Pirating ebooks is a breeze. Their file sizes are so small that it usually takes all of 60 seconds between a Google search and having the book on your Kindle. Now, publishers have hit upon a solution that they hope will trip up pirates: an invisible, traceable watermark on every ebook sold.

HarperColllins and ebook distributor LibreDigital, have signed up to use a new technology called Guardian Watermarking for Publishing from Digimarc, a new anti-piracy technology that embeds an invisible watermark into ebooks at the time of transaction. The service is cloud-based and offers an easy-to-integrate API for most ebook formats, including EPUB, PDF and MOBI. These watermarks allow publishers to track the source of the leak and take necessary steps to plug the hole.

According to CNN:

Digimarc's anti-piracy service then crawls the web 24x7 searching for watermarked content. When a watermark is detected, Digimarc provides the unique identifier to the publisher to match against its own transaction records. Digimarc Guardian Watermarks do not contain any personal or user information; the Digimarc Watermarks contain only anonymous digital IDs.

It's important to remember that this isn't something like DRM for ebooks. Indeed, the watermark itself is invisible to consumers. Instead it's a (rather sneaky) way track down who exactly pirated an ebook and then probably slap a lawsuit against them.


Digimark says that the watermarks are "extremely difficult" to remove. But, in our experience, that's exactly the kind of challenge pirates like. [CNN via SlashGear]