Copyright & ebook protection

Ebook Copyright: Copyright Protect E-books or Digital Books

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Why Copyright fails to protect ebooks from piracy

While copyright law exists to protect intellectual property, it can be difficult and expensive to enforce.  This is especially true when selling ebooks online.  While the DMCA is designed to give copyright holders the ability to protect themselves from the unlawful distribution and reproduction of their creative works online, in reality it fails to prevent copyright infringement – see DMCA Protection.

The solution therefore is to copy protect ebooks with ebook DRM software so that you can prevent infringement from occurring to begin with.  Good ebook protection should allow you to publish protected e-books on the internet while ensuring your copyright is protected at all times – stopping unauthorized distribution and sharing and controlling use (printing, expiry, etc.).  This prevents you from having to resort to timely and expensive legal measures to enforce copyrights.

  How widespread is ebook copyright infringement?

The copyright infringement of ebooks doesn’t get much attention when compared to movies, TV shows, and video games.  As a result, many assume that it is is not widespread or does not have a major impact on publisher and author revenue. This couldn’t be less true:

  • Though there aren’t many studies from the US, in the UK, the percentage of people who pirate ebooks is on par with film and higher than TV and video games.  Statistics from the EU list publications as the second highest pirated content type, accounting for 28% of copyright infringement.
  • Publishing copyright infringement is growing rapidly – with an increase of 58.5% between 2021 and 2022 according to MUSO.
  • Nielsen estimates that ebook copyright infringement takes away around 33% of the US ebook market and costs it $315 million.

Research suggests that, unlike movie pirates, the average ebook copyright infringer is aged 30-44 and in higher socio-economic brackets, so there is much to gain from effective ebook protection.

  Copy protecting ebooks

  How to copyright an ebook / copyright protect ebooks

When you create a book or e-book it is automatically your copyright.  As the copyright owner, you can also register your literary work at a copyright office to make it public record.  The real issue however is enforcing copyright if someone infringes it since international laws can be ineffective and/or costly and hard work to enforce.  This is true even if it is protected by the DMCA.

If you want to copyright an ebook effectively (whether a short article or an 800-page novel), you need to use technical measures such as ebook DRM or ebook copy protection.  While the law is of little help, you can enforce ebook copyright yourself through software controls that limit or prevent unauthorized distribution and use.

  Mainstream Digital Rights Management solutions for e-books

The most commonly used ebook DRM solutions are the ones provided by ebook storefronts such as Amazon, Kobo, Google, or Nook.

However, these solutions make no serious attempt to prevent book piracy.  Amazon, Kobo, etc. are seemingly more concerned about preventing paying users from reading their ebooks on competing devices.  Our post on ebook piracy demonstrates just how easy the DRM restrictions are to remove.

It is also cheaper when producing  self-published ebooks to sell them from your own website as many providers lock you in to their own marketing platforms.  A good example of this is Amazon Kindle DRM where ebook publishers have been removed from the Amazon marketplace due to piracy of their e-books despite being protected with Amazon’s DRM.

If you want to stop ebook copyright infringement, you need to look outside of the mainstream e-book DRM providers.

   Online browser viewers and flipbooks

Browser-based viewers and flipbooks are another common alternative, particularly for ebooks with multimedia content.  They use JavaScript controls for piracy preventing, disabling download, print, copy, and share buttons based on the publisher’s preference.

These solutions are convenient for distribution, but the advertised security measures don’t hold up under scrutiny.  As covered in more detail in how to make a PDF flip book, its easy for users to re-enable functionality by editing webpage code. 

This is true for any solution that enables users to view ebooks in the browser
.  Pirates can quite easily get unprotected copies of your ebook and share it.

  How to copyright protect a PDF ebook with Locklizard

In Safeguard Secure PDF Writer, choose your protection options:

  1. Right-click on the PDF ebook and press “Make Secure PDF”
  2. Stop printing, allow printing, or limit the number of prints.
  3. Stop screen grabbing (even from remote connections).
  4. Enable expiry.  Automatically expire books on a specific date, after a number of views, after a number of prints, or after a number of days from opening.
  5. Add dynamic watermarks to viewed and or printed pages.  Dynamic variables replace actual user and system data when the book is viewed/printed so you only have to protect the e-book once for all users.
  6. Lock use to country and IP locations
Safeguard’s default ebook copy protection
  • Stops users editing, copying and pasting content.
  • Locks ebooks to specific devices so they cannot be shared with others.
  • There are no passwords for users to enter, manage, or remove.
  • Revoke access to e-books at any time regardless of where they reside.

  What is ebook copyright & is it different from book copyright?

As copyright law currently stands, there is precisely no difference between a written work that is on paper (i.e. a printed or physical book), and one that is in what’s called a ‘dematerialized form’ or, in other words, an ebook.  Just like normal book copyright, ebook copyright grants you the exclusive rights to copy, distribute, adapt, and display a work.

But are laws designed for a world with physical limitations enough to protect your work in a digital space?

First off, we should mention that we are convinced by the arguments that won the day when today’s copyright laws were enacted through the Berne Convention.  The included provisions are there to effectively prevent any organization from controlling access to information. In particular, to facilitate analysis of published works, the ability to quote extracts for the purpose of critique was included.

Copyright law includes a number of requirements, such as fair use, that allow the extraction of, by general consent, 5% of the material.  In an age where the only way to extract material was to sit down and write it out longhand, it did not matter that the law allowed you to copy parts of a work.  However, with a computer, it requires little, if any effort, to get 20 people to copy 5% of a work, perfectly legally, and suddenly the whole can be trivially reproduced all over the internet.

