Publishers Realizing It's Silly To 'Fight Piracy'

from the smart-move dept

We’re seeing more and more stories like this, but it’s great to see yet another one, pointed out by Glyn Moody, of a publisher — in this case, the University of Chicago Press director Garrett Kiely — arguing that worrying about book “piracy” is a mistake, and in many cases embracing such infringement can be good for business:

?The majority of the titles that were infringed upon were scholarly monographs,? Kiely explained. ?It?s very hard to find a correlation between the appearance of these books on these sites, and lost sales. In some cases you can?t help but think that ? obscurity might be our biggest problem, rather than piracy.?

The cost of combating piracy — a tedious and sometimes fruitless exercise — may, in such cases, far exceed the cost in lost sales from having those titles available for free, he added. Allowing more obscure titles to change hands freely on the Web might even result in buzz, which could eventually translate to more sales, Kiely added.

Apparently this was a part of a panel discussion on the topic of “Is Piracy Good for Sales,” which included someone from Attributor, the company famous for inaccurately hyping up online “piracy” claims in order to try to sell more of its “solution” to what may be a non-existent “problem.” Thankfully, it sounds like other publishers agreed with Kiely that infringement isn’t the real problem. Some noted that, especially with academic publishing, there were all sorts of other “reasons to buy” legitimate copies that meant that unauthorized versions quite frequently could lead to greater sales.

In fact, the report notes that among academic publishers, there’s very little concern about such infringement. A recent study found that “piracy” ranked near the bottom of concerns for such publishers. It’s nice to see an industry not freaking out about infringement, and instead focusing on providing greater value and adjusting business models.

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Comments on “Publishers Realizing It's Silly To 'Fight Piracy'”

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Chris in Utah (profile) says:

Its really funny here that the anime industry they support “piracy” of there product a 100%. Do you know the most constantly up to date thing on Netflix?

When you lower… er get rid a bar for the base in things like magna there derivative works see greater coverage as well. Sadly I don’t think many other industries are going to catch on to this any time soon. Minus the notable exceptions in the case studies here.

Same thing goes for any bar to anything.

… what we are supposed to be; free and independent.

Chris in Utah (profile) says:


Sometimes employed? I believe its a simple matter of comparing magna to marvel’s business practices regardless of there views on the so called war on piracy.

If it was a simple matter of contract law I’d agree with you. But right now its simple economics based on “sometimes” free distribution. Also this isn’t limited to animation. Most of the animation I watch is in support of the magna. Often times the animation doesn’t even cover half of whats covered.

Need an American example in recent times? Check out the series Jericho and the comic book series it spawned in civil war; most fans (in letters to the editors) haven’t picked up a comic book in 30 years.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Academic Monographs Are Different From Comic Books

Let us understand what we are talking about. In this instance, we are talking about scholarly monographs in the liberal arts or social sciences. A monograph is often a rewritten Ph.D. dissertation. The author of the dissertation is writing the biggest thing he has ever written, and having done so, with the inevitable messiness that involves, he goes back a couple of years later and cleans it up to make a monograph. Monographs have very narrow subjects. A monograph sets forth and defends a particular thesis or idea. One might say that a monograph is a blog post, expanded to book length, with more evidence, and less shouting. Doing a bit of rummaging on my shelves, I found: Robert Friedel, _Zipper: an Exploration in Novelty_; Larry Wolff, _Child Abuse in Freud’s Vienna_; Roger Sherman Loomis, _The Grail: From Celtic Myth to Christian Symbol_; and Laurence Wylie, _Village in the Vaucluse_. Books like that. No business employer will ever ask you if you have read such books. The lowest course level at which such books can be assigned is a “dual-level” course, that is, a course which can be taken by juniors or seniors majoring in the subject and first-year graduate students. Such books are also assigned in a liberal arts department’s graduate “core course,” the boot camp of graduate school. Course packets are also assigned at this level, incidentally. The vast majority of undergraduate students, however, are majoring in subjects other than the liberal arts or social sciences, and they never reach either the dual-level courses or the core courses. One might add that there are simply not enough of such courses– of either kind– for any given monograph to have more than a remote chance of being widely assigned. A good core course might have an enrollment of ten or fifteen students; a good dual-level course might have an enrollment of forty. The lucrative area of textbook publishing is down at the freshman and sophomore levels. Student down at that level simply aren’t ready for monographs.

