Tackling the pirates

<p>The harbingers of digital doom say it is only a matter of time before the publishing world falls victim to piracy on a Napster-like scale.</p>
<p>The technology is certainly here&mdash;sophisticated scanning and file-sharing technology, e-book readers and other advanced communications devices&mdash;and with it more digital copy in circulation. Indeed, the Kindle is now here. Plus, of course, the cultural backdrop which means that digital books are no longer the poor relation and the expectation among some that all content should be free. </p>
<p>And, despite the widespread publicity about the pirating of <i>The Lost Symbol </i>within hours of its release, digital book piracy is not just a bestseller problem. There is a huge market for educational texts online as well. While it may well be the case that this is a problem which is not going to go away, there are commercial, technological and legal strategies that can be brought to bear to manage the situation.</p>
<p>Well thought-out release and pricing strategies can be important. Delaying the release of digital content can create- a vacuum and drive consumers towards pirate copies or competitors, as can pricing digital content too high. </p>
<p>Marketing initiatives, such as loyalty points or &ldquo;buy one get one free&rdquo; offers, can encourage legitimate purchases of digital content. Educating consumers about the proven links between piracy and organised criminal activity also has a role to play.</p>
<p>Digital rights management (DRM)&mdash;-is not a panacea. DRM does not stop the pirates who scan content. It can also alienate customers who want an unlocked title, to read on whichever device is convenient at any given time. Indeed, the music industry has moved away from DRM. </p>
<p>Meanwhile, there is no getting away from the fact that it is publishers and authors who are currently going to have to bear the brunt of policing the internet for unauthorised digital copies, whether through specialist searches, scanning known offending sites or using search engines.</p>
<p>The preparation of standard takedown notices for ISPs and warning letters for infringers can make it easier to react quickly once a problem comes to light. Litigation is an option in selected cases, but there is a balance to be struck between attracting negative publicity by suing customers and protecting content.</p>
<p>Ultimately, there is probably no substitute for engaging with content hosts, as better co-operation from them could be the key to success, whether- or not the government&rsquo;s proposals on the termination or slowing down of file sharers&rsquo; internet connections are brought to fruition.<br />