Tag Archives: Attributor

Romance Publisher Launches Kickass Antipiracy Campaign

Kudos to Harlequin for getting proactive in the war on infringers. The romance publishing behemoth has engaged Attributor, an outfit that monitors and combats piracy, to help authors chase file-sharers and other leeches out of the content pool.

“We ask that authors and their agents submit their takedown requests through Attributor’s online portal,” says Harlequin’s release.  “The online portal will provide you with directions on how to enter and submit information regarding infringing pages or sites. We anticipate enforcement will be undertaken more expeditiously and effectively through this service.”

For the complete statement click here.  And to read more about Attributor, click here.

Richard Curtis


Millions Seek Pirated E-Books? Tech Blogger Hellman Begs to Differ

Physicist and tech blogger Eric Hellman has an annoying habit of knocking his knuckles on assumptions to see if they are hollow.  In a blog recently posted on his go to hellman website (See Attributor eBook Piracy Numbers Don’t Add Up) he tapped his knuckles on a statement made by Attributor, a leading company in the field of monitoring unauthorized use of copyrighted material, and he didn’t like the sound it made.

We wrote up Attributor a while back (See Attributor Badge Proclaims Your E-Book is Kosher) and reprinted its assertion that “Daily demand for pirated e-books can be estimated at 1.5-3 million people worldwide.”   Our guts told us it sounded right.  It sounded credible.

But Hellman begged to differ. He begged to differ by 90%.  Relying on Google Trends, AdWords  and keyword search data plus analysis of some other metrics, Hellmann said he considered “…the truth to be about 10% of the number they claim.”

“All in all,” he wrote, “I estimate that about 210,000 searches made on Google per day represent possible interest in pirated ebooks. About 30,000 of these come from the US. The ‘real’ number for all countries could be as high as 300,000 or as low as 100,000. The 1.5-3 million numbers reported by Attributor are not within the range of plausibility.”

When Attibutor stood by its original figures Hellman crunched the numbers again and produced a second article entitled Consumer Interest in Pirated eBooks is Even Lower Than I Thought. We asked Attributor CEO Jim Pitkow to comment and he wrote us as follows:

“Our study’s rigorous methodology ensured highly accurate results that align with actual consumer behavior. We analyzed 89 titles, using multiple keyword permutations per title, across different days of the week, with very high bids to ensure placement – each of which is fundamental in guaranteeing accuracy and legitimacy. Each of these variables impact the findings, and analyzing all variables together produce highly accurate results. We stand by our research, and we’re confident that the study addresses an accurate portrayal of the consumer demand for pirated e-books.”

So now what?

Hellman’s arguments are compelling and for all we know he is technically correct. But they don’t take into account the less quantifiable but devastating damage wreaked by piracy: the culture of entitlement, the climate of outlawry, the institutionalization of copyright ignorance and disrespect, the bleeding of profits, and the toll that piracy exacts on the incentive of artists and musicians and writers to create and sell their work. There is also a leverage factor to be considered: one successful customer search for a torrent pirate site can yield a trove of thousands of stolen e-books such as the one we displayed recently (See A Bootleg E-Book Bazaar Operates in Plain Sight).

So, even if one is willing to grant that Attributor based its claim on ambiguous stats, we still believe with bedrock certainty that piracy represents the Number One threat to the success of the digital book industry. You can knock your knuckles on that one until they bleed, we won’t change our minds. Nor do Hellman’s cogently reasoned arguments mitigate our support for Attributor’s goals and activities on behalf of aggrieved copyright owners.

For in-depth coverage of piracy visit our Pirate Central page regularly.

Richard Curtis


Attributor Study Suggests Honey Subdues More Infringers Than Vinegar

Show of hands, please: how many of you believe that, given the opportunity to do the right thing, an unauthorized user will remove unauthorized files if you ask nicely?

Yes, we thought so.  But you pessimists are in for a surprise.

Attributor, the fast-rising piracy monitoring service about which we recently reported (see Attributor Badge Proclaims Your E-Book is Kosher) , has released an intriguing report on what it calls a Graduated Response Trial, though it might well be termed the Try A Little Tenderness Test.  While it was performed on newspapers, the implications for book piracy are apparent.

Attributor’s approach engages unlicensed content users in dialogue before resorting to formal takedown notices and even more draconian ways of making them remove illegally obtained content.  By educating infringers and reasoning with them instead of bombarding them with legal threats, Attributor was able to persuade 75 percent of the offending websites to alter their behavior.

A significant way to do that is to get them to work with you instead of against you  – that is, to make them revenue-sharing partners.  The study suggests “syndication models that compensate those who create valuable content, while appropriately rewarding those who aggregate, republish and monetize it.” It’s called FairShare and you can read about this cooperative model here. The principle is, better to take a safe fraction than risk getting into trouble.  For those taking advantage of the offer it’s found money.  Embrace rather than alienate, as one executive said to me.

Here are details from the trial:

  • Attributor identified more than 400,000 unlicensed full copies across 44,906 sites from 70,101 online news articles from newspapers spanning pay wall, ad-supported and syndication revenue models with local, national and international distribution.
  • A ‘full copy’ was defined as containing more than 80 percent of the original article and comprising more than 125 words.
  • The trial randomly selected 107 (3 times the statistically significant amount) sites which used 10 or more full copies from a single content owner during a 30-day period and had advertising on the pages with copies
  • Only the first two steps of the Graduated Response process were tested: (1) courtesy notices of unlicensed use sent to the site owner and (2) removal notices sent to the search engines to remove the listing from results and to ad networks to remove ads on the page of the copied content. The subsequent step: (3) removal notices to the hosting sites to remove the content was not part of the trial.
  • The results show that 75 percent of the unauthorized sites agreed to either pursue licensing agreements or remove content voluntarily within the first two steps.

