The Chronicle of Higher Education has a comprehensive report on this meeting.  Here’s a snippet from their piracy section:

Pirated copies of their books have been a big concern for university presses lately. A session on “Is Piracy Good for Sales?” didn’t really answer the question raised by its title, but it made clear that presses take the possibility seriously. The moderator, Chicago’s Mr. Kiely, said concern about piracy had led his press to test out the services of Attributor, a company that tracks down pirate copies of clients’ copyrighted material and helps them get that material taken down. Lately the press has had about 250 takedowns a month, said Mr. Kiely.

Attributor’s services costs about what it would cost to hire a junior-level staffer for a year, Mr. Kiely said in a conversation later with The Chronicle. It’s hard to know just how many sales are being lost to piracy, though, and the Chicago press plans to do a six-month review soon to determine whether the cost of Attributor is worth it.

For all the talk of open access and how scholars want their material to be freely available, Mr. Kiely said he finds that his authors still generally don’t ask for open-access options and that they really dislike the idea of having their work pirated. One scholar who had edited a collection of essays, Geometry, Rigidity, and Group Actions, came across a pirated edition posted online before the contributors had even received their copies. The scholar spotted it and alerted the press. The market for that book is likely to be specialized and small, but “there’s a pride of ownership,” Mr. Kiely said.

Thanks to Michel von Glahn for the heads-up.


  1. Short-sighted and misinformed, as always. Just because someone pirated a copy of some esoteric book doesn’t mean others downloaded it. If someone did download it, they would have likely never purchased it anyway, therefore there were no lost sales.

    On the other hand, someone may have downloaded that pirated copy and discovered a new favorite author and would then purchase other books by that author and spread that knowledge to friends and family.

    There will always be people who want something for free, it’s the thrill of the score that’s important, I doubt most of those books are actually read. I still think that legitimate readers only result to pirated copies when something isn’t easily available, such as geographic restrictions or unreasonably high prices (that 20-year-old backlist title for $14.99 for example).

  2. Well said Common Sense.

    Article: “Chicago press plans to do a six-month review soon to determine whether the cost of Attributor is worth it”

    Except they have absolutely NO way of “determining” this. Attributor has no way of knowing. But they do have a HUGE motivation to extrapolate some estimated rumoured numbers to produce a significant loss. The bigger the losses they report the more business they get.

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