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An unusual response to book theft

Natalie McEvoy

Not all infringement needs to be treated equally

Pile of open books. Photo by <a href="">Gülfer ERGİN</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>

Matt Coyne, a blogger and influencer known as “Man vs Baby” with several hundred thousand followers on social media, discovered last month that someone had uploaded the entirety of his book “The Mum Who Lost Her S***” to the internet and made it available free of charge. Matt addressed this with his followers and explained that he had been advised that the “worst thing you can do in these circumstances” is to draw attention to it. He continued that he had decided to ignore that advice, explaining on his social media posts;

“I know some of you are struggling at the minute, so if you’re one of those who are, and you happen to stumble across it, then you know what? Please enjoy it with my blessing.”

The reaction to this gesture was beyond his expectation; hundreds of his fans bought a copy of his book through legitimate channels in the first week after this statement. He had struck a chord. Readers either reacted to his sense of “reading the room” – namely that times are hard for so many and he was offering his comedy free of charge – or they were reminded at a time close to Christmas that he had a book available for purchase, and it put him front of mind. Either way, he had turned a disappointment into a boost.

Had the author been of the profile of JK Rowling or similar, we know from experience that the scales would almost certainly have tipped in the other direction; enforcement action to remove the copyright-infringing publication and tracing proceedings to discover the identity of the poster of the unauthorised copy would almost certainly have been the right thing to do. With instructions from the author and copyright holder, removal of an unauthorised publication is usually unproblematic. The tracing procedure, known as a Norwich Pharmacal application, comes with no guarantees, but can uncover identifying titbits of information which may suffice to allow us to bring enforcement action against the perpetrator, disincentivising them for the future.

In this case, the author may have opted for his direct gesture to his followers in order to avoid the initial outlay on takedown action, and in order to stay true to his “MO” around which his successful business has been created, namely not to take himself (or anything else) too seriously.

Time after time, we also see positive and proactive reaction to statements made publicly which follow the tenets of “good ESG”; honestly held statements of genuine endeavour and integrity, which attempt to do the right thing. In crisis-rebuild scenarios, a timely apology, honestly made - hand-in-hand with proactive prevention strategies for the future - goes a very long way to redemption in the eyes of consumers. Here, on that same axis, we see followers responding generously to proffered generosity; rejecting it in favour of showing their support financially.

Whilst this treatment of copyright infringement tore up the rulebook, it wasn’t wrong in the circumstances, and is a reminder that every client’s concern needs to be considered individually, to arrive at the solution which offers the best individual remedy for them to emerge from a given situation stronger than they were before.