When Pirates Board Your Web Site: Keeping Digital Text Safe

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For every piece of content sold online, six copies are reproduced somewhere else without permission.

That's an estimate of the extent of the content piracy problem from Peter Kumik, managing director of the DRM (digital rights management) company SealedMedia, who said he has heard that estimate from several publishers.

Although piracy of text-based content hasn't received as much attention in the press as the theft of software and audio files, an increasing number of publishers seem to be worrying that their digital texts are vulnerable.

"Many companies are not putting their content online because they fear abuse," says Kumik. "It's not so much that they fear some Napster-like technology. It's very simple. They fear existing Web browsers and Web sites. That's all you need to pirate text. You just cut and paste it onto another site."

Some publishers have sought protection through DRM solutions. Others are taking a wait-and-see attitude as the technology and the market for it evolves. Many have decided technology isn't the answer. But nearly everyone in the econtent industry is facing a range of issues related to piracy.

Customers Are Demanding Digital Text
Kumik says companies usually turn to U.K.-based SealedMedia because "their customers are saying to them, 'Why aren't you providing your content online. We want to use it in an electronic format, but you're still sending us printed information, which often is out-of-date by the time it arrives.' So the publishers are kind of caught in the middle. Their customers want them to put their content online, but they're frightened of doing that because it's very, very easy to abuse."

SealedMedia's technology provides persistent protection for multiple types of digital content, including PDF, html, gif, jpeg, and MP3 audio. The technology prevents both "pass-a-long" distribution and screen grabs. "We also provide a very resilient, flexible license-management facility," says Kumik. "It allows content to be sold to people, not machines, so when you buy content using our technology, you can access it through multiple devices."

Kumik notes that technological protection is important for many different types of content because after customers demand and get it in digital format, they sometimes pirate it without really thinking about it.

"When our first customer went online about a year ago," he says, "their most common support call was people complaining they couldn't cut and paste anymore, which illustrates that a lot of abuse is carried out by people who don't even realize they shouldn't be doing what they're doing. They think because it's so easy to forward on a PDF document or cut and paste a Web page that it's actually legal."

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