Book sales are down. Whether you are an author, publisher, or bookseller, eroding book sales affect you. As members of the book community, we all have that in common.

The reasons given for falling book sales are usually the lack of a few blockbuster books, the competition from the many types of digital entertainment, and the huge amount of time people spend on social media. Rarely does the discussion mention digital piracy as a source of eroding book sales. Yet it’s happening on a large scale. It really is necessary, in 2016, to acknowledge blatant infringement of copyrights when discussing sliding book sales.

Just Google a current bestseller (or any book title). You will undoubtedly find free downloads, many that say “ePub and PDF for free.” This copyright infringement on the Internet affects sales figures of all books: traditionally published trade books, academic books, and self-published books; fiction and nonfiction; and, yes, even bestsellers.

Copyright protection is truly important to all—authors, publishers, and booksellers. Our founders knew the importance of copyright protection. In the United States, copyright protection started with the formation of the U.S. constitutional republic. Our Constitution, ratified in 1788, includes in article 1 (the article outlining the duties of Congress), section 8: “The Congress shall have Power To... promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

In the 21st century, however, Congress seems to forget that paragraph. Congress has consistently failed to pass an effective digital copyright law and cannot seem even to improve the current digital copyright law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, passed in 1998. The DMCA is woefully inadequate.

In addition, the DMCA holds the copyright holder, usually the author, responsible for monitoring copyright infringement. That means an author (or an author’s designated agent) holding a copyright must monitor the vast Internet for copyright infringements, and must file take-down notices to those websites that infringe on the author’s copyright.

As authors have found, when one posting of a free download of a book is taken down, often another posting quickly appears. The DMCA fails to provide adequate protection or to enact realistic procedures for protecting copyrights in the digital age.

Numerous writers’ organizations, such as the American Society of Journalists, the Authors Guild, and the National Writers Union, have addressed the issues of copyright and digital piracy for over a decade. The Authors Guild, in its 2015 letter to the congressional judiciary committee urging stronger copyright laws, quotes the Association of American Publishers as acknowledging, “The publishing industry as a whole loses $80 to $100 million to piracy annually.” Digital piracy erodes book sales and costs authors, publishers and booksellers money—and it must be stopped.

Why should people even visit bookstores when it’s so easy to download books for free on the Internet? Many people, especially those born in the digital age, think first about free downloads (which aren’t free in terms of their cost to the industry) when they want books. They do not think first of purchasing books. We have to change that mind-set if we want the book to endure. Together, authors, publishers, and booksellers could create an effective media campaign to raise awareness of copyright law and digital piracy. We could thereby educate the public, particularly the younger generations, and change their mind-set regarding free downloads.

United, authors, publishers, and booksellers could also convince members of Congress of the ineffectiveness of the DMCA. At first glance, it seems as though it would be a David-vs.-Goliath battle, given the size, wealth, and influence in Congress of the major players of the digital-communications industry. But there is great strength in numbers. There are far more authors, publishers, and booksellers than major players in digital communications. Together, our very large book community can create an effective public relations campaign that educates people about copyright law and changes the public’s free-download mind-set. United we can persistently lobby Congress to establish a stronger and more effective digital copyright law.

Digital piracy of books will not stop unless the community of authors, publishers, and booksellers takes the initiative and unites. We must take concerted action now.

Linda Spencer’s most recent book, Writing Well in the 21st Century: The Five Essentials, is published by Rowman & Littlefield. She lives in Massachusetts.