How to Profit From Idea Thieves

A common concern among would-be information marketers is illegal copying. Because their products are downloadable and easy for their customers to share, many think that will be the downfall of their business.

The reality is, only a tiny and insignificant fraction of your customers will even attempt to rip you off by copying and distributing your info products without paying for the right to do so. The incidence of this type of fraud is so rare that you can just shrug it off as a small cost of doing business.

However, there are steps you can take to reduce the pirating of your content to near-zero – and even make money from the few copies that do get pirated.

Let me explain…

There are all kinds of high-tech systems and devices for foiling would-be bootleggers of content – from music and movies to software and information products. But, eventually, all of them are defeated by hackers.

A better way to prevent your customers from illegally copying your e-books, audio CDs, and DVDs is to ask yourself what motivates them to steal your content in the first place.

Answer: Aside from the Internet making it easy to duplicate and distribute digital content, the main reason a customer will illegally copy an information product they have bought has to do with its price and value.

By that, I mean that customers are less motivated to pirate content that is (a) reasonably priced and (b) gives a fair value for its cost.

For instance, if your 50-page e-book on starting a small business is only $29, your customers – if they like it – will simply recommend it to their friends. “You should buy it here,” they’ll say, pointing others to your website.

However, had you priced the same e-book at $299, your customers might feel that it was too expensive. So after they print out your e-book for themselves, they’ll pass on the PDF to a few friends – illegally, of course.

Even when the price is high, you can still reduce illegal copying by providing great value for the money.

Say that 50-page e-book contains dozens of forms needed to start a business… forms a lawyer might charge thousands of dollars to create or review. In that case, $299 would be a reasonable price to pay. The customer would feel he is getting a fair value, and, therefore, would not want to rip you off.

On the other hand, if your 50-page e-book is nothing but general advice about small businesses, $299 would be excessive. In this instance, the customer might think you are ripping him off. And he might choose to get back at you by freely – and, yes, illegally – sharing the e-book with many other people.

So, really, the best way to prevent customers from illegally copying and sharing your content is to create information products that are reasonably priced – and give the buyer more than his money’s worth.

To further discourage bootleggers, my e-books now carry this warning on the title page:


This is NOT a free e-book!

Purchase of this e-book entitles the buyer to keep one copy on his or her computer and to print out one copy only.

Printing out more than one copy – or distributing it electronically – is prohibited by international and U.S.A. copyright laws and treaties, and would subject the purchaser to penalties of up to $100,000 PER COPY distributed.


Don’t be too much of a hard case enforcing this policy. If a customer calls and wants to print an extra copy for his business partner, brother, or friend, let him.

The main reason to put the warning on the e-book is not to frustrate the buyer who wants to print out a few extra copies. I say let him. The warning is designed to discourage unscrupulous online operators from taking your e-book and selling it – or giving it away – to their own customers.

An even better idea is to make sure you profit from your information products, even if pirated copies do make the rounds.

How do you do this?

In every one of your information products, include plenty of links to the micro-sites for your other products. That way, the more your e-book is passed around, the more clicks you can expect to get on those links – and the more additional sales you can expect to make.

One more idea…

My colleague FG puts a boxed notice in his e-books. It says that the reader can go to a special URL and claim a valuable FREE bonus gift. The catch: He has to be a registered owner of the e-book to do it.

FG says that people are so intrigued by the free bonus that those who already have a pirated copy of his e-book will go online and buy it – just to qualify for the free bonus.

[Ed. Note: Copywriting master and experienced info-marketer Bob Bly is coming out of his self-imposed retirement from public speaking to appear at ETR’s 2008 Info-Marketing Bootcamp. He – along with 11 other business-building and marketing experts – will reveal a proven technique that can help you make at least $100,000 in 2009.

For expert insights into the world of direct marketing, be sure to sign up for Bob’s free monthly newsletter, The Direct Response Letter. Do so today and get over $100 in free bonuses.]

Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.