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Following an investigation carried out by Danish anti-piracy group Rights Alliance, a man from Denmark has been handed a suspended prison sentence for digital textbook piracy. The case was referred to the State Prosecutor for Serious Economic Crime (SØIK) after the 28-year-old man was given the opportunity to stop his activities but carried on regardless.
Publishers around the world regularly engage in various actions aimed at preventing the unauthorized reproduction and distribution of academic publications and eBooks.
From repeated visits to court to implement site blocking in the UK to lawsuits targeting entities such as Sci-Hub, the approach is sustained, multipronged, and has no fear of tackling smaller players either.
Rights Alliance Investigation
For the past several years, Danish anti-piracy group Rights Alliance has been tracking down individuals said to have profited from the sale of pirated textbooks. These can be controversially expensive items that the majority of students have no choice but to purchase legally. However, there are those who have made cottage industries out of the sale of illegal copies at significantly lower prices.
One such individual, a 28-year-old man from Denmark, was spotted by Rights Alliance selling copies of textbooks via DBA, Denmark’s most popular online marketplace.
According to the anti-piracy group, it first took action to have the listings taken down and then made contact with the man with a request for him to stop his infringing behavior. This had little effect. New profiles were created and the sale of the digital textbooks continued on the same online platform.
Case Referred State Prosecutor for Serious Economic Crime
After collecting evidence of the illegal sales, Rights Alliance made a referral to SØIK, the State Prosecutor for Serious Economic Crime. SØIK is often involved in higher-level prosecutions of pirate site operators but appears to consider smaller players important enough to pursue with criminal cases.
In this matter, the man was said to have offered for sale 51 digital textbooks from different fields of study over a period of more than eight months, without permission from rightsholders. They were sold below the market rate and in some cases at half the original price.
Man Handed Suspended Prison Sentence
According to an announcement from Rights Alliance, the Court in Aalborg has now sentenced the 28-year-old for his crimes.
Based on the sale of 146 pirated digital textbooks, the Court issued a 30 day suspended sentence and ordered the confiscation of a computer and DKK26,544 (US$4,120) in criminal proceeds. In addition, the man is also required to compensate the textbook rightsholders to the tune of DKK35,000 (US$5,450).
Rights Alliance director Maria Fredenslund welcomes both the sentence and the involvement of SØIK in these types of cases.
“It has major consequences for rights holders when their digital books are copied and sold illegally,” Fredenslund says.
“On behalf of both authors and publishers, I am therefore pleased that SØIK is focusing on this type of infringement and that the decision sends a clear signal that the illegal sale of digital textbooks cannot pay off. On the other hand, there is a risk of severe punishment, through confiscation, compensation and a prison sentence.”
One of the books offered for sale was published by Hans Jørgen Biede, associate professor at the Aarhus Business Academy. He says this type of theft is an annoyance and threatens the publication of books in Danish.
“Unfortunately, this is not the first time that I have experienced my books being copied and shared illegally. Even before, the digital editions have been copied and this kind of theft annoys me, because in the worst case it undermines the financial basis for textbooks to be written in Danish in the future,” the professor says.
Latest in a Series of Successful Prosecutions
Rights Alliance has pursued several cases against textbook pirates over recent years. In 2017, three men aged between 26 and 71-years-old received conditional jail sentences of four months for selling online access to around 198 textbooks without permission via the LendStudy website, the domain of which was confiscated.
In 2019, a 26-year-old man was handed a 20-day suspended prison sentence and fined around US$4,000 for similar offenses and in 2020, a woman who sold access to pirated copies of academic textbooks stored on Dropbox received a similar punishment.
More recently, a former student who sold pirated digital copies of textbooks was handed 20 days probation and a confiscation order after pleading guilty to selling copies of 38 different textbooks between January 2018 and April 2020.