The Dutch eBook scene has grown up in the past few years and many companies have embraced the digital watermark. 62% of all digital publishers who produce digital books use this technology, while 24% use conventional DRM. Customers rights are coming under fire with a new agreement reached with anti-piracy group BREIN.
The agreement signed last week will affect any publisher that uses the eBoekhuis platform to use their digital watermark technology. Publishers will then share previously-private customer data directly with copyright holders and anti-piracy group BREIN. This means that should digital books turn up on Torrent networks, with a minimum of fuss, BREIN will be able to match the embedded watermarks with the customer who bought them.
In a blog entry, Kurt Roeckx, who runs the Dutch speaking e-book store E-webshops, shares his doubt about the legality of working hand in hand with the anti-piracy group. “We got a new contract that states that we must directly give information about the buyer if some anti-piracy agency (BREIN) finds an e-book file online. We must keep the information about the buyer for minimum of 2 years and maximum of 5 years. And if we don’t sign the contract we won’t be allowed to sell e-books with watermark anymore. So this means that they want to bypass the normal judicial system, and probably contact those buyers they accuse of piracy directly. I questioned that this was legal. They say that it is legal according to the Dutch privacy law, but I have a hard time interpreting any of the options in article 8 as that we can give that information without the explicit consent of the person.”
This will be the first time that a formal agreement between a technology company, publishers and an anti-piracy agency has been formed. In the past, watermarked eBooks have leaked online, but rarely is anything done about it. Also, customers are now reselling their watermarked books to secondary parties, which violates the terms and conditions. Publishers have their work cut out for themselves to keep this quiet and to make existing customers agree to their updated terms and conditions. After all, who really reads the small print these days.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.