Publishers should not overspend in the fight against piracy, and should use their authors to present a "human face" in the battle for hearts and minds, a panel discussion at the World e-Reading Congress declared.
The industry should also come together to fund research into the overall impact of illegal digital copying.
Panelists Alison Jones, digital director of Palgrave, and Huw Alexander, Sage rights and digital sales manager, said that their monthly take-down notices were huge, but conceded that the impact of piracy was not clear.
Alexander said: "We don't know [the extent of piracy], takedown notices are just a fraction of what is out there, and at the moment we are only basing our knowledge on what we see on websites in Iran."
Alexander advocated cross-publisher funded research into the extent of piracy and its impact, alluding to an earlier study conducted by Brian O'Leary, which suggested that piracy actually grew sales.
Jones admitted that the cost of fighting piracy was "not a great sum at all", and that the "elimination of piracy [was] not part of our agenda". Alexander agreed, but added that it was a necessary spend. "Authors expect their books not to be pirated, so we do have to provide the services to authors, and we do have to invest, but it has to be a relevant amount."
Speaking from the floor, Sara Lloyd, Pan Macmillan digital director, said publishers could use their authors to show the human cost of piracy. "You are in a really difficult position in the communications battle if it comes from publishers as the message can appear corporatised. But if we can get across the human aspect, actually talk about the author as the human face who has put this piece of work together, that's the way forward."
Alexander suggested a "clearer copyright law" so that people knew what they could do and could not do legally.