Publisher Suing YouTube For Piracy Sells ‘Retold’ Version of Prince Harry’s Book

Home > Law and Politics >

Prince Harry's memoir 'Spare' sold over 3.2 million copies globally in its first week of release. However, since no company has the rights to sell 'Spare' in Russia, major publisher Eksmo-AST - already involved in a lawsuit that accuses YouTube of failing to protect authors' rights - intends to satisfy local demand by publishing a "retelling" of the smash-hit memoir.

spare-ssOver the past few years, millions of people in dozens of countries have continuously gorged on rumors, speculation, misinformation, disinformation and, on rare occasions, actual information pertaining to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Safe in the knowledge that 24/7/365 wall-to-wall multi-media coverage would never be enough, Penguin Random House (PRH) reportedly paid a $20 million advance for Prince Harry to end all speculation, once and for all, in a brand new book.

Released on January 10, ‘Spare’ was an immediate smash-hit sensation, with PRH reporting record-breaking global sales of more than 3.2 million units across print, digital, and audio formats – in its first week on sale.

Sales Could’ve Been Better

Despite becoming a number one best-seller in multiple countries, not every country has access to ‘Spare’. In common with many Western entertainment companies, publisher Penguin Random House pulled out of Russia following its invasion of Ukraine last year. As previously reported, that has caused huge issues for the cinema industry and beyond.

With most Western content either unlicensed or unavailable legally in Russia, multiple plans to pirate that content, enforce compulsory licensing (piracy, effectively), or say good riddance because Russia never needed it anyway, are all on the table. And then off the table, depending on the mood.

In the meantime, a major publishing house has come up with a different solution.

Plea to Foreign Publishers, Fears Over Piracy

Controlling around 30% of the Russian market, Eksmo-AST is Russia’s largest publisher. A month after Russia invaded Ukraine, the company urged foreign companies to reconsider their boycott of Russian publishers.

“I would like to invite you to think of our mission: publishers’ mission, authors’ mission and the mission of literature in general. Is it just a business matter for you or is it above all to strive to make the written word a leading tool to achieve understanding, to help human ideas make it to the top of the world’s agenda?” the letter reads.

“In the last 15 years together we have almost eliminated piracy – it hardly exists in print and no more than 3% of all e-books are pirated now – quite the opposite of the awful situation we had seen in the past.”

As part of its efforts to ensure authors’ rights are respected globally, Eksmo-AST Group company AST Publishing LTD joined a copyright-based class action lawsuit in the United States. It accuses YouTube/Google of not doing enough to prevent piracy, which undermines authors’ rights in their literary and artistic works.

With that case nowhere near a conclusion and Western publishers like Penguin Random House still unwilling to license their books in Russia, Eksmo-AST will ensure that the content of Prince Harry’s book will still be published in the local market. The company says the method used is completely legal, and not at all controversial or problematic.

A Copy? Plagiarism? No, It’s a ‘Retelling’

Whether Eksmmo-AST is yet to spot the four illegal copies of ‘Spare’ on the first page of Yandex search results is unclear, but the publisher still wants Prince Harry’s story to be heard in Russia.

News outlet Kommersant reports that several Russian publishers are preparing to circumvent the ban on the release of bestsellers in Russia by publishing new books in a ‘саммари’ format. Roughly translated as ‘summary’, these are not direct copies of original books and no direct quotes are used from the original, the publisher insists.

“The summary will reflect the key ideas of the book without using excerpts from it: the author of the summary read the book in English and retold it in her own language,” Eksmo CEO Yevgeny Kapiev told Kommersant.

Ebook and audiobook service LitRes is already offering an ‘abridged’ version of ‘Spare’ for 139.5 rubles ($1.86) due to an introductory discount of 50%.


Both companies appear to be relying on a law that allows non-fiction books to be “retold” and published without breaking copyright law. Eksmo told TASS that permission from copyright holders is not required for retelling.

“A professional team worked on the summary, the retelling contains the main ideas of the book, without using excerpts. The volume of the retelling is one author’s sheet, no more than 15% of the original,” the spokesperson said.

“However, as before, as always, our publishing group is ready for dialogue and cooperation in case [the authors] appeal.”


Popular Posts
From 2 Years ago…