There are about two hundred big academic libraries in the United States which buy monographs as a general thing. College professors could read these books, but in practice, college professors tend to get busy with lower-division undergraduate teaching, and with administration. The people who read these books in the first instance are advanced graduate students, taking five or ten years to get a Ph.D. Advanced graduate students don’t have any money, but at the same time, they work much too hard to have part-time jobs outside the university. A lot of them live on beans– literally. If you have, as an individual, say, two thousand dollars a month to live on, without having to work more than, say, ten hours a week, that is wealth in the graduate student community, and you have to be careful not to flaunt it. An engineer who can find some kind of part-time engineering job, without having to be employed full-time is axiomatically wealthy for this purpose. Advanced graduate students are not very likely to buy books if the university library does not. Advanced graduate students have always photocopied books in the library, as long as there have been photocopiers. Now, of course, they have their little electronic cameras, which create computer data rather than paper. Advanced graduate students do not use course packets very much, incidentally. They get points for going into the library and finding books which their professor did not even know existed. No one else in the university is reading that particular book in that month, so there is no competition for the library’s copy.

There aren’t very many advanced graduate students. A flagship state university, with 20,000 students, 700-800 professors, and two million books in the library might have only about a thousand liberal arts graduate students, perhaps half of those being advanced graduate students, say, in round numbers, one for each professor. So in a sense, each professor has his graduate student, and between them, they are looking at a pile of about three thousand books. It is very much a buyers’ market.

Liberal Arts is the core of the university. A lot of the people in the other parts, the applied, or job-seeking parts, have fine-sounding titles which they don’t really deserve. For example, an MBA is not really a graduate degree, but merely a second bachelor’s degree.

One unacknowledged reality is that academics often have to pay to get their monographs published. It is a secret and shameful transaction, but, nonetheless, it exists. There are two sources of revenue for monograph publishing. One is the author. The other is the university library, buying books under pressure from the author. The university library, as a bureaucracy, is likely to discover that many of its books never get read– by anyone– and periodically tries to cut purchases back when there are funding difficulties. There is no identifiable free market for these kinds of books– as much as anything, the process is driven by the author’s need to prove that he can write a book, and the only way to do that is to write a book.

Cdogg says:

Conflate, Conflate, Conflate

Having read these posts for a while I am shocked, SHOCKED, at the level of conflation going on between for profit, mass market IP creation, and any sliver of evidence in support of free IP. Can we just agree on the following:
(1) People who create books, songs, music and movies should be able to decide what they want to charge people to consume those items.
(2) Business is like evolution – survival of the fittest. If you think you have a better business model, go out and create (or pay people a lot of money to make) awesome movies, books, and music, and then give it away. See how much money you make. I won’t invest.
(3) Academic publishing is not analogous to pop culture books, movies, music, etc. It is a loss leader (see the post above).
(4) Value creation is only one half of a business silly. Value CAPTURE is the important part. Create all the value you want, if you don’t capture it, you aint in business.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Publishers Realizing It's Silly ....

Good article. I agree wholeheartedly.
As an IP attorney, I think it applies generally. I have invented a lot of things in the past; and if I am not going to pursue them personally, I give them away (with a sincere effort to help implement them, if someone wishes to). I sometimes see my inventions in products, and it makes me feel good (and NO, I do NOT expect anything – not even that I be acknowledged!). I have also suggested logos for Trademarks – it makes me feel good to see them; but I do not by any stretch of the imagination have a “stake” in them!
Remember, Ben Franklin dedicated his inventions to the public.

Jay (profile) says:


Some do, but in regards to anime, there’s certain places that they can license anime to be played online, which makes them money. made a great effort to court official licensors of manga. I still don’t like them all the time but it’s great to have places to watch anime online without being pestered to buy the damn DVD.

No, the DVD isn’t going to save the industry, it’s going to be cheaper prices on DVDs (seriously, think about this. A box set with all the episodes of Dragonball costs $99, and stack of DVDs is ~$20. The profit margins are beyond ridiculous!) and better ways to court customers online than what the industry is doing now.