You can read full details here.

Certainly friendly persuasion is not only virtuous but far less expensive, time-consuming and frustrating than carpet-bombing. You can hold drastic methods in reserve and employ them for intransigent infringers and professional criminals.

Still think people won’t do the right thing?  Attibutor’s study suggests they will.

Our approach? Try killing them with kindness. If that doesn’t work, just kill them.

Richard Curtis

For full coverage of all things pirate, visit our Pirate Central archive.


Attributor Badge Proclaims Your E-Book is Kosher

Publishers, flash your badges – your Attributor Protected Badges proclaiming your e-books are authorized. Attributor, a service that came to our attention a few years ago (see Tracking Content on the Internet), was created to search out, monitor and combat Internet piracy, and with a 54 percent increase in the demand for pirated e-books in the past year – 20% since May of this year alone –  the company has its hands full.  “Daily demand for pirated books,” they tell us, “can be estimated at 1.5 to 3 million people worldwide.” * To check on this activity, Attributor search engine spiders crawl through 100 million Web pages a day.

Though the firm’s original mission was more about consumer education and monitoring than enforcement, it has since become proactive in copyright compliance. “Once you’re signed up with Attributor,” we previously wrote, “you can give them marching orders and legal authority to respond to unauthorized use of copyrighted content by requiring links, requiring a share or ad revenue or demanding that a site take down the content. Perhaps some of those pirates will soon learn to think of Attributor as their own personal Terminator.”

How does the Terminator terminate? “The Attributor Guardian piracy monitoring service performs continuous comprehensive searches across file sharing hubs, torrents, web sites and other illicit content distribution channels, and suspected pirated content is reviewed by our professional services staff. Using a graduated response system, our team contacts unlicensed sites to review options for responsible content sharing. If a resolution is not achieved, we effectuate removal of unauthorized copies and take steps to prevent further piracy.”  In many cases the company blitzes perps with takedown notices until they give up, seeking softer and less well financed targets.  Though Attributor doesn’t litigate, it provides evidentiary support in lawsuits. You can read about their services here.

Most recently Attributor announced partnerships with Macmillan and Kensington who have pledged to support the Attributor Protected Badge program. The badges are a key component in an initiative “to drive consumer awareness about fair trade and distribution of e-books, and protection of author royalties.”

“The global e-book community, which includes consumers, authors and publishers, is taking a major step to address the challenges book publishers face as they move to address the digital age of syndication,” said Jim Pitkow, CEO of Attributor. “This initiative enables consumers to purchase e-books in line with their values and principles, and represents a major advancement in providing educational information about the fair trade and fair use of e-books.”

Beginning in November, Kensington Publishing Corp. will include the Attributor Protected Badge in more than two-dozen new e-books per month. E-books containing the Badge signify the authorized purchase of an original copy, including a link for consumers to learn more about – and respect – copyright.  Though the badge is not a guarantee of protection or even authenticity – don’t be surprised if counterfeits show up on pirate sites – Attributor hopes it will become as reliable as another familiar symbol.

Richard Curtis

* (Tech blogger Eric Hellman has some serious reservations about this estimate. In a subsequent post we’ll tell you what they are.)


Hey Somali Pirates -You’re Working Too Hard! Hijack E-Books Risk-Free!

E-Book piracy in the United States is a $600 million business according to Mike Harvey, Technology Correspondent for The Times of London. Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol has been a particularly juicy target.

There’s some promising news coming from across the Pond, though: “British publishers are taking action to stop the pirates,” says the Times. “The Publishers Association has released a web tool that allows publishers to log the details of an infringement of copyright. It then sends a demand to the offending website for the link to be removed. The portal has been alerted to more than 4,000 cases of online piracy by more than 40 publishers and has succeeded in taking down 2,638 illegal copies of books.”

The article doesn’t state the name of the web tool, but it might be Attributor, the anti-piracy tool we reported last summer when Hachette employed it.

Despite improvements in piracy detection, we agree with the title of the Times piece: Pirates find easy new pickings in open waters of e-book publishing.

Richard Curtis


Hachette Hires Anti-Piracy Hammer

The following release was emailed by Hachette Book Group to literary agents and other publishing industry professionals this afternoon. It is a followup to a tough-talking release issued less than a month ago. We reprint it in its entirety. For information about Attributor, click here.

Last month we contacted you, Hachette Book Group authors and their agents, regarding our position on online book piracy. We’re pleased to announce that HBG has engaged Attributor, a leading anti-piracy protection service, to monitor the web for unauthorized copies of our authors’ titles. Please see announcement below for more details. If you have any questions, please email us at piracy@hbgusa.com.

* * *

June 17, 2009 – Hachette Book Group has engaged Attributor, a leading anti-piracy protection service, to monitor the web for instances of unlawful use of its authors’ books and content.

The rapid growth in digital availability of books has resulted in a dramatic increase in pirated editions on file sharing websites that allow users to upload, share and download content of all kinds, free of charge. While some of the content appearing on these sites is lawful and user-created, an alarming number of unauthorized copies of copyrighted book titles are uploaded and shared for free.

Attributor’s web-crawling tool checks document hosting sites, linksites, and social media and social networking sites, quickly identifying unauthorized copies. Attributor’s monitoring service will enable Hachette Book Group to proactively find unlawful uses of content and have infringing material taken down when necessary.

“Attributor is an essential resource in achieving HBG’s commitment to combating online book piracy and protecting our authors’ work,” said David Young, Chairman and CEO of Hachette Book Group. “With our lawyers and legal assistants spending a significant amount of time checking sites for pirated content, it was clear that we needed to automate and augment our monitoring, while keeping our staff very involved in the process. This automation will dramatically increase our reach and effectiveness.”