- by Vonna Harper
Alexandra Nicolajsen, Digital Content/Marketing Manager Kensington Publishing Corp.
Working in the publishing world, it is impossible not to be cognizant of the current turmoil revolving around book piracy. Publishers are irate at the seemingly astronomical loss of revenue, the theft of content, and the lack of discernable regard for copyright law on the part of many consumers, who either post pirated material or take advantage of it by downloading it illegally from the ever-growing pool of sites that host illegal content.
Meanwhile, authors are at their wits end, seeing Google alerts every day notifying them of illegal copies of their books available for download, searching for these copies themselves, or having loyal readers forward links to the pirated content. They’re not only seeing a loss of sales, but a cut that goes to the core of the work they do and the countless hours spent writing and rewriting books in order to get to the end result they imagined when they set out to write a book in the first place. Meanwhile, many ask if it is all really as bad as it’s being made out to be…
Every day, when I get to work, waiting for me in my inbox are at least 5 emails containing suspected pirated works. These links come in to our editors from many of our authors, some much more diligent about scouring the internet for illegal copies of their works than others. While this number may seem disheartening, it is not as bad as it might seem.
The good news is that many of these links don’t lead to pirated copies of books at all. The bad news is that those sites that aren’t actually hosting illegal copies of books are really there as a scam to steal your information. Our editors weed through many more links that I never actually see, removing those that lead to these bogus sites. So, right off the top, know that there are a great deal less illegal copies of titles available on the internet than it initially seems.
I’d love to say that’s the end of the story, but unfortunately, where there’s a major concern, there’s generally a reason for it. While many links that seem to lead to illegal books are a sham, there are thousands of links that do lead to actual pirated content. When Kensington first looked at ways to combat this issue, some said it was an insurmountable task.
However, with the help of Attributor, an outside company that protects against unauthorized use of content, a significant dent has been made in the number of links leading to pirated content from our authors. Attributor continuously monitors the Web for copies of Kensington’s content and removes those that violate our anti-piracy policy. In addition, all those links that come in from authors are gone through by our editors and me, and those that are in violation of the copyright are forwarded to Attributor, who then makes moves to have the content removed.
While this is a big step in the right direction, there is no way to stop piracy at its source, but work can be done to try and lessen the number of people posting illegal content. The first things we need to examine are the reasons why people are pirating books in the first place. When music sharing sites were first introduced, they took the internet by storm and millions of tracks were downloaded.
The book piracy problem is not yet as pervasive as this was, but it is a growing issue. I can’t speak for those who upload illegal copies of books, but I can write about some things I’ve found and read on my own. Many of our authors enjoy the benefit of ardent fans who read five or more books every month. These are excellent readers to make up a fan base. However, in this economic climate, many people are finding it difficult to budget enough to purchase all the books they’d like.
They may purchase some, and steal others by illegally downloading them on the internet. They’re aware what they’re doing is stealing, but do it anyway, because they feel it’s the only choice they have. The other, more prevalent, issue I’ve found that motivates piracy is a lack of an e-book version being available for a particular title. Many authors feel that they can avoid having their books pirated if they don’t allow an e-book version to be released.
This seems to actually promote piracy, rather than prevent it. E-readers are more prevalent than ever, and people who own them want all their content to be available to them in their desired format. When that content isn’t available, many make the switch over to searching for the content illegally.
In reading some anonymous confessions of a book pirate, another interesting point about piracy was raised. In the thousands of books he had downloaded illegally, only one had been from a DRM-cracked e-book copy. All the others came from scans of physical books. This would seem to support the idea that keeping your book unavailable electronically is not actually stopping it from being pirated.
There are many sides to this issue, from publishers, to authors, to consumers. As someone from the publishing industry who believes in the power of free as a promotion tool, it still bothers me every time I see active links to our books available for illegal download. When the author and the publisher have no control over the content, it’s an uneasy situation, but unfortunately, one that will not go away any time soon.
People who believe in the importance of books, authors, and the book industry need to continue working together, along with consumers to educate on the value of a book, all that goes into it, and why digital content doesn’t mean free content, simply because there are no physical pages to touch.
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