Fighting online piracy with outside-the-box thinking

The download options emerge just as the keywords are being typed. A single mouse click and…voila. Uploaded to cloud drives of PSE students nation-wide, the entirety of the world’s academic discourse: textbooks, case studies, novels, and poetry, all for free via pirate websites. Free and decidedly illegal, slicing into Publishing House revenues and undermining the life’s work of Professors and other content producers.

The majority of PSE students have grown up with illegal downloading, where the financial value of intellectual property and digital entertainment has been seriously eroded by consumers (look no further than the recording industry). It’s so easy to do and the urge to save a buck or two is powerful. Especially when a Canadian PSE student spends on average between $500 and $1,000 per semester on textbooks and case studies. That’s a lot for a student loan to swallow.

But this doesn’t mean the fight against piracy is a losing battle. It means there’s never been a better time for Publishing Houses to reimagine the ways to add intriguing technological features to their products and to make purchasing seamless and hassle free.

Adding Value the Revolutionary Way

Twenty years since the birth of Napster, industries and law-makers who deal in intellectual property are still learning how to navigate the illegal digital and file sharing marketplace.

However, a few things are certain: illegally downloading textbooks amounts to copyright infringement under the Canadian Copyright Act and though there are no records of a Canadian Publishing House pressing charges against a PSE student, they are within their rights to do so. As well, a person can be sued for selling illegal photocopies or PDFs of textbooks. A U.S. study found that six years ago, 34% of PSE students accessed textbooks from illegal websites, a number that is sure to have risen.

Nevertheless, some experts believe that this is a Golden Age for consumers who seek new learning experiences and for producers who are looking at exciting ways to modernize their content, which means opportunities abound for Publishing Houses.

"The question," says Matt Quin, Director, Ivey Publishing in London, Ontario, “is how to add value and interest to the content experience, so that our customers appreciate the services and the product?”

At Ivey Publishing, Quin and his team are revolutionizing the way they do business in order to meet the changing demands of their modern customer. They are currently testing the effectiveness of audio case studies and multi-platform enhanced digital cases with video, audio and graphics. As well, they are delivering added incentives to their products, such as free teaching guides for their professors, personalized study advice for students, and working directly with authors to deliver their content in new and imaginative ways.

Almost any idea is on the table.

As well, says Quin, Ivey Publishing "works relentlessly" to make access to their products simple, easy and hassle-free. “We focus on what we can do on our end to reduce the pain points at purchase,” says Quin. “We work tirelessly to remove the barriers that might impede access to our products.”

Quin says his team looks and learns from successful online companies such as Amazon, Spotify and Netflix and how their customers interface with the ordering process. At the end of the day, customers keep coming back to these companies because ordering is simple and the customer service continues long after the product has been purchased with follow up emails and opportunities to review the items and services, says Quin.

Like Quin, piracy expert Dr. JP Vergne has seen a shift in the ways Publishing Houses are promoting customer service and the products they deliver in an attempt to fight piracy. "Publishing companies are changing delivery methods," says Dr. Vergne. “They must. It’s a revolution, for sure. Some of the pirate websites actually deliver a better customer experience than the legitimate ones, content is easier to find, the interface much more user-friendly. Ease of access is the key to ensuring consumers continue to pay for and value content”, says Dr. Vergne.

The Good Fight

Quin and his colleagues in the publishing industry world-wide – including competitor, Harvard Publishing – are working together to fight online piracy.

"We have team members here at Ivey Publishing who search for illegal sites and if we find our content there, we send notice to the site to take it down," explains Quin. “We also contact other publishing houses if we see their content. It’s a bit of a team effort across the industry. At the end of the day, it’s about respect for the author and their ideas.”

For many Professors, says Quin, a textbook or case study is the result of years of toil, research and writing. Knowledge and content is valuable and Quin believes that if it is delivered in a caring, efficient and modern way with added features, customers will keep making ethical purchasing decisions.


To learn more about innovative approaches to combat piracy and improve your customer experience, get in touch with Matt Quin at Ivey Publishing.

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