'For Dummies' Publisher Targets BitTorrent Users

Dennis Faas's picture

The company that publishes "For Dummies" books is taking to court the people it accuses of pirating its titles and releasing the content via BitTorrent. This could be the first time an American jury has considered a case involving BitTorrent users.

BitTorrent is a technology for sharing large files, legally and illegally. It involves breaking down a file into hundreds of small pieces and downloading the pieces from many different sources, all at once.

The method allows a computer to obtain different pieces of the same file in any convenient sequence, making the transfer process much quicker and avoiding the problems of a single source that has a slow Internet connection.

Photoshop Guide Pirated On Mass Scale

Publisher John Wiley & Sons says illegal copying of its books and distribution via BitTorrent is widespread. It says its guide to Adobe Photoshop, for example, was illegally transferred across the Internet 74,000 times in just sixteen months. (Source: bbc.co.uk)

The company says it was able to find the various sources storing and uploading its books by means of their Internet Service Providers (ISPs), who handed over the BitTorrent-using customers' information after being sued by the publisher.

John Wiley & Sons then asked each person who had supplied this information illegally to pay $750 in compensation, and in return the publisher agreed not to take them to court. This amount is the smallest a defendant can be fined if a court ruling goes against them.

However, four New York residents accused of illegally sending copyrighted files over the Internet have refused to pay John Wiley & Sons.

The publishers' lawyers now say they plan to take the case against these four to court. If the verdict goes against the customers, a jury could decide they must pay a penalty of up to $150,000.

Process of Finding Offenders In Question

This trial could serve as an important test case for the way copyright holders presently pursue alleged infringers. Lawyers and technology experts are split over whether an Internet protocol address is enough evidence to link a particular individual to illegal file-sharing. (Source: torrentfreak.com)

Making such a connection, beyond a reasonable doubt, can be difficult if more than one person uses a single Internet connection.

What is more, if the accused relies on an unsecured wireless network, it's theoretically possible a neighbor may have tapped into the connection and have been responsible for the illegal file-sharing.

The "Dummies" case may also turn on whether Wiley can or cannot prove it has correctly gathered the details of the Internet connections concerned, and has accurately linked it to a specific customer without any administrative errors.

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