Blog Post

Publisher Unmasks 'Dummies', Ramps Up Lawsuits Against e-Book Sharers

John Wiley has identified some of the anonymous individuals it accuses of downloading books like “Vegetable Gardening for Dummies,” and is pushing forward with lawsuits against hundreds of other book-sharing “John Does.”

The publisher appears to have been emboldened after a federal court gave it the green light in February to obtain the names of the defendants from their internet service provider.

As a result, an amended court filing now shows that John Jefferson Jr of the Bronx allegedly downloaded “Cooking for Dummies” and Lissette Lopez of Staten Island allegedly downloaded “Vegetable Gardening for Dummies” through bit torrent sites like

John Wiley is using a controversial legal technique in which, in one case, it sued “John Does 1-46” and then replaced “John Doe” with real names upon learning their identity.

The court records also show that 40 of the 46 John Does were dropped from the case — indicating that most defendants settled on unknown terms.

The case involving Jefferson Jr, Lopez and the 40 John Does is just one of a dozen similar cases that John Wiley has filed since last October. A key moment in the process occurred in February when U.S. District Judge William Pauley III denied a bid by “Mr. John Doe #7” to remain anonymous and to have each defendant tried separately.

John Doe copyright suits have proved controversial in the past year. In one case, a rogue lawyer threatened to reveal the identity of thousands of John Doe pornography viewers unless they paid a settlement fee (a judge threw out the case as an abuse of process).

John Wiley’s aggressive legal tactics coincide with a rise in websites that let users share e-books in the same way as music or movie files.

It’s unclear, however, if the settlements are enough to pay for John Wiley’s legal costs and, while the lawsuits will have a deterrent effect, they could also prove unpopular.

Critics say that suing file-sharers reflects a failure to adopt digital distribution models; content owners say they are simply trying to enforce their copyright.

The copyright controversy is about to enter a new phase this summer. Interent service providers, which have long been reluctant to be “copyright cops,” will begin cooperating with content owners on a “six-strike” enforcement model.

John Wiley’s lawyer, William Dunnegan, did not respond to a request for comment.

Amended John Wiley Suit Names Dummies