Smashwords Details Scribd’s New Anti-Piracy Efforts

Scirbd scribd-logo-blk_100x28has been working long and hard to overcome their infamous reputation as a haven for ebook pirates. They’ve developed an automated filter system called BookID, and last night Smashwords detailed how BookID works for indie authors.

In a nutshell, here’s how it works:  BookID automatically scans all Smashwords-delivered books, and analyzes the text for semantic data such as word count, letter frequency, phrases, and other elements. BookID then creates a digital fingerprint of the authorized Smashwords book, and uses this fingerprint to automatically detect and remove unauthorized versions.  It proactively removes all files at Scribd that match the same fingerprint, and also uses this fingerprint to proactively block the upload of future unauthorized versions.

According to Smashwords, Scribd recently rolled out a major update to BookID. The service has removed nearly 48,000 copies of ebooks by Smashwords authors since Scribd first added Smashwords titles to its ebook subscription service last year. Around 14,000 different titles were uploaded to Scribd, some of them by multiple users.

While that sounds like good work in preventing piracy, it’s not clear just how many of those copies were actually pirated copies. There have been numerous reports that Scribd has taken down public domain works and works uploaded by their creators.

But on the plus side, there is at least one report that Scribd is also prompt in correcting the false positives, which is more than you can say for the similar ContentID system at Youtube. There’s something to be said for staying small and niche.

More information on BookID, including details on how non-Smashwords authors can submit their titles to the system, can be found on the Scribd website.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor 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. Valentine12 May, 2014

    Good for them.
    We can laugh at their efforts to fight piracy now, but with computers things will just keep improving on their side of the fight and eventually, they’ll pretty much wipe out piracy.
    Still, while they might succeed, they’ll still need to make people buy their content, which I think should be their main focus, not users who might not be paying customers either way.

  2. Felipe Adan Lerma12 May, 2014

    The Smashwords article referenced at the top of the article is developing an interesting comment thread.

    The article also mentions there’s some “news’ tomorrow. Hope it’s something to do with sales and views figures from Scribd, that would be great to see.

  3. Bruce Lidl13 May, 2014

    @Valentine, I understand your desire for better piracy prevention technology, but I would not be so optimistic. No tech-based piracy prevention scheme has ever truly worked in the long-run (depending on what it’s intended to do, or course), and preventing wide-scale unauthorized distribution has failed consistently, in every medium.

    And the structural trends that underlay piracy, fast internet speeds and increasing storage and compression capabilities suggest that piracy options will likely only increase in the future. As Cory Doctorow has said many times, it’s never going to be harder to copy and share, it is only going to get easier. Solutions based on innovative business models and user incentives will have a much better chance at reducing piracy than anything specifically technology-based.

  4. - The Digital Reader14 October, 2014

    […] the publishing industry. They have a history of hosting pirated ebooks, and even though Scribd has taken steps to limit the piracy this is a problem which I don’t see going away any time soon – not without shutting […]

  5. […] and Amazon, for example, have automated scanners which check for pirated, public domain, and other types of content. Youtube has the […]


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