The battle against piracy

Emma House
Opinion - Publishing Thursday, 14th October 2010

Emma House, Trade and International Director at the Publishers Association, outlines the routes to a successful anti-piracy campaign A prevalent concern within the book industry is that the ramifications of piracy, though serious, are becoming more acute and are often overlooked by the general public. Strong yet nuanced campaigns to reduce physical and digital piracy are therefore essential to combat the problems. The notion of what makes a successful anti-piracy campaign was highlighted at the annual Frankfurt Book Fair Anti-Piracy Breakfast, hosted by the Publishers Association (PA), the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the International Publishers Association (IPA). Issues for discussion included the use of legislation to address piracy around the world, enforcement strategies, the experience of other industries in dealing with digital piracy and the effectiveness of educational campaigns.

Online piracy is a growing phenomenon and of increasing concern to publishers. Many publishers are finding new ways to work within the digital system to circumvent illegal copying of files, but downloads of infringing works continue to rise. Publishers have to spend inordinate amounts of time tracking and notifying websites and ISPs of infringing content, and they and their authors miss out on the financial revenues lost to piracy.
Physical book piracy is rampant in some countries, with serious effects for book markets, which in turn can filter out into the wider society. In the first instance, an increase in book piracy can inhibit the common practice by publishers of tailoring their pricing to individual markets, as opposed to instigating flat pricing over wider regions. Developing countries in particular would subsequently miss out on easier access to countless books. Equally, pirated books do not have the quality of their authentic counterparts. Education, for instance, would suffer if students were to rely on pirated copies of textbooks. Additionally, piracy impacts on business as publishers would have less money and freedom to develop new authors. And wider economic interests would also be harmed if a country develops a reputation for ignoring criminal practices.
There are a number of practical steps that publishers are taking to protect their works and ensure a successful anti-piracy campaign. Crucially, the industry can engage with readers, legislators and the general public to raise awareness about piracy and the value of protecting intellectual property. Publishers could work with a range of organisations to highlight their message, for instance by collaborating with education providers to emphasise the enhanced offerings of their legitimate textbooks over pirated ones, or working with legal downloading sites to offer alternative legal platforms for people wanting to download ebooks.
Business has to fulfil the need that the internet has created, namely in making legitimate content available in an easy and affordable way that meets popular demand. Publishers are working with the latest devices to bring reading apps and enhanced ebooks to readers, and while this is still a nascent market, they understand that it is worth having programmes and plans in place now to prepare for any uplift in digital reading in the future.
Publishers can monitor for relevant legislation and, where possible, contribute to any consultations and discussions that could shape future policy around piracy. Regulation around piracy is constantly developing on an international scale. In the UK, for instance, the Digital Economy Act was passed this year to combat online piracy. This is still undergoing consultation and debate, but a deadline is in place for it to come into force next year. France has already enacted similar legislation based on a three-strikes principle, whereby users who repeatedly download illegally have their internet connection cut off. The US has the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, providing all-encompassing legislation on digital copyright.
Certain tools can be of great use in safeguarding against digital piracy. The PA has created the Copyright Infringement Portal (, which targets websites offering infringing copies of works for free download. Publishers can inform the Portal of websites where infringing content is being uploaded, and the Portal can send a take-down notice to the relevant ISP to request that the copyrighted work be removed from that site. The portal is being widely used by both UK and non-UK publishers.
Through collective action on enforcement, trade associations, businesses, charities and relevant organisations can work together on a variety of activities to combat piracy. These can include organising raids and seizures, responding to consultations for anti-piracy legislation, holding seminars to educate the industry and the public on the pitfalls of piracy, and creating political and media campaigns to raise awareness.
There is a multitude of ways to conduct successful anti-piracy campaigns. What is becoming apparent is that rightsholders and their trade associations have the ability continuously to develop and assess their anti-piracy programmes and schemes, tailoring them to the new challenges that piracy presents. The pirates may become more advanced and sophisticated, but so can the campaigns against them.
This article first appeared in BookBrunch and Publishers Weekly's FRANKFURT FAIR DEALER.