When selling digital products, you don’t have to handle inventory and shipping management but need to pay attention to piracy problems. It’s really easy to steal someone’s intellectual property such as music, designs, eBooks, software — and then share those items with other people or re-publish and resell them to make a profit.
Let’s take software piracy as an example. Pirated software makes up more than one-third of all active software in the world. Software businesses have lost billions of dollars as a result. Microsoft estimated that it would cost these companies about $491B to clean up after pirated software in 2014.
There is no doubt that digital piracy is one of the most serious issues online business owners have to cope with. They should keep an eye on digital download security to secure their business.
How They Steal Your Digital Products
There are a bunch of tricks to steal and redistribute e-products widely without permission.
#1 Find products through search engines
To optimize search results, Google crawls and indexes every page on your website including files and pages that you want to hide. If people find files in Google search results, they can easily access the information.
For instance, when I want to look for PDF files from preventdirectaccess.com website, I just need to type “site:preventdirectaccess.com file/pdf” in Google. All file uploads to this site will be shown in the search results, and so, I can download them by directly accessing their URLs in my browsers.
#2 Share URLs to guest checkout pages and product files
After a customer buys a product, a link to the guest checkout page or the product file will be sent to his mailbox. He can use these URLs to share directly with others via emails or messages.
Anyone having this link is able to access the guest checkout pages and product files without paying anything.
#3 Share login details (username and password)
Customers can share their accounts with their relatives or friends who will use this information to log in and download products for free. Despite paying nothing, they are able to get the items that only paid members can own.
#4 Re-sell counterfeit branded products online
A lot of people buy digital products and then resell them to make money. They could earn a lot of income by simply exploiting others' hard-to-make products. MarkMonitor identifies 48 sites that are guilty of selling counterfeit branded products, including ebooks, music, films, and videogames in 2011.
Proposed Solution to Protect Your Digital Downloads
There are many methods you can apply to minimize the risk of intellectual property theft.
Firstly, you could stamp or watermark your e-goods. The chance of reselling products with branded watermarks drops as buyers will know those are counterfeits.
Another way to control digital product circulation is by using Google Alert. Once you create a Google Alert for your product name, a notification will be sent to you when someone mentions your products elsewhere.
You can also use robots.txt and no-index meta tag to ask search engines not to index your guest checkout pages and product files. This helps stop people from finding your product files through search engines.
These solutions are effective to keep your products from being searched, downloaded and resold. What if your customers just want to share your intellectual property with their relatives and friends?
You can prevent access to order pages and product files from all but the customers' IP addresses. In other words, non-buyers with strange IP addresses won't be able to access the product page and their file URLs.
How to Improve WooCommerce Digital Downloads Security through IP Restrictions
WooCommerce is the major player for large-scale e-commerce stores powering around 30% of all online stores worldwide.
If you’re running a WooCommerce online store and struggling to deal with the digital piracy problems, IP restriction to order page and product files could be a solution worth considering.
WooCommerce integration - an extension of Prevent Direct Access Gold, helps handle online piracy issues for WooCommerce business owners. It limits access to WooCommerce order pages, product files or customer login pages from unwelcome IP addresses.
As soon as a customer purchases digital goods on your website, the plugin sets up a system to log their IP address. Suspicious IP addresses that use the same login details (username and password) of the customer will be blocked. Order page or product file will follow similar IP restrictions.
What if your customers want to log in from other locations? Prevent Direct Access Gold allows business owners to set a maximum number of IP addresses from which your customers can access their order pages and product files after purchasing. We recommend you to allow customer access from at least 3 IPs in case their IP address is changed. Besides, WooCommerce extension enables you to apply IP restrictions to certain products. Business owners can decide which products customers are allowed to share and which are owned by paid members only.
Digital piracy could not only hurt your revenue but also affect your business reputation. Online businesses selling e-products should take necessary action to keep the theft away.
There’s no perfect solution to completely hide your e-products from the thieves’ eyes. Although stamping and watermarking can stop people from reselling products, customers can still share them with their’ friends and relatives with ease. While Google Alert will notify you whenever someone mentions your product names, it won't update you instantly especially when the product name is changed.
For further protection, restricting strange IP addresses from accessing download pages and product URLs proves to be more useful in many cases.
Our WooCommerce extension gives online merchants a helping hand to resolve product piracy and customer account sharing problems. Any suspicious attempts to download your product files will be blocked effectively with our IP restriction.