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Foreign Rogue Sites That Earned $10 Million Annually from Copyrighted Content Shut Down by US Publishers and International Alliance

An international alliance of publishers has identified and taken legal action against operators of one of the largest pirate web-based businesses in the world.

Washington, D.C.; February 15, 2012 — An international alliance of publishers including seven member companies of the Association of American Publishers, with support from AAP and other international trade associations, has identified and taken legal action against operators of one of the largest pirate web-based businesses in the world.

Yesterday, the operators of www.library.nu and www.ifile.it were served with court orders in Ireland, where they are located. The identification and enforcement process has taken more than seven months and spanned seven countries. A total of 17 plaintiff publishing companies filed requests for injunctions covering 170 book titles before the Landgericht (regional court) of Munich I, Germany.

www.library.nu illegally acquired more than 400,000 copyrighted e-books and made them available for free, anonymous downloading on a site that disguised itself as a legitimate provider and alluded to serving as an authorized library for such content. The operators earned an estimated € 8 million Euros annually ($10,602,400 US annually), mainly from actions by third parties: advertisers bought space on the site, donations were made to this “internet library” through online payment services and individuals purchased premium-level user accounts. The same operators, who went to great measures to conceal their identities and locations, ran the affiliated fileshare hosting service www.ifile.it, which facilitated the anonymous, massive infringing uploads; these were downloaded through links made available on www.library.nu.

“While this action is a significant step in shutting down two major rogue websites stealing content from publishers and others, it also captures the enormous investment of time and cost required for rights-holders to protect their work,” said Tom Allen, President and CEO, AAP. “For every rogue site that is taken down, there are hundreds more demanding similar effort. I can’t think of a more timely example of the need for additional tools to expedite such action.”

AAP member publishing companies that participated are Cengage Learning, Elsevier, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Oxford University Press and Pearson Education Inc.

The additional global publishing participants were Cambridge University Press, Georg Thieme, Hogrefe, Macmillan, Pearson Education Ltd, Springer, Taylor & Francis, C.H. Beck and De Gruyter. In addition to AAP, the action was supported by the Nederlands Uitgeversverbond NUV, Associazione Italiana Editori and the International Association of Scientific Technical and Medical Publishers (STM). It was coordinated by Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, the International Publishers Association and the law firm Lausen Rechtsanwälte.

Background on the sites

The sharehoster www.ifile.it is a service allowing users to store files directly on its servers. A user is given a Direct Download Link (DDL) through which stored illegal content can be easily downloaded; the user can provide the link to others through such channels as Facebook, Twitter or a link library. In addition to a significant number of literary works, www.ifile.itservers also contained illegal copies of films, software, computer games and other entertainment content.

The linking site www.library.nu carefully disguised itself as a legitimate source of copyrighted content, even alluding to library connections. The site’s pirated e-books were given internet-compatible metadata and categorized into virtual “shelves,” providing maximum searchability. The service enabled users to enter download links to the pirated e-books from various sharehosters although links to all files on www.ifile.it were also featured.

In addition to their own users, the services significantly extended their reach by additionally uploading to such rogue sites as MegaUpload and Mediafire.

Background on the publishers’ efforts

Action against these massive infringements was a challenge.

Neither website contained any form of legal notice with information as to the operators’ identities. The WHOIS entries on the domain holders were partially modified several times. In some cases, fake company names without registration were used. In other cases, the registered offices of well-known Irish banks or names of people were used, although it was highly unlikely that these individuals or entities had any relationship with the operators of the platforms.

E-mails to the domains were answered with the intent to mislead prosecutors; when replies were secured, these came with varying contradicting responses, without any contact information and under pseudonyms. The services' top level domains led to Italy and the southern Pacific coral island of Niue. The servers were initially based in Germany, then relocated to the Ukraine. Additionally, the operators used very sophisticated technical systems which immediately detected and repelled higher access rates to the platforms from outside. The necessary securing of evidence - during which software which had been specifically developed by IT specialists for this purpose was used for the documentation of the infringements - was significantly impeded by this technical blocking.

One positive outcome from this complicated process is that the platform operators themselves are now being held responsible as perpetrators for the copyright infringements on their sites and will therefore not merely be liable for the illegal conduct of their users. All four copyright chambers at the LG of Munich I who dealt with this issue and who promptly issued the 17 interim injunctions were in agreement on this matter.

The publishers’ coalition faced additional challenges due to the lack of legislation regarding the coordination of law governing the service of documents in European countries. Due to various uncertainties in the European Regulation on the Service of Documents, the related treaties between various countries and the additional administrative obstacles, service of the injunctions to the operators required far more time than the issuance of the injunctions. This situation significantly impairs effective, prompt enforcement of injunctions within the EU.

About AAP

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) represents about four hundred member organizations including major commercial, digital learning and education and professional publishers alongside independents, non-profits, university presses and scholarly societies. We represent the industry’s priorities on policy, legislative and regulatory issues regionally, nationally and worldwide. These include the protection of intellectual property rights and worldwide copyright enforcement, digital and new technology issues, funding for education and libraries, tax and trade, censorship and literacy. Find us online at www.publishers.org or on twitter at @AmericanPublish.