Piracy in Italy: Study Shows Book Industry Losing €705 Million Annually

In News by Porter Anderson

Book piracy is costing the Italian book market more than a quarter of its overall value, according to a study commissioned by the AIE.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: Ja’ Crispy

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Cipolletta: ‘Stimulating Public Awareness Is Fundamental’
As the plans and programming for Frankfurter Buchmesse‘s (October 16 to 20) Guest of Honor Italy are being prepared, the chance to include book piracy as an internationally persistent challenge may well be worth organizers’ consideration.

When the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE) commissioned the market research firm Ipsos to study piracy’s presence and impact on the book market, the results indicated that the cost of piracy is higher than a quarter of the market’s overall valuation, or 28 percent.

This, in fact, the third Ipsos study AIE has commissioned, and the organization this time has learned that as many as 4,900 jobs are being lost to piracy.

  • Thirty-one percent of the general Italian population older than 15 reportedly is using books, ebooks, and audiobooks illegally.
  • Much higher levels are being reported for students and professionals, who were tracked at 78 percent and 49 percent, respectively.
  • Some 70 percent of respondents who said they used illegally obtained publishing products also said that they don’t think they’re likely to be punished for it.
  • Nearly 300,000 acts of piracy are committed daily in Italy, according to Ipsos’ study, a figure that’s actually down eight percent from 2021
  • In economic terms overall, the loss to the country’s system is estimated to be some €1.75 billion (US$1.9 billion), with €298 million in lost tax revenue (US$326 million).
  • In a single year, the rep0rt says, there may be as many as 108.4 million acts of piracy committed in Italy.

As in the previous two studies commissioned by AIE in 2019 and 2021, researchers say it seems that many members of the public are ignorant about the seriousness of piracy and the consequences. There are observers in other parts of the publishing world, howeverd, who say they remain skeptical of this, as consumer populations become increasingly media-savvy.

However authentic the claim of being unaware of the illegality of piracy from one consumer to another, the new Italian report indicates that things may be going the wrong direction: The percentage of those who have told Ipsos researchers that they are aware of the illegality of piracy is 79 percent in 2023—as compared to 84 percent in 2019.

Monti: ‘There Are Also Risks for Readers’

The new study’s content was was presented by Ipsos president Nando Pagnoncelli during a meeting organized by Gli Editori, which is a consultation partnership between AIE and the Italian Federation of Newspaper Publishers (FIEG).

Innocenzo Cipolletta

AIE president Innocenzo Cipolletta during the course of the presentation clarified that he doesn’t see even the mild rollback on attitudes about piracy as real progress: “Italian publishing,” he said, “is experiencing a difficult economic context, characterized by rising costs that are only minimally offset by cover-price increases, while the demand stimuli present in past years are no longer present or have been scaled back.

“In this framework, the loss of a quarter of the potential value of sales because of piracy is an unsustainable cost that has repercussions on the number of companies that can no longer keep going; on employment; and on authors’ compensation.

“In 2023 we see the first signs of a reduction in acts of piracy, but there are many factors that can influence this, and I’d not yet speak of it as an established trend.

“Institutions and law enforcement have done a lot in recent years, and these data should spur us all to do even more and even better. We also consider stimulating public awareness to be fundamental: the number of people who consider this phenomenon to be not very serious is confirmed to be high, and in any case they say they are certain that the perpetrators will not be punished.”

Andrea Riffeser Monti

And the president of the Italian Federation of Newspaper Publishers, Andrea Riffeser Monti, pointed at the vendors and purveyors of pirated intellectual property, especially those online.

“Piracy of intellectual works is a central issue for the entire content publishing industry,” he said. “An ongoing economic and technological evolution today represents the most complex challenge for the authorities engaged in countering piracy.

“It must be made impossible for those who do business on illegal content to hide behind the anonymity of the Internet: people must be aware that they are committing an offence and must know that they can be punished for it.

“The phenomenon of digital piracy contributes to the growing and general impoverishment of publishing companies, but there are also risks for readers who, in the absence of quality information content, will be increasingly exposed to fake news and disinformation online.”

The IPSOS research for AIE was conducted in October 2023 on a sample of about 4,000 interviews (CAWI) : 2,700 cases representative by gender, age, geographic area, center breadth, profession, and educational qualification (more than 15 years); 867 college students representative by gender, age, and geographic area; and 743 freelancers representative by geographic area.


More from Publishing Perspectives on Frankfurt’s Guest of Honor Italy and its market is here; more on issues of piracy in the international book publishing industry is here; and more on industry statistics is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.