Statements by “domain management, online brand protection and online security” company NetNames about the size of the problem of textbook piracy in the UK are being picked up by the BBC and The Bookseller magazine. According to the BBC report quoted, 76 percent of a sample of 50 popular textbook titles were available for download on one file sharing site alone.
The reports do focus on the issue of textbook pricing and availability as much as on piracy per se. NetNames’ director of piracy analysis, David Price is quoted at length on the issue of textbook pricing, emphasizing that publishers need to pay attention to this if they want to deter piracy. So this data is as much a rebuke to publishers as it is to students.
All the same, why is a company that has every commercial interest in exaggerating the size of the piracy problem being quoted as an authority on the subject? NetNames’s analysis and conclusions could be totally accurate, for all I know – they certainly seem scrupulously researched, although I notice that they only cover availability of titles, not actual number of downloads. After all, how much does it prove if one copy of an item is available in a pirated edition, where there is no evidence of how many people actually access it or use it?
Nonetheless, the BBC report’s headline blithely declares: “Students ‘worst’ at e-book piracy, says data monitor.” It sounds like someone out there wants to believe.
Note that NetNames offers a suite of anti-piracy services, including piracy research and analysis, “a free snapshot audit of where your brand is being infringed online,” and digital piracy experts who can “stand as expert witnesses in piracy litigation.” I hope they welcome the free promotion I’ve just given them.