Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
All of us in the ebook community know intuitively that digital piracy is a large and growing problem. But how much do we actually know about it?
If you search online for a popular title, you are likely to find several examples of unauthorized free downloads. If you send “takedown” notices to those sites, you may do reasonably well stopping the free download for the title – at least for a while.
Is this how to measure the extent of digital piracy and how to enforce against it? Unfortunately, the answer is an emphatic no.
If someone adept at searching can find, say, ten unauthorized sites, a sophisticated Web based service might find hundreds of such sites. Even if you could locate the illegal sites (which you can’t), compliance with takedown notices will be limited. The cost of issuing a blizzard of takedown notices and the follow up will be prohibitive.
Sooner rather than later the illegal practices will be back in full force. A core problem is ongoing enforcement.
On one agent project, a prominent publisher spent over $100,000 with an excellent law firm trying to clean up extensive digital piracy. They were successful – but only for a short period of time. Of course, the interest in spending the next $100,000 to protect one property just wasn’t there.
So what do you as publisher, as agent or as author do?
At RosettaBooks, we retained Attributor (Digimarc Attributor’s Guardian software) to protect our entire ebook catalog. In the early months, the number of successful takedowns was very large, particularly for bestselling titles, since this was the first enforcement. Even more interesting, the number of takedowns in later months was steady – without the service the same level of piracy would have been back within a few months.
Working with our colleagues at Digimarc Guardian, we wrote a case study which highlights how we track some of our bestselling titles against the takedown experience. Please click here to read it for yourself. What we found was that those titles grew in sales faster than our catalog as a whole and much faster than industry averages. Those readers who find the illegal sites downloading titles for free are also the best targeted readers to download the titles for money if the free experience is no longer available. If you’re interested in learning more, I will be presenting on this topic at this week’s Digital Book World event. The case study presentation is Thursday, January 17th at 10 AM. I would enjoy seeing you there!
Early on RosettaBooks committed to full catalog protection. Agents and authors should be demanding of their publishers that they all commit to full catalog protection. It is a fiduciary responsibility to the author for all titles, print and digital. Enforcement will yield economic benefits to the publisher and the author.