HarperCollins now uses invisible watermarks to combat ebook piracy

Battling piracy has proven difficult, but that hasn't yet stopped companies from trying, and as such it isn't surprising that a couple publishers have turned to a new option in an effort to pinpoint where, exactly, ebook uploads are surfacing from. Using Digimarc technology, the publishers' ebooks will be tagged with an invisible — and traceable — watermark.

Both publisher HarperCollins and ebook distributor LibreDigital have decided to use Digimarc's new Guardian Watermarking for Publishing technology, which, says the company, provides a unique invisible watermark that can be traced if necessary.

The new anti-piracy technology works by adding the watermark to ebooks at the time of transaction; it is compatible with PDF, EPUB, MOBI, and other popular ebook formats. Says Digimarc, its technology is "extremely difficult" to remove, giving would-be pirates a big hurdle to jump over. The customers, obviously, won't be aware of the watermark's existence, and it is said to take only seconds to apply to a book.

To find these digitally-stamped ebooks, Digimarc constantly crawls the Web and flags pirated content, sending a notification to the publisher. Says the maker, the information sent to the publisher is a unique identifier and not personal information. HarperCollins US is using the tech on its global catalog.