Piracy Protection 101

A Review of Online Piracy Prevention Options

As more academic presses go digital, concerns about online book piracy have grown. Attributor, a takedown service for publishers, estimated that online book piracy increased by 50% last year, tracking millions of search queries for pirated books, and some university presses have begun to take notice. With the ascension of online books and e-readers, piracy is an issue that large-scale trade publishers have been concerned about for a few years. Carefully navigating litigation and negotiations to avoid the ominous path of the music industry, taking cues from the movie industry's more successful battles with YouTube and pirate sites, they still aim to be innovators in increasing accessibility and use.

Meanwhile, what's a modern academic publisher to do?

One method that several AAUP members (and most trade publishers) have adopted is hiring a takedown service. These services search the internet for pirated versions of a selected list of titles, for a fee. According to Ed McCoyd, Executive Director for Digital, Environmental and Accessibility Affairs at the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and head of the Online Piracy Working Group, there are five competing options available to presses today: the Copyright Infringement Portal, Attributor, Covington, Peer Media, and BayTSP.

For each, the primary goal is to take infringing content offline, but at this point most have evolved further, for example, through tracking offenders and methods or publishing industry reports. What follows is a basic review of these five services, focusing on takedown capabilities but also highlighting additional features.

The UK Publishers Association administers the Copyright Infringement Portal (CIP). If a press finds a pirated copy of one of their books, they can access a personalized portal and log the book title and pirate URL; the system saves the data, noting repeat infringers, and automatically sends a takedown notice to the ISP. The portal will then track whether the infringing content has been removed. The CIP assists the press-run searches by providing access to a list of active pirate sites, as catalogued by all CIP users, allowing each press to check those sites for their own materials.

In March 2011, the CIP launched a new feature, "CIP Search." CIP Search is a step toward the (much-valued) automated search process of other competing services: the most significant feature of the upgrade is a crawler that constantly scans indexed pages for infringing content, drawing from domains that have been served takedown notices through CIP in the past.

The Publishers Association offers CIP services to AAUP members at a half-off cooperative rate. For more details on the CIP, visit the AAUP website (http://aaupnet.org/programs/epub/paportal.html) and the Publishers Association website (http://www.copyrightinfringementportal.com).

Attributor offers a service for publishers similar to the CIP, but with a few added efficiencies. Attributor actively searches the web itself, saving the publisher significant time and effort (what some publishers equate to a full-time job). The publisher submits a list of titles and Attributor regularly searches for them and manages takedowns, providing periodic reports to the client. Attributor also allows publishers to self-report infringement, but it's an option rather than a necessity.

While the automated search is the main draw for many of Attributor's clients, other features are worth noting. Like CIP, Attributor compiles data on found infringements, tracking not only where they occur but how (stripping DRM protection or scanning). As a preventative measure, they provide publisher clients with an Attributor "badge" to place in e-books so that consumers can be sure that the content is legitimate—and also to warn potential pirates that the content is actively protected. And, as a side note, Attributor has stirred interest in book piracy recently by publishing two studies on its prevalence and impact—useful as a sales tool for Attributor, but also educational for publishers and legislators alike.

For further information on Attributor, including highlights from the two studies released in 2010, visit their website at http://www.attributor.com.

Peer Media and BayTSP are two other commercial services that some trade publishers have used. Both offer services for publishing similar to Attributor, with a few specialized features. They run automated searches, manage takedown notices, provide client portals, and publish periodic reports.

One of the highlighted features of Peer Media are their additional anti-piracy "countermeasures," in which they actively jumble peer-to-peer networks by posting faulty infringing content or corrupting existing infringing content, for example. BayTSP likes to emphasize their expertise in "crisis-level" services—for example, when an important publication leaks early. To find out more about these services, visit their websites at http://www.peermediatech.com and http://www.baytsp.com, where you can find contact information for their sales teams.

Another strategy for publishers is to go straight to the legal system. Several have done so, hiring Covington & Burling, LLP, to combat online book piracy. The Internet Monitoring, Enforcement & Litigation arm of Covington's Intellectual Property division uses proactive searches, backed by manual verification of each infringement, to find pirated content and execute takedowns. A handful of trade publishers employ Covington's services alongside another service to provide extra security for their intellectual property. Find out more about Covington's offerings here: http://www.cov.com/practice/intellectual_property/internet_monitoring_enforcement_and_litigation.

Of course, some university presses may decide that the tradeoff between security and the fees paid to such a service may not be profitable for them; each press's situation is different, and a large part of the decision may rest on how piracy is affecting each press's specialties: textbooks, trade books, trademark items, and so on. And of course, there's always the opposite view: some even see piracy as a marketing technique. For a sure-to-be interesting debate on that front, be sure to attend the "Is Piracy Good for Sales?" session at the 2011 AAUP Annual Meeting next month.

Regan Colestock
Communications Coordinator, AAUP