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German court throws the book at RapidShare

February 24, 2010 |  2:58 pm

Pirates Book publishers claimed a key legal victory over a large European website that was found to have hosted copies of pirated books.

A court in Hamburg, Germany, has declared that "copyrighted literary works are unlawfully being made publicly available in the context of a share-hosting system on the Internet," a group of six major publishers said Wednesday.

The court on Feb. 10 ordered RapidShare and its owners, Christian Schmid and Bobby Chang, to "promptly block access" to pirated books and "take precautions going beyond this in order to prevent ... further similar infringement."

The company, based in Switzerland, did not respond to an e-mail requesting a statement.

Book piracy has become a growing concern for publishers as they begin to distribute more of their titles in digital formats on devices such as Amazon.com's Kindle, Sony's Reader or the upcoming Apple iPad. To combat piracy, publishers have been quietly issuing so-called takedown notices to websites that host or facilitate the sharing of pirated books, requesting the sites to delete or shut down access to the files.

Their suit against RapidShare is among the industry's first concerted efforts to tackle a website and is akin to lawsuits lobbed by music labels against Napster in 1999 and 2000 for copyright violations. The six publishing plaintiffs were John Wiley & Sons, McGraw-Hill, Macmillan, Reed Elsevier, Cengage Learning and Pearson.

RapidShare accounted for 36% of the 53,000 takedown notices issued by publishers between July and December, according to a study by Attributor, a content monitoring consulting service based in Redwood City, Calif. The site attracts more than 42 million visitors a day, representing just under 3% of the world's Internet users, according Web traffic tracker Alexa Internet.

-- Alex Pham

Photo credit: Looking Glass via Flickr.

Follow my random thoughts on games, gear and technology on Twitter @AlexPham.

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