Time is right for publishers to tackle digital piracy

The PPA’s rallying cry for the UK consumer magazine industry to band together to tackle digital piracy at its annual conference this week should be welcomed by publishers and brands concerned about digital copyright infringement.

Seb Joseph

There are many, many debates about the direction of the UK publishing industry. What no one is disputing is that the publishing model is rapidly changing. As publishers and advertisers look to keep up with the latest digital advancements there are growing concerns that digital piracy, long confined to music and movies, is spreading to tablet editions.

Every time a digital edition of a magazine is purchased legally, there are a further 44 copies downloaded illegally on average, according the PPA.

It’s a worrying amount and considering how competitive the tablet market is becoming combined with the looming launch of Google’s Newsstand for Android users, this could have damaging ramifications for the consumer magazine industry if no one puts a lid on it now.

The PPA has launched an anti-piracy portal to tackle the problem. It’s essentially a hub where the body’s members can nominate titles to be tracked online and issue takedown notices to websites hosting illegal content. The project, which launches next week (14 May), is set to run for six months and is based on the Publishers Association’s Copyright Infringement Portal.

It is part of several initiatives the PPA is planning to address the growing problem and comes at a time when publishers have been reluctant to discuss the subject in public for fear of encouraging more illegal downloads.

Content revenues as a percentage of digital revenues is set to rise from 24% to 28% over the next two years, according to a report by commissioned by the PPA.

For publishers looking to shift away from an ad funded model to one where content is more important, the hub is an important step to making their brands more attractive to advertisers.

It won’t be a silver bullet to solving piracy. Rather, magazine publishers should use the scheme to talk about more robust long-term solutions. The music industry reacted slow to piracy and has resorted to promoting live gigs, tours and sponsorship deals to boost revenues, while Hollywood film studios have taken to launching films (pointlessly) in 3D to drive ticket sales revenues.

Additionally, book publishers have taken to launching digital rights management-free e-books. DRM is the system publishers currently use to protect their digital products from piracy. It limits the sharing of titles between digital devices.

The PPA’s call should push publishers to think about new strategies to tackle piracy. “Content is King” was the mantra repeated throughout this year’s conference and with the open source culture on the internet blending into how consumers consume mobile media, the idea of artistic ownership, is fast going away.

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