In recent weeks, I've sent out more than my usual share of copyright violation notices, otherwise known as DMCA takedown requests (named for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which protects artists' copyright online). The same guy keeps posting free PDF downloads of my books -- on different domains, but with the same page designs, etc. And sometimes his domains resolve to other domains, or show the book-download page for 30 seconds and then redirect somewhere else, as if I can't figure this stuff out. Anyhow, I've emailed him twice, ordering him to stop offering downloads of my books, and twice he's taken them down. Not that I expect this to be the end of it.
I don't know how many people -- writers included -- realize that this is now part of the business of writing. Setting up alerts for your book titles, discovering who's offering them as free downloads, emailing them to tell them to knock it off, repeat until fade.
Maggie Stiefvatar definitely knows. The author of the Raven Cycle series and, more recently, the Ronan trilogy, played a trick on would-be pirates -- and on people who were downloading her books from them -- and it wound up driving more people to shell out for her actual books and e-books:
I was intent on proving that piracy had affected the Raven Cycle, and so I began to work with one of my brothers on a plan. It was impossible to take down every illegal pdf; I’d already seen that. So we were going to do the opposite. We created a pdf of the Raven King. It was the same length as the real book, but it was just the first four chapters over and over again. At the end, my brother wrote a small note about the ways piracy hurt your favorite books. I knew we wouldn’t be able to hold the fort for long — real versions would slowly get passed around by hand through forum messaging — but I told my brother: I want to hold the fort for one week. Enough to prove that a point.
And it worked. Perhaps more writers and publishers need to try Stiefvatar's trick.