As some of you may know, I am a Wattpad author who has spent years building and sustaining an online readership while aiming to be traditionally published. One of the challenges of this method is the threat of piracy. Overseas mirror sites in essence take a live recording of the Wattpad site and display it to their countries (mostly in the Philippines, from the ones noted).
Outside of US/Canadian laws, Wattpad is constantly trying to put out these fires and punish thieves—but so far the sites are still running. I’ve been able to avoid the piracy of my work by privatizing my stories unless a user subscribes (mirror sites don’t have real accounts, so they can’t read past the first page or two). However Wattpad now plans to phase out this feature, and I’m at a crossroads.
Should I retreat from Wattpad to avoid mirror sites, potentially losing a chunk of my base, or take the risk? How do illustrators keep their work protected?
You will hear different opinions and different levels on concern on issues like this
Illustrators face it maybe more extensively than other creatives because the moment you post something online it is de-facto a potential object of “piracy” - some person or company can just take it and print T-shirts with it, or claim it´s theirs or misuse it in any other way. Also I think every social media terms of service state that you give them total control of the content the moment you post it on their platform (probably with exceptions that I never bothered to look up - I don’t think they can make money out of your work directly, but they can use it to position advertisement, which is the facto the same thing....).
I have, personally, a very pragmatic approach. I need to show my work to get work, so it needs to be out there. Normally, it´s work done exclusively to this aim (portfolio projects and the like). If somebody misuses it, it doesn’t cause me any financial damage, as I don’t monetize this work anyhow (and I’m not going to chase after somebody who does unless we´re talking about substantial money). I don’t post commissioned work, royalty-generating work or personal projects that I plan to pitch - or if I do I only show small pieces of the whole.
I do occasionally post on this forum more freely because I sort of implicitly trust the people here - but this forum has been hacked a couple of times, so I still keep most of my work out of public spaces.
My portfolio site is another risky space, of course, but that cannot be avoided. It´s one of the reasons I wanted to have my own privately hosted site rather than a platform, though I’m not sure it makes any difference risk-wise.
As for writing, I tend to do the same. You need feedback to get better and I post my writing on different critique groups. Most of them are small and fenced, but I also post on CritiqueCircle, which is massive and much riskier. Again, I get increasingly protective the more I feel a story is approaching the stage where it may be good enough to pitch - and definitely don’t post any manuscript that is going out to my agent in its final form.
I’m not sure this applies in any form to your case, as I have no experience with public publishing platforms like Wattpad and the business models of online self-publishing. That´s actualyl a topic I’d like to learn more about!
@smceccarelli I've heard of horror stories like that before. I had considered myself immune to it until I saw a post by Maggie Stiefvater on Twitter, explaining how her popular YA series had taken a hit (and not turned into a box set by the publisher) because of people illegally distributing her kindle copies.
I like how you have your website as a living, interactive portfolio. Maybe I should take that approach with Wattpad going forward. ^_^
As a side note, a majority of agents and contests do not consider Wattpad to be a published place. If you self-publish on nearly any other site/platform online, some will see the author as "used material" as they prefer debuts. Wattpad lets you retain all rights as well as the special debut privilege, which was a major factor in my decision to post there.