Pottermore eBooks Already Showing up on Torrents

Forty-two hours. That’s how long it took for the first pirated copies of the official Pottermore Harry Potter ebooks to show up on a pirate site.

A reader tipped me to the story this afternoon. One not terribly intelligent pirate uploaded a complete set of the Pottermore ebooks, in Epub, last night. I looked them over, and they are clearly not one of the earlier sets of  pirated ebooks.

Now, I’m not being rude in calling the pirate stupid; he didn’t put all that much effort into anonymizing the Epubs before he pirated them.  All he did was remove the warning statement from the copyright page. He didn’t do anything to remove the digital watermarks I reported on yesterday. I found the serial numbers in the title elements of the images, right where Booxtream put them.

And BTW, now that I have a second copy of HP1, I can see that the files inside that Epub have different file names than in the Epub I bought. This tells me that the file names might be another watermark added by Booxtream. Good. That means that the DRM embedded in the Epub is more subtle than I thought.

Frankly, I’m surprised this took this long. I recall that the later additions to the Harry Potter series were pirated within a day of hitting the bookstore shelves. In fact, I believe it was HP7 that was pirated before the print edition officially shipped.

I’m also surprised that someone would pirate these ebooks at all, given the widely known DRM buried inside. I mean, there already were pirated copies of these ebooks available, if you know where to look. Posting a new set doesn’t make much sense, given the risks involved.

If anything, this act of piracy tells me that I don’t understand pirates as well as I thought I did. The risk is too high and the need too low, and yet someone still pirated these ebooks. If anyone happens to think that increasing the penalty for piracy is going to have an effect, think again. This pirate is almost certain to get caught and yet he did it anyway.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. meth29 March, 2012

    42 hours to reach an outlet that is semi-accessible to the masses. I believe mobilism had it posted the books earlier (around 9am est), but the post was removed.

    Personally, I’m more interested on seeing how Pottermore will react to this incident, as opposed to the leaking of fully nulled books.

  2. Paul Durrant29 March, 2012

    While I don’t want to see the originator of the pirate files prosecuted or fined, I think a public name and shame might be in order.

    Now there’s a worthy hacker challenge: decode the social DRM in the torrented files, and use it to trace the originator.

    But I suspect it’s impossible without info from Pottermore. If I was doing a social DRM system like that, I’d use an ID pointing to my customer database, rather than any data from the customer’s actual details.

    1. fjtorres29 March, 2012

      At a minimum.
      A good approach would be to seed the file with a variety of strings each of which can be fed to an algorithm that will generate a unique transaction id. And each customer will have multiple transaction ids listed in ther Potermore account. That way even comparing multiple files from the same user account will generate no common strings since the strings will be transaction specific rather than user specific.

  3. burger flipper29 March, 2012

    I assume the Adobe and Kindle DRMed version don’t have the watermark. Those are the ones I would have thought would show up.

    1. fjtorres29 March, 2012

      Nope. It has been reported that the Kindle versions are also watermarked.
      Apparently, the way it works it that Pottermore generates a user-specific, watermarked file that it *then* ships to Amazon, which converts it to Kindle format on the fly, and stores it in the user’s cloud account. From there Amazon dishes out encrypted files keyed to the user’s specific devices and apps. If the user removes the Kindle DRM, the result is a watermarked mobi file.
      Pretty elegant, actually.

      1. burger flipper29 March, 2012

        That would likely explain this pirate’s goof. I suspect he made the same assumption I did and got his copies from Overdrive.

        1. meth29 March, 2012

          The Potter books didn’t become available on Overdrive until 12pm EST today.

  4. Eerste Harry Potter-ebooks met watermerk duiken op bij torrentsite | | Ereader NLEreader NL29 March, 2012

    […] The Digital Reader heeft de uploader wel geprobeerd om het watermerk uit de ebookbestanden te verwijderen, maar is hij […]

  5. Mike Cane30 March, 2012

    Ah, some wayward child begging for karma points. I never even bothered to look. That child won’t go anywhere in The Scene. #FAIL

  6. htem31 March, 2012

    What if the pirate use stolen CC?

  7. […] senza DRM (in realtà si tratta di un watermark, decisamente meno invasivo). In meno di 48 ore gli eBook sono comparsi sulle principali piattaforme di file sharing.Questo non ha preoccupato la Rowling […]

  8. Sheogorath29 July, 2012

    FYI, Booxtream isn’t DRM because it’s digital watermarking, which doesn’t restrict the files it’s put in. Get an education, Google supplies one for free legally.

    1. Nate Hoffelder29 July, 2012

      I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. You’re confusing encryption, which is one type of DRM, with the general concept:

  9. […] lançamento oficial e a primeira cópia em um site pirata pronta para download, passaram-se meras 48 horas. A boa notícia é que este primeiro exemplar pirateado trazia para quem soubesse ler a marca do […]

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