[AI] E-book piracy: Is your download legal?

Sanjay ilovecold at gmail.com
Fri Aug 13 04:40:09 EDT 2010

Protecting media from illegal filesharing is essential for the film and
industries, but applying DRM to e-books could prove more trouble than it's

Tom Spring investigates

The publishing industry's worst nightmares are coming true: the e-book
reader's steadily increasing popularity has been matched by growth in
Once relatively limited and dominated by technical titles, the pool of
downloadable publications available online now includes bestsellers from
Evanovich, John Grisham, James Patterson and JK Rowling.

We discovered virtual bookshelves stuffed with pirated titles, ranging from
copyrighted popular fiction and non-fiction to college textbooks and how-to
e-books.  All are ready for viewing on your reader of choice.

"We know e-book piracy is a problem and we are taking the issue very
We've seen the music and film industry deal with this and it stands to
we will grapple with it too," said Paul Aiken, executive director of The

Aiken is concerned about the growth in the availability of copyrighted
titles online, but said he isn't convinced that the number of people
downloading the files is increasing proportionately.

Illicit e-books aren't as widespread or easy to acquire as pirated audio
tracks.  Such titles are also often poorly reproduced in PDF, consisting of
scanned-in page images rather than text.

Piracy concerns have kept many publishers and authors - most notably JK
Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series - from embracing the e-book
But this refusal to provide sought-after titles in a digital format can
drive piracy, warned consumer technology analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle

For little outlay, a determined pirate can convert any book into an
text file, even if a legitimate e-book is never created.  "The fear of
electronic piracy is actually fuelling the piracy movement," said Enderle.

JK Rowling's fears have already been realised in this way, with scanned-in
versions of the Harry Potter series illegally available for use with any

DRM is no e-book piracy fix

Protecting e-books with digital rights management (DRM) is a simple
but the practice has faced criticism from the publishing industry and
While publishers are wary of reports that the DRM technologies used by the
Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader have been hacked, consumers are hesitant to
titles that are restricted for use on a limited number of readers.

Critics say that the two providers of DRM-protected e-books, Amazon and
are stunting market progress by selling their digital titles in different
formats.  Consumers who purchase a DRM-restricted AZW-format e-book for
Amazon Kindle won't be able to transfer that file to Sony's Reader, for

DRM issues get thornier still when device makers such as Amazon start
negotiating exclusive e-publishing rights for their product.  For example,
Amazon has signed a deal with best-selling business writer Stephen R Covey
publish several of his books, including The 7 Habits of Highly Effective
and Principle-Centered Leadership, exclusively for the Kindle.  The company
also negotiated exclusive rights for Kindle e-books from author Stephen King
for a biography of America's first lady, Michelle Obama.

A more flexible DRM?

The idea that e-books are tied to devices, often exclusively, is akin to
consumers being allowed to play a new CD only on a certain brand of player.
Fried, vice-president of Amazon Kindle, claims that Kindle owners don't mind
its DRM.  We're not convinced.  In any case, this apparent acceptance could
all change as a predicted flood of rival readers hits the market in 2010 and
Kindle owners consider jumping ship.

Nick Bogaty, an expert in DRM technology at Adobe, said that the company is
yielding to critics who say its antipiracy technology is too restrictive by
loosening its grip on DRM.  Adobe DRM-protected books, which are used by
and Barnes & Noble, can be read on up to 12 different devices (six desktop
six handheld), meaning users can already share e-books with friends.

Marcia Layton Turner is one author who's more interested in making her books
available electronically than worrying about piracy, with potential new
reason enough to jump on the e-book bandwagon.  "I'd rather sell twice as
books and lose a few sales than miss out on those additional sales
said Turner.

And many others agree: piracy concerns take a back seat to the challenge of
getting people to read books in the first place.

Technical telepathy: 09969636745
Saints are not always saints; sinners are not always sinners.

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