Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Textbook Publishers Win Court Ruling Against File-Sharing Web Site; Chronicle of Higher Education, 2/24/10

Jeffrey Young, Chronicle of Higher Education; Textbook Publishers Win Court Ruling Against File-Sharing Web Site:

"In a victory for textbook publishers, a German court has ruled that RapidShare, a file-trading Web site, must do more to stop the unauthorized swapping of some copyrighted books on its service.

The Landgericht in Hamburg, a district court, issued a preliminary ruling against RapidShare this month, prohibiting the company from making available certain copyrighted books on its site. The order took effect February 17.

Six major publishers brought the legal action against RapidShare, and they specified a list of 148 titles that are frequently pirated on the site. Those are the works covered under the court order, and many of them are textbooks.

Officials for RapidShare, which is based in Switzerland, could not be reached on Tuesday. In the past, the company has argued that it quickly takes down any copyrighted material that users post to the service once officials become aware of it, and that it follows all legal requirements regarding copyright.

The ruling said the company must go further: "It is not only necessary to promptly block access to the specific file, but rather to also take precautions going beyond this in order to prevent to the largest possible extent the occurrence of further similar infringements."

The court said it will issue fines of up to 250,000 euros (about $340,000) or jail time for company executives of up to two years per instance that a specified book is present on the file-sharing site.

On Tuesday afternoon, one of the books, Advanced 2D Game Development, by Jonathan S. Harbour, was still listed on the service, but an attempt to download it drew only the following error message: "Due to a violation of our terms of use, the file has been removed from the server."

Officials for the book publishers said they have been too busy writing a news release about the Hamburg court's decision to check whether all of the selected books have been removed from the site.

In an interview with The Chronicle, Tom Allen, chief executive of the Association of American Publishers, called the decision "a big deal," describing RapidShare as one of the largest provider of illegal books.

A recent study by Attributor Corporation, which helps companies search for pirated works, found that the vast majority of pirated books appear on just two sites, and RapidShare was one of them.

The publishers involved are among the largest in the world when it comes to textbooks: Bedford, Freeman & Worth; Cengage Learning; Elsevier; the McGraw-Hill Companies; Pearson; and John Wiley & Sons.

They brought the suit in Germany because courts there have been friendly to publishers in the past. "The German courts had dealt with this issue and did it in a way that respected copyright and did it quickly," said Mr. Allen, of the publishers' association."

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