21st Century Piracy: e-Books are the New Gold

In dorm rooms and apartments of millennials around the country there is a familiar trend: bookshelves are becoming a thing of the past. People are abandoning traditional books for e-readers and online versions. The benefits are clear: whereas 10 books may have consumed an entire nightstand 10 years ago, one can now have thousands of books at their disposal inside their phone An unintended consequence of the e-book revolution has been disastrous for the industry: the rise of e-book piracy.

According to a new study from The Authors Guild, over $300 million in publisher income is lost annually due to online piracy. This is in the United States alone. In the U.K., the nation’s Intellectual Property Office found that nearly a fifth of all e-books consumed were pirated. The issue isn’t confined to e-books. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. movie and television industry loses between $29.2 and $70 billion annually.

Publishers’ bottom lines aren’t the only things affected by this rise in piracy. When authors are unable to generate a profit from their work, they are unlikely to continue publishing or continue the series they are working on. The average new book generates only between $100,000 and $200,000 in total sales. When accounting for expenses this leaves only a narrow window of profitability that is eaten into by the sale of counterfeits.
Counterfeit books have been able to thrive on popular e-commerce websites such as Amazon and eBay, as well as marketplaces dedicated solely to selling pdf copies of popular books. This has made it a nightmare for both content owners and law enforcement that seek to have the illegal copies removed.

The intellectual property rights of content creators and owners are being infringed through the proliferation of counterfeit e-books, films, and music. Without strong intellectual property protections, and judicial enforcement of these protections, the incentive to create new material is severely diminished or even eliminated.

According to Property Rights Alliance’s International Property Rights Index (IPRI), there is a strong correlation between the protection of IP rights and economic development. For example, there is a strong correlation (0.833) between GDP per capita and the IPRI. It is clear that governments, whether developed or developing, must take these rights seriously, and enforce them, to ensure a strong and prospering economy.


Photo Credit: Travis Juntara