Piracy in the digital age is far from the domain of a morally dubious ship's captain. It is the domain of morally-dubious average citizens, infringing on creative works as far back as the 1600s.
Most of us, however, probably can't remember that far back. But you might remember 10-year-old Napster, a service that unleashed pirating of digital music. Now piracy has moved onto a new frontier - e-books.
Attributor, a San Mateo based anti-piracy solutions company founded in 2005, released Thursday new research designed to show us how e-book pirates get to their booty. The stated goal of the study was to, "determine the behavior of Internet users with regards to book piracy."
The research focused primarily on Google searches of straight query data and Google Trends reports to identify cyberlocker sites. A cyberlocker site houses files for public download. Many of these sites are legal, distributing public domain information, freeware or software trials. In this study, the cyberlocker sites tagged were those which were specifically carrying copyrighted material.
The results were disturbing. Between 1.5 and 3 million daily Google queries for pirated e-books. This represented a 54% increase since August of 2009. It also clearly demonstrated how a new technology, in this case the iPad, could radically change demand. Since the iPad became available in mid-May of this year, demand for less-then-legal e-books has increased by 20%.
Curiously enough, the study also found that the most pirated book on the net was “Breaking Dawn” by Stephanie Meyer. It generated nearly 40,000 impressions and 280 clicks. So, either Internet pirates are all 12-year-old girls, or they just have really bad taste in literature.
While this approach did yield some interesting numbers, it is, at best, incomplete. The study fails to take into account peer-to-peer file-sharing services, which allow users to send almost any type of file. These tools are popular because makers cannot be held liable unless they, "encouraged users to trade songs, movies and television shows online without paying for them," according to a United States Supreme Court ruling, circa 2005. Though peer-to-peer services are still being tested in the courts of other nations, and that ruling may be overturned by a Web-censorship bill, which is likely to go to vote after the November elections.
This study is a follow-up to a project conducted this past January. Attributor's first book piracy studylooked at the fiscal loss associated with pirated downloads. It estimated, that the lost value from book piracy in the U.S. was roughly $2.8 billion. Though this estimate is based on the assumption that, if unable to get a book for free online, the user would have purchased it, instead of making do without the text, or getting it from their local library.
Attributor was not available for immediate comment.
(Graph from Attributor)