German newspapers sued for pointing out an alleged illegal site

By EDRi · September 11, 2013

At the end of August 2013, a group of German publishers sued newspapers Der Tagesspiegel and Die Zeit, accusing them of assisting copyright infringement for having printed an interview with the operator of an alleged unauthorized ebook site, giving the site name as well – TorBoox, which claims to be the largest ebook piracy site in Germany, with 1.5 million books downloaded monthly.

While hosting copyright infringing material may be considered illegal, and, in some cases, linking to illegal content and indexing links containing illegal material has been considered illegal, to consider publishing an interview and just naming an illegal site as an infringement seems a little far fetched.

“With the direct and multiple naming of the Internet address the reader is immediately aware of the illicit supply of the website. With regard to objective journalistic reporting there was no need for direct nomination,” the publishers write in their complaint.

As the admin of the site in question told TorrentFreak, the funny part is that even the online magazine of the German Book Publishers Association had itself published the complete URL of the site. And while the publisher association decided to take action against the newspapers, it seems there is little to do against the site itself which has a hidden server (Tor) with its content. What’s more, the site operators intend to make it international.

The complaint was withdrawn right away but this shows the big mess related to liability over copyright infringement and the lack of adaptability of publishers to a new market. Only a few months ago, German researchers cooked up a new form of DRM aimed at discouraging piracy by changing the text of each book, thus creating a form of digital watermarking which is actually an invasion into the author’s work.

And although the e-books market is still limited, maybe it is time publishers should find ways to develop this market and conquer it by modern business models rather than spending money in court, suing newspapers.

Journalists Face Criminal Complaint For Mentioning Name of Pirate Site (30.08.2013)

“In the network there is no property” (only in German, 26.08.2013)

German publishers sue newspapers for just mentioning an e-book pirating site (5.09.2013)

Books steal as a business model (only in German, 25.08.2013)