it what it is.

Then there’s the long painful slog of finding an agent and/or publisher, getting the books published, the never-ending process of marketing so maybe someone will actually read it.

Every writer has a different situation, and some live more comfortably than others, but most of us don’t make a living from our books and have to work at other jobs. Try working all day, then coming home to write a book. Try finding the time in your day to do everything you have to do, then on top of it writing a book.

Get the picture?

Compensation for the time we put in — from the writing to everything that comes after it’s published — is probably pennies per hour. If that.

Most of us also aren’t even remotely compensated for the vision, talent, insight, pleasure, entertainment — you name it — whatever intangible thing a good book gives you that keeps you reading.

But we still do it.

I’m not asking for sympathy for something I’ve chosen to do, but I want people to fully understand the damage when someone who has no right to offers a copy of a writer’s book for sale, or “free.”

I’m too pissed off to be more articulate about this. Maybe some of my colleagues on this blog can write thoughtful pieces about the legalities, or the big-picture damage it does. There are many who would do a really nice job.

Me? I’m not that guy. I’m pissed off. I don’t like being jerked around. I don’t like the books I put my heart and soul into, that are a huge part of me, being whored around so some asshole can make a buck.

If my language offends you, I apologize. But imagine how you’d feel. Don’t be offended by my words, be offended by what’s causing them.

The thief who’s selling my books has an overly complicated process for writers who want him to stop illegally providing copies of their books to suckers and idiots.

It’s bullshit made to intimidate people who aren’t sure what their rights are or are afraid to engage. He is BREAKING THE LAW, but basically saying “if you want me to stop you have to ask in a very specific way or I’ll ignore you.”

I didn’t pay much attention to his “rules.” I’m not going to jump through hoops to pretty please ask someone if he can find it in his heart to STOP STEALING FROM ME.

In the contact form provided, I said “I’m Maureen Milliken, the author of Cold Hard News. You are breaking the law by offering copies of my book. Take it off your site.”

I did the same for my other book, No News is Bad News.

I didn’t say please. No, I didn’t. I didn’t say thank you.

It’s nothing to be polite about. He’s stealing from me. Am I repeating myself? I feel like I need to keep saying it so people understand. He’s STEALING from me. And if you don’t care because you don’t like me, he’s also stealing from Bruce Coffin. How about that? And from Barbara Ross. And many, many others.

I’m not sure if my request will have any effect. In any case, he’ll just find other books to illegally make available. There are a lot of books on that site, as well as magazine articles and other written material.

He wouldn’t be doing it, though, if there wasn’t a market for it.

Most criminals who commit crimes because of greed put in the effort only if they know they’re going to make money. It’s one of the many things that sets him poles apart from the people who actually wrote the books and own the copyrights that he’s illegally offering.

I know you wouldn’t take part in something like this, because you’re not a half-wit. But tell your friend who does this:

I always have a box of books in my car. If you can’t afford to buy one legally, I’ll give you one. And sign it, to boot.

He can find my books in most of Maine’s libraries, as well as many out-of-state ones.

If he want to owns his own copy — thanks! — he can buy my books for $16.99 from my publisher, from many bookstores, from Amazon. He can find digital audio copies on Audible.

There are lots of places to legally access my books.

I get a fraction of the money people pay to buy them and I’m glad for every cent. I’m grateful. Not only because people think my books are worth buying, but also because someday I’d like to make enough money from my books that I can afford to write them without having to work multiple other jobs to pay my bills.

If your friend really, really wants to own my books and can’t afford them, I’ve got a box of them in my car. I’ll give him a free copy. Even sign it.

I have a right to do that, by the way. It’s my book.

But if your friend is getting books illegally just because it’s a gas to bypass the legal way to buy something?

That’s stealing. You friend is stealing from me. That’s disgusting and shameful.

So, if you’re on the internet and come across a site where you can get a PDF of a book for free, or you can get all the PDFs of books you want for a monthly subscription, and it seems like a good idea, keep this in mind: That’s someone’s copyrighted work. You will be stealing from that person.

I’m not saying please. I’m not saying thank you. I’m not going to be polite about it.

Just don’t do it.

Maureen Milliken is the author of the Bernie O’Dea mystery series. Follow her on Twitter at@mmilliken47 and like her Facebook page at Maureen Milliken mysteries. Sign up for email updates at She hosts the podcast Notes from a Cranky Editor all by herself, as well Crime&Stuff with her sister Rebecca Milliken.

About Maureen Milliken

Maureen Milliken is the author of the Bernie O’Dea mystery series. Follow her on Twitter at @mmilliken47 and like her Facebook page at Maureen Milliken mysteries. Sign up for email updates at She hosts the podcast Crime&Stuff with her sister Rebecca Milliken.
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23 Responses to Stop stealing from writers. I’m not going to ask nicely. Just stop.

  1. Anne Cass says:

    Grrrr. Not offended by your language, and deeply offended by the practice you describe. I hope you feel a little better having vented and I hope the thief has second thoughts…or at least takes your book off the site!

  2. David Plimpton says:

    Thanks for shining some light on this practice.

    It’s clearly theft and highly reprehensible for all the reasons you express. And I’m glad you didn’t mince words. And, of course, it’s as much if not more of a problem for publishers as it is for authors.

