Torrent Freak picked up a news story out of the Netherlands yesterday, only I don’t understand why this qualifies as news:
A new digital distribution agreement for eBook platforms will formalize a system for identifying customers whose purchases later appear on the Internet. The deal will see eBook sellers watermark digital downloads and log them against specific customer accounts. That data will be kept for a minimum of two years just in case books appear on file-sharing sites. If they do, vendors will hand over customer details to rightsholders and anti-piracy outfit BREIN.
The agreement will see vendors connected to the eBoekhuis platform share previously-private customer data directly with copyright holders and anti-piracy group BREIN. This means that should digital books turn up on BitTorrent networks or Usenet for example, with a minimum of fuss BREIN will be able to match the embedded watermarks with the customer who bought them.
The reason I am confused here is that I don’t see what is “new” about this news story. I thought this was happening all along.
The whole point about digital watermarks was that these bits of unique data would be added to content before it is downloaded by a customer. Each digital watermark is coded for a particular customer so if a file shows up on a pirate website the digital watermark could pin down who originally bought the file so they can be sued/prosecuted.
Digital watermarks have been used in ebooks in the Netherlands since mid-2011, so I had assumed that someone was tracking whether the watermarked content showed up on pirate websites and then pursued the pirates.
If you don’t follow through on that last step then the whole process was a waste of money. And who better to pursue pirates than an anti-piracy group?
I’ll admit that I don’t have any respect for BREIN, a Hollywood-funded organization which has been caught committing piracy. But they are still a semi-legitimate anti-piracy outfit so it would make sense for them to pursue ebook pirates.
That said, I do have one concern. I wonder whether this agreement violates European privacy laws, but I don’t know enough about the relevant laws so I am unable to comment.
Does anyone know if the privacy laws will be an issue here?
image by US Govt