For publishers, fresh from winning a landmark ruling forcing internet service providers to block illegal ebook download sites in Russia and the US, pirates are the enemy. Author Paulo Coelho believes that “the more people ‘pirate’ a book, the better”. But research commissioned by the government shows that that the literary world has the lowest level of illegal downloads in the entertainment industry.
Just 1% of UK internet users aged 12 and over read “at least some” ebooks illegally between March and May 2015, according to the Intellectual Property Office’s study into the extent of online copyright infringement in the UK. This compares favourably to other forms of entertainment, with 9% accessing some of their music illegally, 7% television programmes, 6% films, and 2% computer software and video games.
Kantar Media, which carried out the research, estimates that 7.8m, or 18%, of UK internet users aged 12 or over have accessed at least one piece of online content illegally over the period, with 6% exclusively consuming illegal content.
When researchers looked at “all internet users who consumed content online over the three-month period,” (rather than all internet users over 12), they found that 31% accessed at least one item illegally. Readers, however, still had the lowest incidence of illegal access, at 11%, compared to 25% for people watching films and 26% for people listening to music.
“More ebook consumers paid for some content (69%) and for all of their content (47%) than consumers of any other content type”, the survey found.
The award-winning science fiction author Nick Harkaway said it was no surprise to find that ebook piracy is so uncommon.
“I think there are cultural reasons – mostly around the way in which people view books and authors as lonely artists rather than multinational industries – and some that are more practical,” he said. “It’s very easy to get ebooks from legit sources, and very quick. Cory Doctorow has been saying for years now that discovery rather than piracy is the issue for most writers, and I’m sure it’s true. I frequently miss publications of books by authors I really like. There’s still no really good discovery mechanism.”
Lloyd Shepherd, who confronted an internet user looking to pirate his novel The English Monster three years ago, said that ebook piracy had fallen “to almost zero”.
“I really don’t think ebook piracy is a major issue in the UK – it’s a much bigger issue overseas,” he said. “I get Google alerts all the time about my books popping up on dodgy sites with exotic URLs. But I don’t worry too much. I know some people get incredibly upset, but I think that I haven’t sold the rights in Indonesia, for example, anyway.”
Shepherd would not go as far as Coelho, who actively encourages piracy. “I think it’s easy for those guys to say that, because they’re already selling lots of books,” he said. “The biggest issue is still getting noticed … and I suppose the only thing worse than being pirated is not being pirated.”
The novelist suggested that DRM [digital rights management technology that prevents unauthorised copying], rather than piracy, was the problem. “You could say that piracy is not an issue, but can we get rid of DRM?” he said. “Piracy would go up, but so would everything else.”
“DRM, of course, is both easily beaten and effectively helps tech companies to hold customers publishers to their locked-in formats,” said Harkaway. The Tigerman author added: “I always feel piracy is a red herring. It’s something the traditional industry focuses on when it should be looking at how to get out ahead of the tech curve. Every time I turn around, Amazon’s trying something new that publishers could have done. Ebook subscription schemes, for example: how is there not a Penguin Classics subscription? Or an Oxford Classics one? Same with book-matching – you shouldn’t have to pay full price for a book you’ve already bought in another format.”
At the Publishers Association, chief executive Richard Mollet said the IPO study “shows that the main reasons why readers prefer legal services over illegal ones are convenience and availability”.
“The fact that from the outset there have been so many great ways to get pretty much any book online is one of the reasons why publishing suffers comparatively less than other sectors,” said Mollet. “However, publishers do have to continue to work extremely hard to ensure illegal activity does not deprive authors of their due rewards.”\
Source: Alison Flood (theguardian)