A New Copyright Lawsuit May Result in the Prosecution of Educators & Students Who Share Digital Materials

by Ernesto Van Dersar

John Wiley & Sons, one of the world’s largest textbook publishers, is continuing its efforts to crack down on BitTorrent piracy. The company has now named several people who allegedly shared Wiley titles online, and is demanding a jury trial against them. If these actually go ahead it will be the first time that BitTorrent-related evidence is tested in a US court.

dummiesLast fall, John Wiley and Sons became the first book publisher to go after BitTorrent users in the US.

By filing a mass-BitTorrent lawsuit the company followed mostly in the footsteps of several movie studios, who together have sued more than 250,000 people in the U.S. since early 2010. And the publisher didn’t stop at just one.

In recent months Wiley has filed more than a dozen mass BitTorrent lawsuits involving a few hundred John Doe defendants in total. The Does are all accused of sharing digital copies of titles including WordPress for Dummies, Hacking for Dummies and Day Trading for Dummies.

Wiley’s attorney William Dunnegan said previously that one of the main goals of the legal campaign is to obtain the personal details of the alleged infringers and offer them the opportunity to solve the matter through a settlement.

“Our intention is to stop the infringement and let individuals know that they are violating the law and depriving the creators of the works of rightful compensation. Our preference is to educate, settle, and prevent further infringement,” Wiley’s attorney William Dunnegan said.

However, this strategy doesn’t always work. While the courts and Internet providers have been cooperative in assisting Wiley to obtain the personal details of the alleged book pirates, a new filing suggest that some defendants are not taking the publisher’s settlement offer.

In one of Wiley’s cases four defendants have now been named in an amended complaint.

New York residents Jeff Ng, Ralph Mohr, Robert Carpenter and Xiaoshu Chen are no longer anonymous Does. Wiley is proceeding to call for a full jury trial against the quartet in which they will face accusations of copyright infringement and up to $150,000 in penalties for each offense.

Wiley’s attorney William Dunnegan declined to comment on the recent developments in these specific cases. “We are proceeding with these cases as a part of Wiley’s overall copyright enforcement and education program,” was the comment we got instead.

If one or more of the three cases indeed proceeds to a full trial it will be the first time that actual evidence against BitTorrent infringers is tested in court. This is relevant because the main piece of evidence the copyright holders have is an IP-address, which by itself doesn’t identify a person but merely a connection.

In a past RIAA court case experts described the evidence gathering techniques “as factually erroneous,” “unprofessional” and “borderline incompetent.” In addition, academics have shown that due to shoddy technique even a network printer can be accused of sharing copyrighted files on BitTorrent.

If the evidence is indeed tested in court, it should be a case to watch for sure.

That said, there’s also the chance that the lawyers are using the threat of a full trial by jury as a pressure tool to convince the defendants to settle. After all, the RIAA’s litigation campaign against individual file-sharers has shown that even when a jury awards hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages, lengthy trials cost more than they bring in.

First posted to Torrent Freak.  

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