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Antipiracy Strategy

Better the Pirate You Know…

Devon Weston has been with Digimarc Guardian since June 2012, managing customer relations and operations for the company’s enterprise SaaS solutions within the online content-protection space.

In a previous BookMachine blog post, we highlighted a 2017 Nielsen study commissioned by Digimarc showing that publishers lose more than $300 million annually in potential revenue in the US market alone because of illegal downloads.

That study answered some critical questions about ebook-pirate methods and motivations. But we wanted to know more about the people behind the piracy, so we developed a set of six “pirate personas.” Our research leveraged a wide range of information, including real discussions on pirate forums, trends within our own antipiracy enforcement data, and the aforementioned research conducted by Nielsen.

We studied and ranked several key characteristics, including a pirate’s content engagement, download and upload volumes, idealism, purchase likelihood, as well as whether s/he was an enabler/influencer in the pirate community. We used these rankings to develop an overall piracy impact score for each persona, as well as recommended countermeasures for combatting their behavior.

The personas have proven fascinating and valuable—to borrow from an old colloquialism, better the pirate you know than the pirate you don’t. We’ll highlight some of the personas in this post, and link to the rest of our research below.

On one end of the spectrum, the persona we call the Hoarder likely doesn’t engage with ebook content at all. Rather, he amasses and stores huge volumes of files as though squirreling away data for an information-scarce winter. You’d be unlikely to convert him to a customer; his intent is not to read any of his hard-drives full of ebooks—just to “preserve” them.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Bookworm persona is a voracious reader. While he reaps the benefit of the Hoarder’s file-archiving activity, he is just as likely to purchase as he is to pirate—whichever gets the book in his hands faster. He doesn’t need to be converted to a paying customer because he already is one. He may however be more likely to avoid pirating if he has quick and easy access to ebooks, perhaps even becoming an early adopter of subscription-model platforms.

Yet another persona, the Social Media Maven, is somewhere in between these two when it comes to content engagement and likelihood of purchasing (let alone reading). Our Maven can be extremely damaging because she is highly influential within her online community; her tweet of a pirate link might go viral. However, the right countermeasures may clip her influence: removing enough tweets via legal notices results in account suspension—certain #ruin for the Maven. Moreover, with proper incentive, she may even become a pro-author influencer, using her status to promote legal channels.

With no signs of ebook piracy slowing, book publishers need to develop antipiracy strategies that start with a very basic concept: even pirates are consumers of your content. You must understand them in order to combat them. To see the rest of the personas, you can download a free ebook here; or delve even deeper and listen to our archived webinar.

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