When Pirates Board Your Web Site: Keeping Digital Text Safe

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But Do You Need a DRM Solution?
Although casual piracy can be a problem, some content is protected, in a sense, by the relationship between the buyer and seller, noted David Curle, director and lead analyst at the research firm Outsell Inc. "The existing contractual enforcement of digital rights is enough for many kinds of content providers," he says. "If you look at people who sell a lot of little chunks of content-aggregators like Factiva and LexisNexis-they don't seem very interested in DRM because they're dealing with organizations staffed by responsible people who want to follow the law. That seems to be their flavor of DRM and it seems to work just fine.

"To the extent there's abuse, it's along the lines of somebody forwarding an article here and there, but there doesn't seem to be abuse in the form of somebody trying to download the entire LexisNexis database and going into competition with them. So LexisNexis is getting subscription fees, and the publishers that provided the content in the first place are getting royalties. The chain is in place, and it works pretty well.

"The more compelling case for some kind of technological solution is the company that produces large chunks of extremely valuable content-research reports, for example-and the risk of infringement is higher."

TechSearch International is an example of an organization that produces large chunks of content. It's a consulting company specializing in semiconductor packaging and assembly trends. Its reports sell for $4,000 each, and the company selected SealedMedia to secure online distribution of its products.

"It's a preventive measure," says Oscar Vaz, senior analyst at TechSearch International. "We've been in business 14 years, publishing reports in paper format. They tend to be fairly large so it's relatively difficult for people to abuse the copyright protection. They could photocopy some pages, but very few people would photocopy the entire book and distribute it within the company. Still, some of our clients wanted electronic delivery rather than a paper report, so we knew we had to go that way, even though we're very concerned our content can be distributed easily in electronic format.

Protection for Electronic Books
Andres Nannetti, CEO, of the Boston-based DRM company Rovia, noted that electronic book publishers are another type of content producer especially worried about piracy. Rovia has selected the college textbook market as a strategic launching point for its products and services.

"If you look at the academic market," says Nannetti, "the stakes are very high for textbook publishers. The average price of a textbook is about $75, and students spend about $600 on textbooks each year for their classes. If they can get that $600 worth of content for free, they will.

"So when you publish textbooks electronically, the stakes are high to make sure people can't reproduce them and distribute them easily. If that were to happen, the textbook market would shrink overnight." Rovia's technology relies on two elements: an Internet-based syndication platform and the RovReader, a proprietary, browser-based plug-in that lets users view personalized versions of copyrighted information for a specified period of time through virtually any Web-enabled device.

The company also has developed the Rovia Secure Protocol, which is "a protocol for requesting and sending information that secures it as it travels across the Internet and also as it's accessed on a user's machine," Nannetti said. "So what this allows us to do is provide the first device-independent way of securing access to information." Rovia's clients include Houghton Mifflin and Thomson Learning.

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