    Speaking as a lawyer, but certainly not as an expert in copyright/publishing law or internet crime, the fact that the crooks here may not be liable for damages in a civil lawsuit (or probably, even if there is liability, it wouldn’t be worthwhile to pursue damages in a civil lawsuit) doesn’t mean there’s not a federal crime here that theoretically could be pursued by the federal authorities and the U.S. Attorney, because a federal statute has been violated. Of course, to my untutored mind anyway, limited federal resources for this kind of thing, other crime priorities, the opacity of the internet, chameleon-like internet criminals, and no jurisdiction over foreign actors might be problems.

    Apparently the Association of American Publishers (Tom Allen, former Maine Congressman, was President until last year) and other industry groups are fighting back and trying to raise awareness. Don’t know if MWPA might somehow join in the effort. As a member of MWPA and writer, I’d support such an effort.

    Here’s an interesting article about one author’s effort to deal with the issue, including some resources noted:

    Best of luck in your efforts.

  3. Julianne Spreng says:

    Back years ago, when the music sharing sites began popping up on line, many of the people I know were all excited about this “free” music library. They downloaded and shared with nary a second thought. As a music lover and book owner I’ve never supported this idea of sharing as legit. It’s one thing to listen to the actual recording with friends or lend a book you own. It is stealing when you bypass the purchase of published material. They never understood my willingness to pay for something they took for “free.”

    You have every right to be pissed off. I was impressed by your rant. I will share this post with everyone I know and ask them to share it, too. Now a-days it seems that everyone feels entitled to whatever they want for free. There is no feeling of obligation to support the creator of what we are enjoying.

  4. Maureen, I’d really like to know the url for that website. If my books are there, my publisher can and will send the site’s owner a legal demand to STOP. She has done so before, and she isn’t afraid to take legal action if required. I haven’t been an active promoter of my work for some time due to responsibility for an elderly, frail parent, but I’m still in digital print and I report every such illegal on-line distribution of my work!

  5. Sennebec says:

    Well said. I have encouraged those on the Maine Library listserv to read it.

  6. Been there multiple times. But it’s not just the small weasels that do this crap. Google posted the entire manuscript of my first book online for people to download for free, claiming they didn’t violate the copyright because they left out part of the last chapter. Right. I’m thinking maybe five words of the last chapter.
    Try suing Google.

  7. Thank you! Well said!

  8. Mamie Ney says:

    I’ll add my two cents. I was at Target in Biddeford about a month ago. There was a woman standing in front of a children’s book endcap. She was photographing a book page by page. I told management about it but they didn’t do anything. I was going to go talk with her myself, but by the time I got back there, she was gone.

  9. Mary Feliz says:

    Those who obtain novels (or video games or apps or music) through these sites are asking for malware, spyware, and viruses, which are often imbedded in the downloads. They’re often designed to launch themselves after an extended period of time so that you don’t associate the malware with your illegal download.

  10. I hate to say I know exactly how you feel, Maureen, but unfortunately I do. I used to send out STOP letters on my own, but after a while I came to two conclusions. People who steal aren’t going to stop because I tell them to, and a lot of the “stolen” books contain malware. Anyone who is downloading a “free” book is in danger of getting malware, and that’s what they deserve. Thanks for talking so eloquently and forcefully about something that is hurting all of us.

  11. Linda Moffitt says:

    Shared Everywhere I could for You 🙂

  12. Gail Wood says:

    Hear! Hear! The DMCA compliance is bullshit. Without even looking at, I can tell. I’m not a lawyer but a librarian with long experience with Fair Use and copyright and as my institution’s DMCA agent. And you are right, the subscribers collude to defraud and steal. In sticking it “to the man,” the “man” turns around and sticks to everyone in the chain. And who is at the bottom of the chain? The author.

    Readers don’t understand publishing’s relationship with the writers. I’ve had friends tell me proudly that they’ve purchased my books off a remainders table, at a used bookstore, or at And they wonder why I never quit my day job!

    Good luck to you.

  13. Amber Foxx says:

    I have been told by a fellow writer who attended a conference in which a law enforcement professional presented on this topic (sorry my recollection is so imprecise) that pirate sites often do not really have your book. They only want subscribers’ information. I looked at one with a .ru address that claimed to have my books. It also claimed to have books by Pat Conroy and other people far, far better known. I may be wrong, but that made me think the site couldn’t possibly have the books–that such established authors’ work would be more aggressively protected. And also available in libraries. Between libraries and promotional discounts, the frugal reader can still access books. Even when buying a used book, they are buying something that was initially paid for by someone.

  14. Bess says:

    I hope you do a follow up with his response! What a horrible thing he’s doing.

  15. This practice of theft disgusts and discourages me as a new author. Thank you for speaking frankly about it! If you don’t mind, please email me the site so that I can check to see if my books are on there. Thanks! And keep on doing what you’re doing!

  16. Lisa Spangenberg says:

    You can file a DMCA notice of takedown.

    You must follow the procedure absolutely correctly. This is crucial; mostly it’s a matter of following instructions and being specific.

    Send it to the guy, his IPS and his Registrar.

    If the content isn’t taken down in compliance with the DMCA, pursue the complaint with the ISP and Registrar.

    Google How to File a DMCA notice.

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