This is just one example of the flaws with the copyright concept in current law.  It is based on what is now an anachronism, an outdated approach that fails to respond to the realities of the digital age.  Much of copyright law still comes from an age where it was difficult and slow to make a copy of something, and difficult and slow to publish.

With copying and publishing now entirely trivial activities, there is little, if any, protection available for ebook copyright.

  Are official copyright notices in ebooks important?

Adding an official copyright notice to your ebook is advised because it clarifies who the copyright holder is and your expectations.  While it won’t stop users from pirating, there are other benefits:

  1. It makes it easier to prove that pirates knew they were breaching copyright law.
  2. It’s a place for users to quickly check the publisher, year of publication, etc.
  3. You can include your website information, which may encourage pirates to buy legitimate copies of your other books.

There is ultimately nothing to lose by including a disclaimer, and even if it will only put a tiny minority off of pirating, that’s better than nothing.

  Why copyright law is not enough to protect ebooks

Copyright law is extremely difficult to enforce.  Though you can send a DMCA notice (or equivalent), there is little to stop somebody from ignoring your copyright infringement notice.  The only option from there is expensive and time-consuming legal action that can yield mixed results, particularly when it comes to enforcement in countries where copyright law differs.

Though many ISPs do provide a facility to ‘takedown’ infringing materials, you have to approach them one at a time, justify the rationale for your right to own the work, and potentially give undertakings in the event of a dispute.

How to avoid copyright infringement

Preventing copying in the first place via the use of Digital Rights Management is far easier than trying to enforce ebook copyright after your intellectual property has been illegally replicated and distributed.  As they say, prevention is better than cure.  Ultimately it is not a good idea to wait for the law to catch up with custom and practices, especially if it is only a limited deterrent and cannot be easily enforced.

   Download Ebook Copyright Protection software

Copy protect PDF ebooks with Locklizard ebook DRM security

Download ebook DRM software to copyright protect ebooks.  Locklizard ebook DRM software enables you to easily copyright ebooks and does not rely on passwords for security.

Safeguard PDF Security provides ebook protection for documents published in PDF format.  Using US Government strength encryption (AES) and DRM (Digital Rigths Management) controls to prevent unauthorized use and misuse of your e-books, you can control who can view your ebooks, what they can do with them (copy, print, etc.) and when they can no longer be viewed (expire).  Instantly revoke access and allow offline viewing.

See our customer testimonials or read our case studies to see why thousands of organizations use Locklizard PDF security to securely sell and copyright protect PDF ebooks.


Do I need an ebook copyright page for my ebook?

You are not legally required to add a copyright page to your ebook, but it is a good idea.  A copyright page:

  • Declares your ownership, making it harder for users to claim that they believed it was in the public domain
  • Provides a way for those who want to license your work to find and contact you
  • Clearly states your rights and expectations
  • Allows you to add disclaimers that can absolve you of legal liability for parts of your book

While you do not need a copyright page in a book to legally enforce your copyright, it will make it far easier.  Many stores will not even publish your book unless you have a copyright page.

What is a standard copyright page for an ebook?

Your ebook copyright page that contains your copyright notice does not need to be anything fancy.  You do not need an ISBN for your ebook and simply need to state:

“© Your Name, year of publication

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or modified in any form, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For more information, contact the copyright owner at email address (”

Do I need to add a copyright symbol to my ebook?

Using the copyright symbol does not affect level of protection you receive in the United States and most other countries.  However, if you do decide to add a copyright page, using ©, (c), copyright, or copr. will ensure that there is no confusion.

Should I copyright my ebook before sending it to an editor or before publishing?

You don’t really have a choice.  In most countries, your original creative works automatically gain copyright the moment you create them.  What you may really mean is whether you should register your ebook copyright at a copyright office.  It is not strictly necessary to do so, but it will make the legal process far easier should you choose to go down that route.

For the best ebook copyright protection, however, we recommend protection with effective ebook DRM software before distribution since the DMCA or Digital Millennium Copyright Act has many failings.

How do I copyright register an ebook?

The exact process to register copyright differs from country to country.  In the vast majority of countries, you can register your copyright online by paying a fee (in the US, $35) and providing evidence that you are the creator of the work.

Are ebooks automatically copyrighted?

Original creative works receive copyright automatically from the moment you create them.  The Copyright Act (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988) gives the author or creator the exclusive right to copy, adapt, communicate, lend or sell copies of the work, although this right can be sold or transferred.

This affords you the exclusive right to copy, distribute, display, and adapt a work.  However, ebook copyright registration may make legal action against infringers easier.

How long does it take to copyright a book?

Books are copyrighted instantly and automatically at the point of creation, but registering that copyright takes time.  At the time of writing, in the US, the copyright registration process takes an average of 2.1 months.  You can check the latest processing times on the US copyright office site.

Do I need to worry about copyright if I’m self-publishing?

It is a common misconception that authors who are self-publishing or indie do not need to worry about ebook copyright.  The truth is that it only takes less than a minute and a few clicks for somebody to upload your ebook, manuscripts and other digital content to a piracy site.  This is true even if you use Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) with DRM protection.  As the bar is so low, there is no reason to think that your book will not be a target just because you don’t have a mass readership.  This is why it is so important that you choose a DRM solution that actually works.

Is ebook copyright and ebook copy protection the same thing?

No – though they are often used interchangeably, ebook copyright refers to the legal right to distribution and adaptation.  Copy protection references to the steps taken to prevent that right from being infringed.

Can you copyright an ebook under a pen name?

Yes.  In most countries, you do not need to give the copyright office your real name to complete registration.  Though you will have to provide an address, this can be circumvented via the use of a PO box.

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