Bad PR Be Damned, Besieged Dummies Publisher Sues Filesharers
In April 2010 we asked Can You Be Sued For downloading a Book? The answer was yes – if publishers were willing to incur a lot of public relations heat for going after the likes of teenagers or old people. It would take an intolerable provocation or the loss of a lot of money to piracy – or both – for a publisher to seek damages in court from those whose crime was nothing more flagrant than sharing a file.
We cited the case of a music downloader sued by the recording industry who passed up the chance to settle for $4,000. When his case was finally adjudicated he was required to pay $675,000 to a plaintiff maddened like a stuck boar by the theft of its property. Though the Recording Industry Association of America incurred withering PR wrath, it sent a signal to all would-be music filesharers, however innocent or ignorant, to think twice before capturing that tune. (See He Should Have Paid the Two Dollars)
But surely that couldn’t happen in book publishing, that refined industry once known as The Gentleman’s Profession. Or could it?
John Wiley & Sons, one of the oldest and most distinguished publishers in America, finds itself in the role of that maddened boar. How deep is Wiley’s wound? Freeloaders are feasting on the publishers Dummies series. For instance, says Wiley, they purloined over 74,000 e-copies of its Photoshop CS5 All-in-one for Dummies.
According to BBC.co.uk, “Papers filed in New York and revealed by the Torrent Freak news site said four defendants were involved. The firm’s lawyer said that he believed this would be the first trial of its kind based on the use of Bittorrent. The peer-to-peer communications protocol allows users to upload and download files to each others’ computers. Wiley had previously filed 15 lawsuits to obtain the identities of about 200 people believed to have infringed the copyright of its titles. It said in papers filed last October that users had ‘engaged in the illegal copying and distribution of Wiley’s ‘For Dummies’ books through the peer-to-peer file sharing software known as Bittorrent’.”
Though Wiley seeks only the minimum statutory damages of $750, the Copyright Law allows as much as $150,000 if the accused fights the case and loses.