A Rapidly Evolving Norm?

Textbook piracy takes toll in Mexico [pdf]

Unlike in Asia, where book piracy is a well-established industry, the practice is a recent phenomenon in Latin America. Even in a relatively well-off country such as Mexico, people read an average of just half a book a year.

The bulk of losses are in college textbooks, which can range in price from $10 to $200 — as much as many Mexicans make in a month. By far the biggest threat to publishers in the region is the unauthorized photocopying of college textbooks.

In Mexico, students photocopy an estimated 5 billion to 10 billion pages of copyrighted textbooks each year, often in copy shops located on university campuses, according to the US publishers’ association. The result is an estimated 50 million books that CeMPro estimates would otherwise have been sold, costing authors $48 million in lost royalties and publishers $550 million in lost sales. In comparison, Mendoza estimates that pirated textbooks cost authors $10 million in lost royalties and cut publishers’ sales by 10 percent.

However, she notes that few in Latin America view book piracy — and in particular the unauthorized photocopying of texts — as an offense worthy of legal action, not even the authors whose rights she is fighting to defend.