Officials at the Spanish Ministry of the Interior say they have arrested a Valencia man who is accused of having uploaded over 11,000 eBook titles – often on the same day of their official release – and causing over €400,000 in economic damage. This figure is, however, based on the number of alleged downloads that took place of the titles uploaded and assumes that each downloader would have otherwise purchased the book. Obviously, this is not the best metric to determine exactly how much money was “lost” when there is no evidence that the downloaders would have purchased the books.
As often happens in America and elsewhere, the investigation into this individual began with a complaint from an intellectual-property rights oriented group called the Centre for Reprographic Rights (CEDRO).
According to the press release from the Spanish Ministry of the Interior, the notorious uploader was the source of some 11,000 books spanning over dozens and dozens of websites, although he apparently usually only uploaded them to a single forum. CEDRO only knew the accused’s screenname when it originally filed a complaint, but over the course of more than a year, Spanish authorities managed to track him down and learn more about his operation. The press release alleges that he used “special software”to remove copyright protection from books before uploading them. This could be referring to a commonly known method of removing Adobe Digital Editions protections with plugins for the open-source eBook program Callibre.
Authorities conducted a raid on the home of a suspect after much investigation, and during their search they found evidence in his web browser that he was indeed the uploader in question. The name of the accused has yet to be released, and the lack of specific information regarding his activities makes it hard to guess as to his online identity unless one was regularly downloading his files. Popular ebook uploaders include screennames like “gooner” and “Lion_King.”
E-book piracy is as prevalent as other forms, like television, film, and music, but it is not often that we hear about people getting arrested for it. For one thing, fewer and fewer people are reading for pleasure, and the industry has been slower than others to digitize its goods. Major providers like Amazon have made it easier for publishers to reach users of their platform, and the cost seems to be largely palatable for users. The biggest market in book piracy.
The biggest market in book piracy would seem to be in textbooks, which are incredibly expensive when compared to other works of non-fiction, and so students, already strapped for cash, are more likely to give in to the temptation when book shopping. If the choice is between $289 and free, many with little or no income will choose the free option.
Torrent sites make a healthy living from advertising. With e-books in particular, a cursory search shows that there are several sites where people are required to have a paid membership in order to download book torrents or book files directly. This makes prosecution a bit harder, since the purpose of having these setups is to give the user a moderate amount of protection. Often, in the US at least, DMCA notices are only issued when the user actually shares the files after downloading them via torrent.
The modus operandi for prosecuting agencies has been to go after the sites themselves, as they did with the founder of KickAss Torrents not long ago, and previously had done with the Pirate Bay. It seems that infamy is the bane to a good torrent site: the better at providing the torrents you are, and the bigger the community you attract, the more likely you are to eventually wind up behind bars.
As e-books have been slow to catch on, barely garnering more than 10% in even their most lucrative markets after almost two decades in existence, one can envision a future where e-books are not sold at all, but instead funded by advertising. The entire cost of production can be offset by one advertiser, and the publisher can more readily compete not only with pirates but also with other forms of entertainment.
Author: P. H. Madore