Ebook piracy is not yet a major issue like music and movie piracy, but it’s a niggling problem for publishers nonetheless. The International Publishers Association (IPA) contends that book piracy costs publishers billions of dollars annually, harming distributors, retailers, authors, and readers along the way.
Given its free and easy access to media, piracy negatively affects sales. Within a short period of time, pirates can create and share electronic files across the globe, causing the perceived value of a book to drop and sales revenue to decrease. A 2013 report by Carnegie Mellon University backs this claim, citing twenty-eight recent journal articles that show how piracy leads to profit loss.
The IPA actively campaigns against book piracy, lobbying for national antipiracy laws and advising its members on methods of fighting against copyright infringement. The organization believes an active stance is necessary because the piracy problem is sure to evolve as technologies advance.
Recently, publishers were bolstered by a first triumph in the courts. In April 2015, the IPA won a lawsuit against Avaxhome and Avaxsearch, a company that illegally gave access to digital copies of millions of books from sixteen thousand different publishers.
Across the ocean, British publishers won their first blocking order against ebook pirating websites. The high court in London ruled against sites hosted in Russia and the United States that offer around ten million ebook titles for free. These sites make money through advertising and referral fees, passing along none of the profits to authors and publishers. Following the ruling, Internet service providers were given ten days to block access to the sites.
Although the win represents a coup for the publishing industry, actual ebook piracy rates are low. A survey commissioned by the British government found that out of any type of entertainment, books have the lowest rate of illegal downloads.
Rightscorp, a leading company for protecting copyrighted intellectual property, spearheaded a campaign against book piracy in 2014. Rightscorp sends notifications to sites that infringe on copyrights and collects payments from illegal file sharing, usually relating to music and movies. The company decided to take on the publishing industry as well, estimating that by 2018, 700 million pirated ebooks will be available online.
Educational Books Most Pirated
Anecdotal evidence indicates that educational books, i.e., textbooks, are the most common subjects of illegal downloads. An article in the Washington Post indicates that college students across the country upload their pricey textbooks onto the Internet to help other students. As a result, finding free textbooks online has become progressively easier over the years.
Students know that piracy is illegal and harmful, but they persist in accessing pirated textbooks. Many justify their actions by citing the incredibly high price of textbooks. Between 2002 and 2012, the price skyrocketed by 82 percent, according to a report by the U.S. Congress.
As the ebook industry advances, publishers will have to grapple with preventing illegal downloads. Much like other media, the ebook industry will concern itself with protecting profits from piracy.