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.
Often, the effort to combat digital book piracy falls to overworked staff, whose main day-to-day responsibilities leave little time for understanding and addressing piracy. Yet there are concrete steps that people in publishing can take, whether antipiracy is a full-time job or one of many responsibilities.
My overarching guidance is this: publishers must develop and institute an antipiracy strategy specific for their organization. Strategies vary greatly, yet the cornerstone of every successful strategy I’ve seen is education: develop knowledge of the piracy ecosystem as it affects books—your books—and ask questions.
While singular, authoritative sources of information on book piracy are lacking, we urge publishers to become a part of a representative industry association. Publisher associations around the world are focusing more on matters of copyright and intellectual property, and they will respond to members asking for guidance on piracy.
Ask your peers at other houses what services and approaches they’ve used—what has been successful, what has failed. Ask your internal stakeholders to participate: does your staff already spend time looking for pirated materials? If yes, how much? Are their takedown notices successful? Does your organization care about piracy? Should it?
And of course, make sure to get your most important stakeholders involved: your authors. Find out their perspective on piracy—author care and retention is one of the biggest drivers for publishers to develop effective antipiracy strategies.
Data-Based Decision Making
In addition to qualitative fact-finding, seek quantitative information: use sales data to develop and guide your strategy. Your bestsellers are typically the most pirated; understanding their piracy levels will give you a better idea of the scope of work.
Review your organization’s approach to book releases and availability in your markets and channels—lack of access or delayed access can actually drive piracy. Consider an example seen often in the film industry: a highly anticipated blockbuster is released into the US market before the rest of the world—within hours, the film is on pirate sites around the globe.
Defining Your Investment
Sustainable strategy is hinged on sustainable investment—decide what’s right for your organization. Perhaps it’s a staff member spending part of their time searching and sending takedowns, or perhaps it’s engaging with an antipiracy vendor.
Here are some questions we recommend asking your antipiracy vendor:
- How many book publishers do you work with (ask for industry referrals)?
- Is antipiracy your core business, and/or do you have other business focuses?
- Are you a member of Google’s Trusted Copyright Removal Program (TCRP), which facilitates large-scale removal of pirate links from Search Engine Result Pages (SERP)?
- How many legal takedown notices do you send to site operators, hosts, and CDN providers, versus those you only request delisting from SERP?
- How much human review do you perform prior to taking enforcement actions?
- Do you have a channel into which concerned authors and staff can send suspected piracy?
Once you have developed a strategy, review it and maintain it; make sure your organization is ready to commit to combatting book piracy now, and years into the future. Identify who at your organization will be responsible for driving awareness, education and overseeing the success of your program. Whether you hire a full-time staff member or create a cross-departmental committee, hold your staff and vendors accountable for maintaining and evolving your strategy as your catalog and the piracy ecosystem continue to evolve.
In the end, taking the time to create a sustainable strategy tailored to your organization is the most powerful thing publishers can do to combat digital piracy.
Learn more about Digimarc Guardian’s antipiracy product.