How to Combat Book Piracy in the Publishing Landscape

March 29, 2021
Ingram Staff
How to Combat Book Piracy in the Publishing Landscape

Piracy Past and Present

What do we mean by “Piracy”?

All unauthorized distribution, theft, and reproduction, copying, performance, storage, and sale or other use of intellectual property (IP) protected under copyright law.

The idea of a pirate is derived from the Greek peirates, which means sea-robber. One of the earliest copyright cases was around 600 AD in Ireland when somebody copied a certain manuscript called the Cathach.

There was a war fought over it, so piracy, especially for the publishing industry, is nothing new — if somebody tells you that piracy is heating up in the publishing industry, there were wars fought about it long ago, so maybe you could argue it’s always been bad.

In the News

Miami Herald

Even with the coronavirus, or because of the coronavirus, you see a spike in online consumption. Online consumption can go in two directions. 

  1. It can either go to legal channels that you monetize on (Amazon, Hoopla, Apple Books, etc.)
  2. Or, it can go to illegal channels (such as phishing sites, direct downloads, torrents, etc.)

Piracy in the Digital Age

There are many advances in the digital publishing industry, and it creates an array of opportunities for publishers to monetize their content. The COVID pandemic has caused publishers to rely even more on their digital channels or adopt a digital strategy even faster than anticipated.

Thanks to advances in digital publishing there are many different business models available to monetize content:

  1. Ebook Stores
  2. Subscription Services
  3. Print on Demand

These different business models enable you to find your customers easier than ever before. However, as seen in other industries, anti-piracy is vital to optimizing the online marketplace and guiding consumers to legitimate channels.

Not one model can extinguish piracy completely, so it's important for publishers to understand where their consumers spend their time online, their habits and how they think, and which channels they're comfortable using.

Piracy and Business Models       

Even with different business models, piracy remains. If you think about the different business models that the largest companies in the world have experimented with, you usually see a mix of direct purchasing and subscription services.

For example, say you've got a few different streaming services that you’re purchasing from right now. Unfortunately, you haven't seen the last season of Game of Thrones that you’re really looking forward to, but you just cannot be bothered to get one extra subscription.

While you may not choose to pirate, a lot of people in that position go to an illegal channel to solve this problem.

Digital Piracy Methods

These are the classic distribution methods for piracy:

  • File Hosters
  • Torrents
  • Blogs

Streaming Platforms

These consist of YouTube, Daily Motion, etc.


There's a lot of piracy and counterfeit happening on channels like eBay.

Phishing Sites

Phishing sites hijack your traffic and can upset your authors. Although technically speaking, it is not piracy, it is still damaging to your business.

Why People Pirate

  • Lack of money
  • No credit card available
  • Not willing to purchase content (when they can get it for ‘free’)
  • Not willing to purchase (another) subscription
  • Not happy with the offering (want to “own” content)
  • Content not available on legal channels

Some publishers think if they don't publish books digitally, they can prevent piracy, but the opposite is true. Availability is especially important to prevent piracy. Link-Busters removes a lot of scanned manuscripts and books for their clients that haven't had a digital copy on sale.

How Do Piracy Sites Monetize?

A lot of people think about pirates as just people that download illegally, but what they sometimes don't understand is how pirate sites monetize.

  • Ad Revenue
  • Data Download Subscription (Affiliation)
  • Memberships
  • Phishing Scams

As a publisher, you're competing with piracy websites that are giving your content away for free and outnumbering legal channels that your content is available on.

They offer fast and convenient downloads, usually in the format that people want – DRM (Digital Rights Management) free. And not only that, but they also have the tech know-how and the resources to make sure they populate search engines as well.

If you think about that for a moment, it's important you find the right outlet channels for your content and ensure that you have good search engine optimization.

Your consumers need to find you and you need to be able to convert them as fast as possible. To give you an idea of how big the piracy business is, here’s a picture of the mansion of Kim Dot Com.


This is an older picture, but he headed up an anti-piracy site that was in the news 7 years ago. Long story short, this was his house, and he was arrested on piracy, racketeering, you name it.

Piracy has made a lot of people rich and convinced a lot of people, to say, "Hey, I'm going to start my own piracy site as well." When the Feds took Megaupload offline, a third of the Internet traffic in South America was down. That’s the kind of empire that is built on piracy.

How Piracy Affects Publishers

Lost Sales

The worst is when people are willing to buy a book, but they first check if they can get it for free. There is a popular saying, “The opportunity makes the thief.” It's important to not allow the opportunity.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Disruption

Search for your bestselling titles on Google. Sometimes Google finishes your sentence with free download, or PDF, but see what's out there. This is an easy test to see how your SEO is performing on your most important titles.

Hijacking Traffic to Piracy or Phishing Sites

One of the keys to success with digital business models is that you get as many users as possible into your pipeline and convert them. Phishing sites can hijack these users from your pipeline. That's not a good thing.

Imagine that you sell bread somewhere, and somebody's standing in line saying, "Hey, there's another bakery there." That would be tough for your business.

Author Relations

The problem is piracy just happens. It's one of those things that you cannot totally prevent as a publisher. The only thing you can do is try to control it as much as possible.

A few others to consider:

Staff cost, legal cost, brand, and diminished customer loyalty. Once your consumers start to learn how to pirate, it's difficult to get them back.

Examples of piracy in publishing:

  • Search engines full of illegal links
  • Upset author that found his/her new title online for free
  • Concerned author that found a phishing link
  • eBay seller selling all titles of an author as a download
  • Damaging new article about piracy
  • Data needed for litigation

The Ingram & Link-Busters Solution

Ingram and Link-Busters offer an industry-leading anti-piracy solution for publishers to effectively eliminate and quarantine pirated content across the web. Link-Busters searches for information online based on your titles — using search keywords to then determine which content is pirated. Once pirated content is identified, Link-Busters sends take down notices to verified pirates and provides reporting to you with live data and trends on what is going on with your titles.  

How Does Link-Busters Work?

Link-Busters ingests metadata, establishes keywords, searches online, probes piracy sites, and sets up filters and whitelists to ensure your content doesn’t get sent to any illegal channels.

Link-Busters find suspect links, investigate what's going on, de-list infringing links on search engines, send DMCA notices to select hosting sites, and keep the title list updated.

Link-Busters supports different platforms such as Google, file-hosting and torrent sites, blogs, e-commerce, streaming sites, and wherever else the problem may arise.

About Link-Busters

Founded in 2009 and headquartered in Amsterdam with teams around the world, Link-Busters' anti-piracy service is trusted by world-leading publishers, authors, and creatives. Link-Busters’ technology quickly detects infringing content across the web, subsequently disrupting the digital piracy ecosystem, providing sales protection, as well as optimizing marketing for authors and their titles. Representing clients in Trade, STM and academic publishing, and protecting some of the world’s bestselling works, publishers can rest assured their content is protected to the fullest extent.

How to Combat Book Piracy in the Publishing Landscape
Ingram Staff

Ingram Staff

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