Authors Guild members, Amazon Publishing, and Penguin Random House come together to combat ebook piracy
December 30, 2021
Seattle (December 30, 2021): The U.S. Court for the Western District of Washington awarded $7.8 million in statutory damages to 12 Authors Guild members, Amazon Publishing, and Penguin Random House for 52 acts of copyright infringement in a default judgment against Kiss Library, permanently shutting down the Ukraine-based ebook piracy ring. In a decisive opinion on December 20, 2021, Judge Marsha Pechman, senior district judge for the Western District, decided all claims for the plaintiffs and awarded $150,000 per infringed book, the maximum penalty allowed under U.S. law. The plaintiffs filed suit against the book piracy entity and its operators on July 7, 2020.
“We could not be happier with the decision,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild.” Authors rarely have the necessary resources to fight commercial-scale piracy and take on protracted litigation, so we are extremely grateful to Amazon Publishing and Penguin Random House for their collaboration on this action. Ebook and audiobook piracy impacts the ability of authors to earn a living and the ability of publishers to invest in new books that present a diversity of ideas, people and viewpoints so crucial to democracy, which is why all are working together to combat intellectual property theft. We are thrilled that the Court quickly grasped the facts and granted us each of our requests—imposing the maximum financial penalty, shutting down all Kiss-related domains, and sending a pointed message to pirated content websites.”
“Whether authors earn $500 or $5 million a year from the sales of their books, book piracy deprives them of their right to be compensated for their creative work. That’s why we felt it necessary to file suit against Kiss to send a message to piracy sites on behalf of the Guild’s 12,000 members—when you steal from one of us, you steal from us all,” said Doug Preston, one of the plaintiffs, a bestselling thriller novelist who also serves as President of the Authors Guild. “We will not stand idly by and allow criminals to profit from the illegal sale of our books in which we invest so much of our time, talents and emotional capital—robbing writers of their works not only steals money from authors and their families; it takes away a piece of the author’s inner self.”
Owned and operated by defendants Rodion Vynnychenko and Artem Besshapochny, Kiss Library did business through Kissly.net, Libly.net, Cheap-Library.com, and dozens of other domain names that illegally sold pirated ebooks at discounted prices to unsuspecting readers. These defendants sought to avoid detection and accountability by repeatedly masking their identities; registering the scheme’s domains with false information; and propping up a network of ever-changing domains. Even after the plaintiffs filed this lawsuit, the defendants continued their evasive tactics by attempting to destroy evidence relevant to their piracy scheme and dodge service in Ukraine. Once brought to light through plaintiffs’ investigation and filings, the Court found that the defendants’ “pattern of deception and evasion,” as well as “the seriousness of the misconduct,” justified imposing maximum statutory penalties and a broad permanent injunction. (Order at 6, 13.) The Court also supported its order by recognizing the “public’s compelling interest in protecting copyright owners’ marketable rights to their work and the economic incentive to continue creating literary works.” (Order at 9 (internal quotation marks omitted).)
“The judge’s order sends a clear message that piracy will not be tolerated and bad actors will be held accountable,” said Mikyla Bruder, Head of Amazon Publishing. “We are grateful to the Authors Guild and Penguin Random House for their collaboration in bringing Kiss Library to justice and protecting authors’ rights.”
“The award of the maximum amount of statutory damages shows that the Court recognized the serious impact of piracy on the entire publishing ecosystem. We hope this verdict serves as a wake-up call to all websites and search engines that regularly fail to enforce DMCA takedown notices. We will continue to work with our authors, the Authors Guild, and other publishers to send the message that ebook piracy should not and will not be tolerated anywhere or under any circumstances,” said Anke Steinecke, Penguin Random House’s Chief Legal Officer.
Read the court order below.
The Authors Guild is the nation’s oldest and largest professional organization for writers. Its mission is to empower working writers by advocating for the rights of authors and journalists. The Guild protects free speech and authors’ copyrights, fights for fair contracts and a living wage and provides an engaged and welcoming community for all published authors. For more information, visit www.authorsguild.org.
Amazon Publishing is a leading trade publisher of fiction, nonfiction and children’s books with a mission to empower outstanding storytellers and connect them with readers worldwide. They publish emerging, bestselling and critically acclaimed authors in digital, print and audio formats. For more information, visit apub.com.
Penguin Random House, the world’s largest trade book publisher, is dedicated to its mission of nourishing a universal passion for reading by connecting authors and their writing with readers everywhere. With over 15,000 new titles and more than 600 million print, audio and ebooks sold annually, Penguin Random House’s publishing lists include more than 80 Nobel Prize laureates and hundreds of the world’s most widely read authors.
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