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Book publishers shut down ebook-sharing operation

Two file-sharing websites have pulled their services offline, following an injunction

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Two file-sharing sites that allegedly made hundreds of thousands of copyrighted ebooks available as free downloads have been forced to close, after a coalition of book publishers obtained an injunction against them.

According to the International Publishers Association (IPA), cyberlocker and download portal created and operated an “internet library” containing more than 400,000 high quality ebooks for free and anonymous download. The operators reportedly generated an estimated turnover of €8 million (£6.6m) from advertising, donations and premium accounts.

A total of 17 of the world’s largest book publishers – including Cambridge University Press, Harper Collins, Macmillan, Elsevier and Pearson Education – filed injunctions covering 170 copyrighted book titles before a regional court in Germany. The publishers and were able to assert extensive claims against the service providers, who had partially concealed their identities, said the IPA.

As a result, both sites have pulled their services offline. now redirects to Google Books and has put up a message stating “no upload servers currently available”. Despite the preliminary success, however, there is no guarantee that both sites will remain inactive.

“Today, the international book industry has shown that it continues to stand up against organised copyright crime.” says Jens Bammel, Secretary General of the IPA, commenting on the news. “We will not tolerate freeloaders who make unjustified profits by depriving authors and publishers of their due reward.”

As well as the IPA, the legal proceedings were supported by the Association of American Publishers (AAP), the Dutch Publishers Association (NUV), the Italian Publishers Association (AIE) and the International Association of Scientific Technical and Medical Publishers (STM).

Building the case and securing the court orders reportedly took seven months and spanned seven countries, demonstrating the enormous investment of time and cost needed to bring action against international file-sharing sites. In spite of efforts by lawmakers and industry groups to crack down on web piracy, laws targeting such sites are yet to be enacted.

The European Union's Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has been losing support, with Bulgaria and the Netherlands being the latest to back away from approving it, and equivalent digital copyright legislation in the US – the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) – has also hit the rocks, following a mass protest from the likes of Wikipedia, Google and Reddit.

“For every rogue site that is taken down, there are hundreds more demanding similar effort,” said Tom Allen, President and CEO of AAP. “I can’t think of a more timely example of the need for additional tools to expedite such action.”

The news follows yesterday's takedown of music blog RnBXclusive, which provided links to illegal music downloads. The UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) arrested one person and posted a severe warning message on the website.

“The majority of music files that were available via this site were stolen from the artists,” the message stated. "If you have downloaded music using this website you may have committed a criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years' imprisonment and an unlimited fine under UK law.”

Ten years imprisonment is not in fact the punishment for copyright infringement, but for fraud, which is what the person in question is accused of.

Meanwhile, founders of the MegaUpload cyberlocker were arrested by US federal authorities in January and face up to 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, conspiracy to commit money laundering and substantive charges of criminal copyright infringement.


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