Russell Davies has a piece in the Guardian reacting to the Metro’s somewhat breathless denunciation of piracy as a “colossal threat” last week. The Metro piece frets that piracy could cost authors and publishers millions of pounds, and “be as devastating as illegal file-sharing was for the music industry.”

(Because we all know how bereft and bankrupt the music industry now is, what with no new music being recorded anymore since Napster turned every recording artist out on the street to busk for a living. Alas, if only consumers had been willing to pay for digital music sold at a reasonable price! Why, it might have proven so successful that record labels let themselves be convinced to drop DRM and ended up selling billions of dollars’ worth of electronic music!)

The Metro also notes that the UK Publishers’ Association has set up a portal to consolidate reporting infringements and issuing takedown notices.

Davies writes, in reference to the Napster era:

The book business likes to invoke those days too and repeatedly assures us it is not going to make the mistakes the music industry made. Unfortunately, the conclusions it seems to have drawn are that the recorded music business wasn’t draconian and heavy-handed enough, that it didn’t issue enough take-down notices and didn’t sue enough children and sweet old ladies. They seem not to have realised that the only way to compete with pirates is to offer a better product and better service; a better combination of price, convenience and availability.

He reminds us that e-book piracy has been around for a lot longer than the e-book publishing industry has been a going concern, but the publishing industry still hasn’t gotten its act together. “Pricing is confused, the products are badly made, the marketing is non-existent or horrible.” He also raises the specter of e-books beginning with unskippable anti-piracy PSAs if publishers take a lead from the movie industry.

If the publishing industry is pouring so much money into fighting piracy that they can’t afford to pay their authors higher royalties, they would seem to have learned the wrong lesson. It might be better in the long run if they’d take that money and use it to develop products that would be more desirable and easier to buy than to pirate.


  1. If they want to put a serious dent in file-sharing, actually offering to sell books, rather than doing everything in their power to prevent consumers from being able to buy them, might be a good start. Radical thought, I know.

  2. It doesn’t matter how easy publishers make it to buy; pirates will still steal books, just because it’s so easy to do so and so hard to get caught. And ultimately, I do believe it will be detrimental to the industry, if not ruinous. But since no one wants to suck it up and rebuild the internet and digital files to be truly secure, that’s what we’re stuck with.

  3. Who said anything about “easy”, Steven? I said “possible”. If the publisher refuses to allow anybody to sell a book to me, I can’t buy it. This should be self-evident.

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