Well over a decade ago, music platforms like AllofMP3 were a thorn in the side of record labels, selling tracks at cut-down prices without appropriate licensing in place.
Today, similar sites are available in many niches, eBooks included. It’s a growing problem that authors, publishers and distributors would like to reduce, in part via a lawsuit filed in a Washington court this week.
US Lawsuit Targets ‘Pirate’ Sites Under the ‘Kiss Library’ Brand
The complaint sees Amazon Content Services, publisher Penguin Random House and several authors including John Grisham and Lee Child, target a range of ‘pirate eBook sites operating under the Kiss Library brand.
The 19-page lawsuit lists several domains (Kissly.net, Wtffastspring.bid, Libly.net, Cheap-Library.com) that claim to offer a “premium selection” of books at “unbeatable prices”. The reason for this, the plaintiffs claim, is that they are “replete” with pirated eBooks.
“Through Kiss Library, Defendants engage in rampant and willful infringement of Plaintiffs’ intellectual property rights and divert potential customers to Defendants’ sites — where the Plaintiff Authors and Publishers do not receive any royalties for the sales — to purchase and download the unauthorized works,” the complaint reads.
The stated claim of the action is to “bring down” the sites and put them out of business. It names several individuals as defendants, including alleged Ukrainian nationals Rodion Vynnychenko and Artem Besshapochny, who are said to have created Kiss Library and actively participate in and profit from its activities.
Australian national Jack Brown is said to work as a software developer while also being listed as Kiss Library’s customer service representative. Together with an additional 10 ‘Doe defendants’, Brown is said to act in concert with Kiss Library’s creators to distribute the plaintiffs’ copyright works.
Background to Kiss Library’s Activities
According to the complaint, Kiss Library first appeared at KissLibrary.com back in June 2017 after being registered by Vynnychenko in Ukraine. However, due to what the plaintiffs describe as “increased negative reviews and assertions of piracy”, the defendants registered new ‘mirror’ sites including kisslibrary.net, kissly.net, wtffastspring.bid, libly.net, and cheaplibrary.com.
Libly.net, Kissly.net and Wtffastspring.bid purportedly operate out of Canada but the plaintiffs couldn’t find any matching registrations in the country. Cheap-library.com is said to operate out of Bulgaria but again, no registrations could be found. Attempts by plaintiffs to make contact via the supplied telephone numbers failed.
Distribution of Pirated Content, Non-Compliance Under the DMCA
“Defendants, through these and other known and unknown Kiss Library websites, engage in the rampant, illegal copying, display, and distribution of copyright-protected ebooks for their direct financial benefit, including works written by the Authors and exclusively published or distributed by the Publishers,” the complaint alleges.
All of the targeted domains claim to have official DMCA agents to handle takedown complaints but according to the plaintiffs, the Copyright Office has no record of any registrations. Furthermore, when the defendants processed copyright infringement claims and took down eBooks, they reappeared on the platforms shortly after.
“As a result of Defendants’ wrongful conduct, Defendants also damage and harm the Publishers in the form of losses to sales, prospective customers, goodwill from authors who exclusively publish with them, goodwill from customers who receive Defendants’ inferior ebook copies, and resources expended in discovering and combatting infringement, as well as disruption and harm to their distribution arrangements, brands, and prospective business relationships with authors and others,” it continues.
Copyright Infringement Claims
Alleging willful direct copyright infringement, the plaintiffs demand actual damages and profits of the infringers or statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringed work. They further demand injunctive relief, including an order impounding all copies of the infringing materials.
Alleging vicarious and/or contributory copyright infringement in respect of offenses carried out by Kiss Library’s users, the plaintiffs demand actual damages and defendants’ profits attributable to the infringements, or statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringed work and a similar injunction.
In addition, the lawsuit demands an order requiring Kiss Library’s domain names to be disabled or handed over to the plaintiffs and preventing any commercial entities doing business with the platform, including banks, credit card companies and payment providers, from doing so.
At the time of writing, all of the listed domains are either completely down or advising maintenance issues.
The complaint, filed by plaintiffs Amazon Publishing, Penguin Random House, Lee Child, Sylvia Day, John Grisham, C.J. Lyons, Doug Preston, Jim Rasenberger, T.J. Stiles, R.L Stine, Monique Troung, Scott Turow, Nicholas Weinstock and Stuart Woods, can be found here (pdf)