John Wiley and Sons, one of the world’s largest book publishers, have sued 27 BitTorrent users at a federal court in New York. The publisher claims that the defendants have shared copies of its “For Dummies” books without permission, and demands compensation.
A year and a half after the Recording Industry Association of American wound down its litigation campaign against file sharers, a publisher is ready to pick up the same playbook and run with it. Yes, this is the same playbook that spent $64 million dollars in legal fees for $1.4 million in settlement money. To proclaim this as a defense of intellectual property is an insult to the first word of that term; there can be no logical or academic argument that this will yield different results than have been gained in other industries pursuing the same strategy.
The article has some choice quotes from the filed complaint.
Wiley argues that through the massive piracy that occurs on BitTorrent, their company is suffering severe losses that might cost several authors their jobs.
“Defendants are contributing to a problem that threatens the profitability of Wiley. Although Wiley cannot determine at this time the precise amount of revenue that it has lost as a result of peer-to-peer file sharing of its copyrighted works though BitTorrent software, the amount of revenue that is lost is enormous,” Wiley’s attorney writes.
Since they are going to be paying law firms rather than their talent (you know, the people who are at the center of their business model), I guess some authors will lose their jobs. And the bit about not being able to determine how much revenue is lost but saying it is huge? That’s the same underlying rationale that believes that every library loan is a lost sale. One of the books in the complaint might have been downloaded 74,000 times in the last 18 months, but that doesn’t mean each and every single one is a lost sale. That would be like saying that people looting a television store are all potential television buyers; it does not follow that the person carrying off a plasma would be willing to plunk down cash for it in ordinary circumstances.
To me, this is a huge waste of time and money. While piracy is wrong, I don’t think this is an effective deterrent or a useful expenditure for the industry (especially after in seeing how other groups fared using the strategy). The resources here could be spent on finding better solutions and business models, not pissing away money of a shrinking industry. These settlements (if any) will not fund the future of the business. I’m afraid that libraries as consumers will end up footing the bill for this in terms of higher pricing and, quite frankly, I appalled to think that we would end up footing the bill for this brazen stupidity.
My prediction as to how this affair will end up looks like this in the years to come:
Meep, meep, publishers.