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image001I met Allen Lau, co-founder of Wattpad, at the IDPF conference and reported on his strong interest in keeping infringing material off his site.  Allen has just issued an open letter to writers asking for their help in this endeavor.  He sent me a copy and here it is.  I found Allen to be a forthright and open person and I believe he is sincere in this effort.

Open Letter to the writing community

As noted in a recent New York Times article published on May 11, 2009, digital piracy in the literary world has ballooned in recent months as an expanding appetite for e-books has spawned a bumper crop of pirated editions on a number of websites such as Wattpad.

Firstly, while the New York Times article is correctly pointing out a real problem, we would like to strongly emphasize that it is not our desire to make the website open to copyright infringement.  Wattpad’s goal has always been a destination site for writers to publish their own works.  Users upload copyright material without the permission of the copyright owners violate Wattpad’s terms of use: http://www.wattpad.com/terms.

Since Wattpad’s inception, we have been actively monitoring uploads to identify and remove inappropriate content.  However, we have been facing increasing challenges in the recent months.  Due to the exponentially increasing volume of uploads and the difficulties in identifying unauthorized material, it is beyond our capability to effectively monitor uploads.

As a result, in April 2009 our website underwent a significant redesign to combat piracy, which included the introduction of a content filter to prevent repeat infringement, tracking and banning repeat offenders and other technology aided advancements.  As part of the redesign, we also launched a pilot program called “Authors In Charge” that is specifically set out to help identify and remove infringing material by copyright owners directly (http://www.wattpad.com/press?pr=043009).  Many writers, including New York Times bestselling authors, have joined the pilot program with great results.  The “Authors In Charge” program is the industry first to take such an initiative in order to protect content owners and at the same time support creative use of our innovative service for both writers and readers.  This reflects our commitment to eliminate copyright infringing material from the website.

In recent weeks, we have seen a dramatic decline in the number of takedown notices we have received from copyright owners, which is an indication that these changes, to a degree, are effective in combating privacy.  Despite these efforts, we recognize the daunting challenge we face in combating copyright infringement.  Therefore, we would like to send out an open invitation and welcome the entire writing community to join the “Authors In Charge” program.  Similar community self-policing methods has been used successfully by other websites, such as Wikipedia, in monitoring inappropriate content.  With more authors participating in this program and other proactive measures that we continue to develop, we truly believe that we can completely eliminate content piracy on Wattpad in the near future.

Thank you for your attention to this issue.

Regards,

The Wattpad Team

 
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