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How can libraries deal with privacy

Libraries offer more than knowledge to communities. Nevertheless, they are also at risk of piracy, in the online and offline space. While libraries lend e-books, print material and other content to members for a nominal charge and a limited amount of time, they usually pay a higher rate to publishers on each title.

To guarantee that lent material returns to the shelves, libraries function on a schedule that is inclusive of overdue fees. Nevertheless, piracy is posing a massive threat to the current existence of online and local libraries. Public libraries are dependent on government funding, while universities and colleges fund their own libraries. Of late, there has been a decline in member enrolment and borrowing rates as books being pirated are leading to a negative impact on funding.

According to a survey of book-buying behaviour by the American Booksellers Association, more than half of e-book readers have downloaded at least one pirated book in the past one year. This practice not only undermines library borrowing but also violates the copyrights of others and publishers on their original materials.

Since a number of libraries offer to borrow in the digital world, they are in direct competition with online platforms that provide illegal free e-book downloads. These platforms do not have membership agreements or due dates. There is a traditional timeframe of a couple of weeks on borrowing schedules offered by most online libraries. However, it is seen that by the due date, these books merely disappear from the digital library of a reader. As an increasing number of consumers are opting for pirated e-books on illegal platforms, they are obtaining e-books, audiobooks and copyrighted material for free, while retaining them permanently, thus underutilising library services. Simultaneously, as more and more readers are turning to digital media consumption, libraries are struggling to stay relevant in current times.

Now, authors and publishers can take steps to safeguard their books from being pirated before they end up on illegal platforms.

Industry standard DRM encryption

Using secure technology, industry standard DRM encryption can inhibit e-books from being duplicated and used illegally. Considered as one of the most rigorous measures against e-book piracy, industry standard DRM encryption is a security measure that is adopting better methods with newer rapidly changing technology.

Before their books can arrive at a library, authors or publishers must consider deploying encryption so that only buyers can read them.  Then DRM controls to impose what features are made available. For instance, a reader who has purchased an encrypted book may not be able to copy or print an encrypted e-book. Encryption and licensing controls also decrees the devices and applications for readers to read on.

If e-books and audiobooks arrive without encryption, libraries use blanket security measures across content types, that may or may not address the piracy issue. On the other hand, depending on the author or publisher’s preferences, encryption is applied. Some popular titles could arrive at a library with active encryption measures. However, it must be noted that pre-existing encryption protection could limit the library’s options in lending and device compatibility.

Social DRM or watermarking

Watermarking can be an ideal content protection tool as it deters readers from sharing content through its display of copyright information and penalties. By using the reader’s credentials as a marker, watermarking can be a useful deterrent to online piracy.

By placing a visible watermark on the pages of an e-book, authors and publishers use DRM to attribute any pirated copies to the original purchaser. Recent forms of digital watermarking are allowing publishers to scan for pirated e-books in circulation, as these watermarks are invisible. Similarly, PDF files, audiobooks and other online content can also employ invisible digital watermarking to protect their material. When an individual illegally copies a resource with an invisible digital watermark, it allows authors or publishers to trace the user and take legal action.

The importance of DRM for libraries

As intermediaries between authors and publishers, and their readers, libraries hold a unique place. Due to this place, libraries offer freely accessible content to readers, but at the same time must satisfy the rules of publishing. In this regard, libraries have additional matters to attend to such as privacy of their readers, providing accessibilities to readers with disabilities and employing DRM restrictions. Although it can be difficult to make electronic media readily accessible and protected from piracy, DRM solutions can resolve both these quandaries.

Since libraries are dependent on their readers to keep them running and functioning, if readers are acquiring books illegally, it could mean fewer library visitors. A reader who can easily download, duplicate and share content on the Internet will probably not visit a library to obtain the same book.

In this regard, DRM ensures that library resources are protected while helping to create a demand for books that are not otherwise found free online. By implementing DRM, libraries can encourage the demand of supplying books that are not available online and continue to see footfall from readers who cannot access pirated e-books.

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