There is no subtle way to put this—piracy is hurting publishers big time, and it’s only getting worse. According to a recent Nielsen study, e-book piracy costs U.S. publishers $315 million each year in lost sales. These are big numbers, and to make matters even more challenging, the same study reveals these “pirates” are largely ordinary consumers, students and working professionals, who in different circumstances, are also legitimate book buyers.
Yet combating piracy is often a new and frustrating challenge for many authors, editors, and publishers. Often, the effort to combat piracy falls to overworked staff, whose main day-to-day responsibilities leave little time for understanding and effectively attacking piracy. Yet there are concrete steps that people in publishing can take, regardless of whether antipiracy is a full-time job or one of many responsibilities.
First, it is critical that publishers develop and institute an antipiracy strategy specific for their organization. Strategies vary greatly from publisher to publisher, yet the cornerstone of every successful strategy I’ve seen is education. I urge publishers to develop knowledge of the piracy ecosystem as it affects books, your books, and then start asking questions. While singular, authoritative sources of information on book piracy are lacking, we urge publishers to become a part of a representative industry association, whether it’s your national association or an association specific to your segment. Publisher associations around the world are becoming more focused on matters of copyright and intellectual property, and will respond to members asking for more information and guidance on piracy.”
Ask your peers at other houses what services and approaches they’ve used—what has been successful, what has failed. 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.
The Bestsellers Clue
After asking questions, it’s time to look at your top sellers. Your bestsellers are usually the books most likely to be pirated. Start your investigation here, and you likely won’t go wrong.
You should also analyze 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 from the film industry: movies released in the US market before the rest of world often result in the US version being leaked abroad). 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?
Defining Your Investment
The next step is to determine what level of investment is right for you—perhaps it’s a staff member spending part of their time searching and sending takedowns, or perhaps it’s engaging with an antipiracy vendor to do this work. When investigating vendors, find out whether they have other book publisher customers, and how much of their product is designed for unique needs of publishers, authors and the book-piracy ecosystem.
When engaging with antipiracy vendors, there are a few key questions to ask them, such as:
- How many book publishers do you work with (ask for industry referrals)?
- 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 search engines?
- 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, maintaining consistency and being steadfast is critical. You want to make sure your organization is ready to commit to combatting book piracy now, and years into the future. It is also important to identify who at your organization will be responsible for driving awareness, education and overseeing the success of your program. It’s also worth considering whether to hire a full-time staff member to oversee antipiracy efforts and what particular department will be responsible for making sure the strategy is effective, and evolves with the changing ecosystem.
In the end, self-education, investigating your bestsellers, asking vendors tough questions and determining your internal antipiracy team forms the backbone of a winning antipiracy strategy.
Learn more about Digimarc Guardian’s antipiracy product.
This article was originally published on Book Machine.