Regular eBooks are among the cheapest items of digital content available to buy today but due to their cost, the underground market for academic textbooks continues to thrive.
Pirated textbooks are relatively easy to find on the open web and via dedicated pirate sites. However, some people are creating their own libraries in an effort to make money, offering online access to such material in exchange for a fee.
Danish anti-piracy outfit Rights Alliance (Rettighedsalliancen) has been homing on these for-profit pirates for some time and this week reported another success in a local court.
According to the group, which acts on behalf of a wide range of copyright holders, publishers included, routine monitoring for pirated content drew its attention to an advert placed on Den Blå Avis (The Blue Newspaper), Denmark’s largest buying and selling site.
For a fee of 20 kronor (US$2.91) it offered access to 115 digital copies of books usually sold by publishers including Gyldendal, Lindhardt and Ringhof, University of Southern Denmark, and Social Literature. The books were conveniently stored on Dropbox, with customers able to download them with minimum fuss.
With assistance from local police, Rights Alliance was able to have the advert quickly removed but also managed to identify the seller, a woman from the Vanløse district of Copenhagen. The group said that the woman admitted to the unlawful distribution of the content, which included books dedicated to physiotherapy.
This week her fate was decided by a court in Nykøbing Falster, which reopened for business on Monday after a closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Following a guilty plea, the court handed down a suspended sentence of 20 days in prison accompanied by a financial confiscation order.
The decision is being welcomed by Rights Alliance chief Maria Fredenslund who notes that such offenses carried out by individuals can have serious consequences, including police involvement and a criminal record.
“It is crucial that the police move quickly in these cases, as the extent of illegal activities can quickly increase if the rumor about the possibilities for free books spreads among students. Although it may seem innocent to copy a textbook and sell it to other students, it has serious consequences in a systematic way,” Fredenslund says.
The case and sentencing appear broadly similar to one previously reported by TF during October 2019. In that matter, a 26-year-old student also advertised illegal access to textbooks via the Blue Newspaper and was subsequently tracked down by Rights Alliance with assistance from the police.
While he sold access to books for a much higher fee (between US$12.50 and US$88.00) the Court of Fredericksberg handed down an identical 20-day suspended prison sentence plus a confiscation order. The man also entered into a settlement agreement with Rights Alliance. In 2019, another man tracked down by Rights Alliance in a similar case received a 30-day suspended sentence.