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Book Publisher Sues ‘Dummies’ Downloaders

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Publishing house John Wiley has joined the anti-piracy fray by filing a lawsuit against people who downloaded illicit copies of its popular “For Dummies” series. Most of the tiles in question are computer related, but there are a few surprises on the list.

The lawsuit filed last week in Manhattan federal court included a list of anonymous users and the titles they downloaded. The most popular title was Photoshop for Dummies, but other defendants opted for how-to books on calculus, home repair and day-trading. The downloads threaten the Dummies franchise which has sold more than 200 million copies since it was launched in 1991.

The case suggests that unauthorized file-sharing, which has long plagued the music and movie industries, is now taking a bite out of traditional book publishers as well. John Wiley claims that its Photoshop book, which retails for around $20, has been downloaded more than 74,000 times since summer of last year and that lost revenue from filed-sharing may harm its ability to publish and pay authors. The publishing industry has not been as litigious as other content sectors but that may now be changing.

“The problem affects book publishers as it affects all content owners, and with the growing popularity of e-books, various strategies to address illegal file-sharing, including litigation, will necessarily grow as well,” said Susan Kohlmann, a copyright expert at Jenner & Block in New York.

In this case, John Wiley sued 27 “John Doe” defendants residing in New York on the basis of their IP address — a number that identifies a given computer or router. The publisher is likely to replace the John Does on the lawsuit with the names of real people after it learns their identities from the downloaders’ Internet provider. Or it may simply go directly to the accused downloaders and ask for a settlement.

Content owners regard these type of lawsuits as a deterrent, but the tactic is a controversial one. Some argue the lawsuits are disproportionate to the alleged offense, while others note that an IP address does not establish who did the downloading.

On the other hand, John Wiley may feel it has no choice. The company’s reference book niche is already under threat from a growing number of web-based “e-how” resources, and the file-sharing trend could mushroom. Book files are easier to swap because they are much smaller than music or movie files, and new technologies have made it easier to scan and upload a book.

The John Does in the case traded the books on a Montenegro Ukraine-based site, called The site shows a variety of copyrighted material still available for download, including ‘dummies’ titles such as “Business Ethics for Dummies” and “Sex for Dummies.”

The series began in 1991 with the publication of “DOS for Dummies.” John Wiley has since published more than 1,800 other titles in 30 languages.

5 Responses to “Book Publisher Sues ‘Dummies’ Downloaders”

  1. Having read the actual complaint from Wiley ( ) (which you should have linked to imho), I’ve come away with the following impression of Wiley:

    ‘We neither understand what these kids are doing nor how they’re doing it, but dammit it’s wrong.  We should be earning more money in the manner in which we did 20 years ago but we’re not, and dammit that’s wrong.  I’m telling you, things are wrong and dammit that’s wrong.’

    And technically Mr. Wolf, all one ever downloads from a ‘torrent site’ is a tiny bittorrent file, not a single 1 or 0 of which is infringing.  Bittorrent you see is nothing more than a file-transfer protocol (see HyperText Transfer Protocol HTTP or File Transfer Protocol FTP or the approx. 49 other different ones).  It’s difference is in it’s peer-to-peer nature rather than a server-client one. Each and every transfer protocol is used by individuals to ‘infringe’ the works of publishers.

    In the spirit of Jonathon Swift, may I modestly propose we shut down the internet?

  2. TeufelWolf

    Technically your article is not correct. When you use a torrent site you are not just downloading, you also end up hosting all or part of the file, and uploading it others. That act of host and uploading makes the user more liable then someone who just downloads the same book from usenet, NZB index site, or a file dump.
    Hosting and sharing also broadcasts your IP address to anyone who can access the same torrent. There are dozens of companies that monitor everything that goes up on torrent sites.
    If you live in a litigious country like the US, most of the EU, Canada you should be careful using torrents.

  3. Demonoid is not a ‘Montenego-based site’. It has a .me domain (used to be .com but switched once ICE started it’s domain seizure program) but it’s hosted in the Ukraine.