Patricia Judd said one of the funniest things that happens to her on an Asian piracy raid is when perpetrators, confronted in their copy shop or printing plant by authorities coming to seize evidence, resort to threats. "They say, 'If you don't leave, we're going to call the police.' And we explain to them very patiently: 'We are the police.' "
Confronting book pirates is a position Judd often finds herself in these days. Judd is the Association of American Publishers' piracy czar (official title: director, International Copyright Enforcement), a below-the-radar but important position that represents publishers' best effort to stop book piracy in Asia, where it is growing the fastest.
It's an odd role that means sitting in two distinctly different chairs: Judd lobbies for tougher piracy penalties in Washington, D.C., where she is part of the much broader effort that encompasses the music, film and video industries. But unlike many of her colleagues, she also oversees enforcement in Asia, traveling for several months of the year to investigate and coordinate with local authorities in countries from India to the Philippines.
It's a job, she told PW in a meeting earlier this summer, that is not always as glamorous as it sounds—even if friends in the lobbying community are often envious. "But you get to go on raids!" she recalls a K Street friend saying to her when she was describing how worn down she sometimes feels from the job.
Book piracy has grown more sophisticated as the effort to fight it has become more intense. Where, in the past, much of the activity took place in copy shops and other venues in the plain light of day, today, Judd said, much of Asian piracy has gone underground—quite literally, to cellar warehouses and an elusive network of lookouts, runners and printers, who are aware of the authorities and work to avoid them. And while many pirated books are misspelled and grainy editions that are the book industry's equivalent of seeing heads walk in front of the movie screen, increasingly, pirated books are professional jobs, difficult to distinguish from legitimate versions.
Asian book piracy is now estimated to cost publishers, conservatively, hundreds of millions of dollars per year, with countries like the Philippines ($45 million), China ($40 million), South Korea ($38 million) and India ($36 million) causing the biggest hits. Nor is piracy limited to Asia; Eastern Europe has become a hotbed of late, with the Ukraine racking up an estimated $44 million in the illegal book trade last year and Russia not very far behind.
Much of these losses remain concentrated in the education market, where purchases are mandatory and buyers are less likely to care about a book's quality. It is also in this sphere where campus copy shops can operate successfully and often openly, taking advantage of authorities' reluctance to conduct investigations near universities and places of higher learning.
The problem of these shops, Judd said, has become far more institutionalized than many realize. "These are commercial businesses that are providing this," she said. "It's not just an 18-year-old standing over a copy machine." The battle is not unlike the Copyright Clearance Center's suits against scattered copy shops in this country, although here the issue is simply coursepacks, and abroad it often involves entire textbooks.
For all the hurdles posed by a crafty entrepreneur with time and access to copying machines, a smaller but perhaps even faster-growing area, Judd said, is offset printing piracy. It's a problem not likely to go away as American publishers outsource more of their printing jobs overseas. For instance, India's rate of piracy, Judd said, has skyrocketed since more American houses started farming out printing to that country. And other areas, like trademark infringement, continue to nag. (The number of business books that blithely, and sometimes comically, invoke the Harvard name without permission is probably a lot more than the university itself could ever publish.)
While pirates in smaller countries can more easily avoid detection, it's the largest countries that can pose the biggest challenge. China is uniquely problematic because of the high threshold of monetary damages required in that country for prosecution—but also because the region's sheer size makes for a confusing jumble of outlets and jurisdictions. "In these vast markets, it's impossible to know what's legitimate and what's not," Judd said.
Judd admits that fighting book piracy in Asia is a little like fighting a rhino with a fly-swatter—in addition to the stealthiness of production, sales happen in the unlikeliest places, from tourist rest stops in rural Vietnam to Chinese department stores. As a result, she said, it's a battle that has to be fought beyond just the source of production. "We have to work to change the culture in a lot of these places," said Judd. "We have to ensure that people don't think it's really cool to have one of these editions." And, of course, to the envy of friends, conduct more raids.