Tips, news, and services for e-book authors and indie publishers

Can your Internet Provider stop e-book piracy?

by BB

Most people know that downloading copyrighted information without paying for it is against the law. But millions of people who are otherwise totally law-abiding have at one time or another illegally downloaded a copyrighted digital file.

Many otherwise honest people have illegally downloaded ebooks.

How serious is this problem for digital books? A 2011 Digital Entertainment Survey stated that 29% of e-reader owners admitted piracy and 36% of tablet owners admit to illegal ebook downloads. Another research firm, Attributor, reports that ebook piracy is on the rise.

One of the problems with this issue is that honest people don't equate downloading ebooks with "stealing." The situation is reflected in the vocabulary we use. People have many names for the practice of accessing copyrighted information without an exchange of money. Each term carries with it a different level of severity, but they’re all the same thing:

  • Illegal downloads – sounds like what kids do all the time
  • Copyright infringement – sounds technical
  • Unlawful content sharing – sounds bad, but sort of friendly
  • Online piracy – sounds like a real crime

A new way to fight ebook piracy

The Center for Copyright Information is an organization that focuses on educating consumers about online piracy. This group recently established The Copyright Alert System. It’s a program that intends to get otherwise honest people to stop downloading digital books without proper payment. Here’s how it works.


Copyright owners, including publishers, movie makers, and music producers, join together with peer-to-peer networks and monitor downloading behavior. The content owners then confirm that files have not been properly paid for and identify the Internet Protocol (IP) address where the files went. The content owners then communicate with the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that serve those IP addresses. These companies AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon. The ISP sends a Copyright Alert to the owner of that internet address.


These Copyright Alerts are basically email messages designed make account holders aware that the ISP knows that their account has been used for “unlawful sharing. ” The ISP let the account owner know how to prevent this from happening again by directing them to legal download venues.


If illegal downloads continue to that Internet address, the ISP can take actions designed to encourage this behavior to stop. Consequences can include reduction of internet speed, downgrade of internet service, automatic redirection to web site landing pages with anti-piracy messages, and online copyright education training.

Will it work?

Does the Alert system have teeth? Certainly the messages will be a deterrent to those who want to do right. And certainly they’ll work for people who are unaware that the book they just downloaded was done so illegally. But real book pirates will probably scoff at the Copyright Alert warnings.

This article first appeared in Digital Book World.

Posted by BB on April 15, 2013 in E-book Marketing Tips