All types of media content can be exploited online with movies, TV shows, and music among the most popular among pirates. However, in recent years books have proven desirable, especially those that otherwise have hefty price tags.
Textbooks are particularly well known for their stiff pricing, something which presents a thorn in the side for thousands of students every year. Making matters worse, books are often marginally tweaked per revision, ensuring that second owner books lose their value. This isn’t something that affects pirates though.
Over the years, many file-sharing sites have catered to people seeking textbooks for free, with many building up a dedicated following. Others, however, have seen the opportunity to make some money, offering broad but illegal access to textbooks for a nominal fee.
That was the case with Denmark-based website LendStudy. It provided students with access to hundreds of textbooks for a comparatively reasonable price of 300 kroner ($45.00) per semester. Unfortunately, that attracted the attention of anti-piracy outfit Rights Alliance, who pursued a case against its operators.
In court this week, three men aged 26, 31 and 71 stood accused of scanning and then making available at least 198 copyrighted textbooks to paying members. Between August 2013 and October 2014 it was alleged the textbooks were downloaded from the site 2,574 times, netting the men revenues of around $3,500.
According to local media, all three men initially pleaded not guilty but later admitted being operators of the site.
The court heard how RightsAlliance tried to create an account on LendStudy but its request for membership was discovered and rejected by the site’s operators. Other evidence presented by the prosecution included photographs of the men loading computers, scanners, and other IT equipment into a car.
“It is expensive for students to acquire new knowledge. Lendstudy wanted to spread knowledge in the form of books that give students more opportunities for new knowledge,” the 31-year-old defendant said in court.
Unfortunately for the site’s operators, the desire to enrich the minds of students failed to persuade the court that piracy could be ignored. All three were found guilty of criminal copyright infringement and handed four-month conditional jail sentences. The LundStudy.dk domain was confiscated.
“If textbooks are made freely available or sold illegally, publishers have less incentive to produce textbooks,” said Martin Lindø Westeraaard from University Press of Southern Denmark.
“It will be detrimental both for publishers and for the students, who will lose the opportunity to read Danish-language textbooks.”
A claim for damages against the men will now be pursued by Rights Alliance in a civil case.