Digital watermarking is HarperCollins’ new weapon against ebook piracy

digimarc harper collins ebooks piracy protection kobo aura ereader press image
When you think about online piracy, ebooks probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, just like music, movies, and other digital files, ebooks are often stolen and shared without the publisher or author’s permission. Digimarc is one of many companies that seek to prevent uncontrolled copying and sharing. Now, the company has paired up with HarperCollins to protect ebooks from pirates during distribution to retailers.

Digimarc’s anti-piracy offering will embed “unique, imperceptible and traceable digital watermarks” into many ebooks. That way, ebook distributors and publishers will be able to track where the path of its ebooks online and pinpoint which partners are responsible for leakage and unauthorized distribution. HarperCollins Publishers and LibreDigital, a company that’s in charge of distribution for ebook retailers, will now use Digimarc’s Guardian Watermarking on every ebook in the HarperCollins U.S. catalog.

Related: It’s safer to pirate ebooks than to own them

Digimarc system is cloud-based and comes with API support for the most popular ebook formats, including EPub, PDF, and MOBI. The watermarks are then embedded throughout the ebook, making it difficult for pirates to remove completely and easy for the publisher or retailer to track. Chris Shepard, the Director of Product Management at Digimarc Guardian, told Digital Trends that its system doesn’t use any personally identifiable information to find the source of the leakage, but rather the identifier relates to the transaction, so that the publisher can check records and find the source.

Chantal Restivo-Alessi, the Chief Digital Officer at HarperCollins Publishers, told us that it will use Digimarc’s solution to track potential leakage points in its supply chain during high-profile ebook launches, so as to prevent any leaks prior to the ebook’s release. In essence, Digimarc’s technology should help HarperCollins protect high-profile ebooks like the Harry Potter series, for example, from being leaked before the targeted release date. HarperCollins will then be able to tell specific retailers to heighten their security and thereby prevent any negligence on that front.


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