Gill Bates says:

Backwards ideas

The whole concept of “the cost in lost sales” is nebulous (at best) and downright backwards probably.

The vast majority of people that have pirated books, music, software would never have purchased it in the first place, they would have done without it. So there is no “lost sale.” The whole concept is just a bean-counter device to try to make the bottom line look better.

Nicedoggy says:

Conflate, Conflate, Conflate

(1) Nope the artist or creator didn’t have and doesn’t have that power and if I have a say it will never have.

(2) Survival of the fittest implies no umbrellas to hide under, if this was a real market some people would have to find ways to deal with other copying them and producing the same exact thing without having any help from anybody else.

(3) And that suppose to mean what?

(4) WTF do you cite (1) and (2) if you know capture is important? all those idiots who can’t capture anything in a true free market and need crutches to survive will not make it in the long run.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Academic Publishing As A Microcosm of Print Publishing.

In the United States, there are something like sixteen thousand public library branches, something over twenty thousand secondary schools (each with its own library), something like sixty thousand elementary schools (ditto), and a couple of million classrooms (many of which have “book corners”). What this means is that many kind of popular books actually have the same economics as academic books. One can think of the public high school as a kind of university in miniature. Just as the flagship state university has an overwhelming majority of frat boys and sorority girls, who do not read, save under coercion, and a tiny minority of authentic graduate students, the public high school has a tiny minority of bookworms. The bookworms are probably rather less likely to have after-school jobs at McDonalds, less likely to have automobiles, etc. The conventional figures about teenage spending money do not apply to them.

The model of academic publishing actually does describe the market for large sections of “popular literature,” meaning stuff like Harry Potter books. At the lower reaches of the school system, one finds teachers whose prime goal is to get kids to read something, anything, rather than listening to recorded music and watching television. Such teachers will even buy comic books, if that is what it takes (*). The big market is getting a government agency of some kind to buy things. Government agencies pay higher prices than anyone else would, and they don’t tend to pirate things. “The prince expands his own dignity by splashing money around.” The other side of the coin is that the prince tends to become murderous when his dignity is affronted. That is the lesson of the Georgia State case. The State of Georgia’s honor has been insulted, and someone will have to die, most likely a publisher.

Music is different. It was distributed via the shopping mall, rather than via the school. It didn’t have the government subsidy. The music industry was based around kids rebelling against adults rather than kids being constructively guided by adults. There is a fine line between selling kids rapper records and selling them drugs. A book publisher who follows the line of the music industry does so at his peril.

(*) Parenthetically, Japan has a curious “social structure of language.” Japan’s literary culture is Chinese, not only the Kanji ideogram characters, but the whole body of literature and ideas which traveled over them. However, Japanese in its natural state is an Altaic language, its siblings being Korean, Yakut, Evenki, Mongol, Turkish, Finnish, and Magyar (Hungarian). This means that to be fully literate in Japan, you have to develop a command of a “hard” foreign language, one which does not have many common features with your “baby language.” Nowadays, a literate Japanese has to learn English as well, but again, it is the same principle, of having to learn a totally unrelated language. The result of this strain is that Japan invented the Manga, the uber-comic-book.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Conflate, Conflate, Conflate

Come now. He is not completely off base with number 1 there.

The creators of works are completely free to charge what they want for people to view and/or enjoy their work. If I write a short story, I am perfectly within my rights to charge people $1 million to read it once.

Now the problem lies with the public’s willingness to accept that price. If the public feels that my story is not worth $1 million, they will either ignore or pirate my work.

So while they artist is able to charge whatever they want, they hold the responsibility to charge the rate the public is willing to pay. Which kind of goes against his other points.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Conflate, Conflate, Conflate

“They hold a responsibility to charge the rate the public is willing to pay”

Why? Is there some law that says I need to be a good business person? As an artist, am I not free to attempt to employ any crappy business model I want? If I then fail (to extract value) why do you care? My works will die off in obscurity and I was a fool (wrt to money). So what?

That, however, does not give you the right to steal from me.

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