Book sharing site Scribd rejects claims of copyright infringement
- Categorized in: Movies
Guardian: Bob Johnson
The complaint, brought by American author Elaine Scott, alleges that the site "shamelessly profits from the stolen copyrighted works of innumerable authors" - claims that the San Francisco startup says are "without merit".
The case emerged after Scott discovered that a copy of her financial advice book, Stocks and Bonds, Profits and Losses, had been illegally uploaded to the site. In a 22-page complaint filed with a court in Houston, Texas, her lawyers allege that the site is building a multimillion dollar business out of supporting copyright infringement.
"They have built a technology that's broken barriers to copyright infringement on a global scale and in the process have built one of the largest readerships in the world," it says.
The San Francisco startup, which has received almost $13m in funding from investors, enables users to upload documents of any kind - including books, presentations and academic papers.
This has led the site to become known as the "YouTube for documents" and, just like the video sharing website, Scribd has experienced trouble with users who upload copyrighted files to the site without authorisation.
Last week, for example, copies of the new novel by Dan Brown were available for a short period before being taken down. Earlier this year JK Rowling told the site to remove copies of Harry Potter books that had been made available on it.
But while Scribd does not police the vast number of files on its site, it does take down any copyright-infringing material that is reported to it - in accordance with America's Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
A company spokeswoman said these provisions meant that the lawsuit was "without merit".
"Scribd is an online service provider that complies with - and goes above and beyond - the provisions of the DMCA. Scribd is therefore is entitled to the full protection of the DMCA's safe harbour provisions," she told the Guardian in a statement.
"Scribd does not want unauthorised content on our site; we built the industry's leading technology to prevent the upload of unauthorised documents. This is one of the reasons why best-selling authors and many of the world's largest publishers have chosen to put their works on Scribd."
Scott's complaint also attacks the method used by Scribd to filter out material which it knows is copyright, however. The company holds a database containing unauthorised copies of books that have been taken down from the site - against which it screens future uploads to filter out illegal material.
But Scott's lawsuit alleges that this is also a breach of copyright, and that "once a copyrighted work is uploaded to Scribd without the copyright holder's permission, the infringement is ongoing and permanent".
However, while Scribd's approach has clearly antagonised some in the publishing industry, it has also impressed others. Earlier this year Simon & Schuster, one of the world's largest English-language publishers, signed a deal with the site that saw it sell digital copies of books by best-selling authors including Stephen King.
Earlier this year, the website's co-founder and chief executive Trip Adler told the Guardian that he wanted to make Scribd a major player in digital publishing.
"The goal is to become the central hub of publishing, where we have all the written material - user-generated and professional," he said. "We want to be the place where people can publish instantly to their audiences ... and to get there, it's just about doing things step by step."
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