How to stop ebook pirates

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Most people know that downloading copyrighted information without paying for it is against the law. But millions of people who are otherwise totally law-abiding have at one time or another illegally downloaded a copyrighted digital file.

Many otherwise honest people have illegally downloaded ebooks.

Many otherwise honest people have illegally downloaded ebooks.

How serious is this problem for digital books? A 2011 Digital Entertainment Survey stated that 29% of e-reader owners admitted piracy and 36% of tablet owners admit to illegal ebook downloads. Another research firm, Attributor, reports that ebook piracy is on the rise.

One of the problems with this issue is that honest people don’t equate downloading ebooks with “stealing.” The situation is reflected in the vocabulary we use. People have many names for the practice of accessing copyrighted information without an exchange of money. Each term carries with it a different level of severity, but they’re all the same thing:

  • Illegal downloads – sounds like what kids do all the time
  • Copyright infringement – sounds technical
  • Unlawful content sharing – sounds bad, but sort of friendly
  • Online piracy – sounds like a real crime

A new way to fight ebook piracy

The Center for Copyright Information is an organization that focuses on educating consumers about online piracy. This group recently established The Copyright Alert System. It’s a program that intends to get otherwise honest people to stop downloading digital books without proper payment. Here’s how it works.

Policing

Copyright owners, including publishers, movie makers, and music producers, join together with peer-to-peer networks and monitor downloading behavior. The content owners then confirm that files have not been properly paid for and identify the Internet Protocol (IP) address where the files went. The content owners then communicate with the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that serve those IP addresses. These companies AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon. The ISP sends a Copyright Alert to the owner of that internet address.

Awareness

These Copyright Alerts are basically email messages designed make account holders aware that the ISP knows that their account has been used for “unlawful sharing. ” The ISP let the account owner know how to prevent this from happening again by directing them to legal download venues.

Consequences

If illegal downloads continue to that Internet address, the ISP can take actions designed to encourage this behavior to stop. Consequences can include reduction of internet speed, downgrade of internet service, automatic redirection to web site landing pages with anti-piracy messages, and online copyright education training.

Will it work?

Does the Alert system have teeth? Certainly the messages will be a deterrent to those who want to do right. And certainly they’ll work for people who are unaware that the book they just downloaded was done so illegally. But real book pirates will probably scoff at the Copyright Alert warnings.

Photo via Shutterstock.

Beth Bacon

About Beth Bacon

Beth Bacon is a children's book author and runs www.e-booksandkids.com. Contact her via Twitter @ebooksandkids.

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5 thoughts on “How to stop ebook pirates

  1. The first place I go when I hear about an interesting new book is Amazon. If the price is too high (more than $8.99), I head to my public library’s Overdrive page. If it’s not there I head to Piratebay.

    Bottom line: Provide books at a reasonable price, make them available to libraries, cut out the braindead DRm crap and I’ll buy books.

  2. The publishers are shooting themselves in the foot constantly. They harp on about piracy, but do little to provide potential and existing customers with the ability to purchase online. Geographic restrictions, DRM to prevent conversion to differing formats, high prices (differing wildly between countries), terrible formatting, unavailability et al. Be proactive, adopt to modern distribution methods and casual piracy will probably disappear.

  3. The commentators who seem to give the green light to stealing via pirating complain that prices are too high as one of their arguments. If the price is too high, then don’t buy it. If you saw a TV in the store and just took it because you thought the price was too high, I doubt you would be writing from the comfort of your home. Nothing is different when you steal from a person or publisher who has spent hours and hours creating the content you are stealing. Would you have the same argument if your employer said, “Oh, I don’t want to pay you for your work just because I don’t want to.”? Bet you’d be screaming foul in an instant.

  4. Scottro, do you get paid for what you do? Or maybe you should give it away in hopes of giving awy a lot of it will somehow make you a living.

  5. I am an author who is spending far too much of my valuable work time chasing down my pirated books. I cannot keep up, and I know I’m missing even more that my Google alerts or random web searches don’t catch. Sometimes I’m successful, and sometimes I’m not. What I want to know is – WHERE ARE THE PUBLISHERS???? You’re losing money too. In fact, you’re losing far more money than authors, who earn a very small amount per book sale. Therefore why is the burden entirely on authors to get their copyrighted material removed? I’ve been told it’s my problem to sort out, and therefore I must spend my time (and money) to get my pirated books taken down. Why are publishers sitting on their backsides doing nothing? The music industry raised hell about it when music was being illegally uploaded. Why is the publishing industry so lax and why is the hard work of authors’ of such little consequence to anyone? We need to eat and pay bills just like everyone else.

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