Overnight, I’m Famous… On Playster… In Russia… What?

copyrightinfringement.fwI have to laugh, because I have no other option.

A few years ago I self-published a small collection of stories titled The Face Maker and Other Stories of Obsession. It didn’t do much in terms of sales, but then I didn’t do much in terms of promotion. But the book world has a funny way of working sometimes…

This morning my inbox had a Google Alert for my name. Who dared speak of me this time? When I clicked through I landed on a page with a Russian domain, and which featured my book as a free pdf download. It claimed 2048 people had already downloaded my book, and that 2982 of them liked it (apparently the Russians do math differently).

I’m famous! Or at least on the way to fame.

But wait. That’s MY book. Who gave them permission to offer it as a free download?

Remember, keep laughing…

I saw that 97 people had commented, so I scrolled down the page to check out what they said. I found a truly international collection of fans. I had no idea… The Face Maker: a worldwide phenomenon.

Yunzhe Chen said, “That’s really helpful. thanks for sharing.”

Marcos R Galvão Batista added, “thanks a lot.”

This, from Jetsada Janchay: “very good.”

Vladimir Stalin Jimenez Gonzal chimed in with, “excelent.” (Forgive his spelling; I suspect English is not his first language.)

Rex Jerd said, “great.”

Oh, I am laughing harder now…

But who are these people? Are they even people? I clicked on old Rexy’s profile link. It sent me to a Disqus page, where his only comment was about a different book, titled The Best Romance Ever, by Ina Disguise. He said, “great.”


I tried my good friend Vladimir Stalin Jimenez Gonzal. Another Disqus page. He also spoke only of The Best Romance Ever, by Ina Disguise. He said, “excelent.” His English, I noticed, had not improved.

I am laughing so hard that I am shaking…

I had to get to the bottom of this mystery. I clicked, with much trepidation, on the “Read Now” link. It sent me to signup page for something called Playster, which, when I Googled it, appeared to be a competitor to Netflix, and a legitimate company.

I’m no expert on internet schemes and scams, but here’s what I think is going on: Playster makes deals with various entities to drive traffic to their site. When people signup and pay for stuff on Playster, the contractors get a small percentage. Playster apparently doesn’t care how the contractors drive the traffic, only that they do so. And of course Playster takes no responsibility for their contractors’ methodology, legal or otherwise. So the Russians, or whoever, poach titles and authors from Amazon and other legitimate booksellers and media providers, and then list them on as many web pages as they can create, because pages and links and referrals all matter on web stats and site rankings, which means more traffic, which means more Playster signups, which means more commissions. Or something like that.

Which leaves me a few options, none of them really viable:

  • I can join Playster and pay to see if my own book is offered on their site.
  • I can complain to Playster that their Russian associates are stealing and scamming.
  • Fuck ’em. I’ll just sue Playster for lost revenue… for a book that wasn’t selling, and which I’m not even sure is on their site.
  • No! Go straight to the source. I’ll sue… the Russian mafia?

This is how it’s done in our internet crazy world, people.

I suppose I’ll have to go through the motions of contacting Playster (if I can find a contact link, that is) and filing the complaint, and never hearing back.

There isn’t a day goes by that I’m not grateful I prefer to spend my time writing and editing, instead of trying to stay afloat in that sea of muck we call the internet.

Yes, I am laughing so hard now that I am crying.

Just to be serious for a minute, if (or should I say when) this happens to you, here’s some steps you can use to defend your rights. Thanks to Dora Badger for the following:

Copyright Claim Takedown Text
This is standard in the business, and most legitimate content providers will recognize its intent.

Re: Copyright Claim

To the offending content provider

I am the copyright owner of the book, title, being infringed at offending web address.

A copy of the Google alert notifying me of the infringement is attached below to assist with its removal from the infringing website.

This letter is official notification under the provisions of Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) to effect removal of the above-reported infringement. I request that you immediately remove the specified posting and prevent the infringer, who is identified by its web address, from posting the infringing information to your servers in the future. Please be advised that law requires you, as a service provider, to “expeditiously remove or disable access to” the infringing information upon receiving this notice. Noncompliance may result in a loss of immunity for liability under the DMCA.

I have a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of here is not authorized by me, the copyright holder, or the law. All publications produced by your name or publisher name here are copyright protected in writing. The information provided here is accurate to the best of my knowledge. I swear under penalty of perjury that I am the copyright holder.

Please send me at the address noted below a prompt response indicating the actions you have taken to resolve this matter.

Other steps you can take:

If the company in question does not comply with your request, there are a couple of steps you can take (even if they’re in Russia):

  • File legal removal requests with Google and with Bing. This will not remove your content, but searches for your book will no longer display results from the offending website(s). Once it’s been removed from those two search engines, it will slowly disappear from other search engines as well; this will effectively render the pirated content invisible to fans who may be scanning the web for freebies.  This is a good step to take in any case, because serial offenders are often heavily penalized: if Google receives multiple removal requests pertaining to a particular website, they will eventually blacklist that website and block it from all Google search results.
  • If you need to file complaints against multiple sites, you may want to file a DMCA takedown notice using dmca.com’s takedown service. The FAQs and the link to their service is here. There is a $10/month charge for the DIY version of this service, but it does provide you with all of the tools you’ll need to follow up with website owners.
Joe Ponepinto
Joe Ponepinto is the founding Fiction Editor and Publisher of Tahoma Literary Review. His new novel, Mr. Neutron will be published by 7.13 Books of Brooklyn, NY in the spring of 2018.

One Response to “Overnight, I’m Famous… On Playster… In Russia… What?

  • That’s shameful advertising and scamming. Thanks for this info. That’s the downside of the Internet. Such a great tool most of the time, but it has a dark side too.

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