Tuesday 8 November 2011

Why BitTorrent for Dummies is biting Wiley

[Apologetic note: an earlier version of this post assumed that there wasn't such a title as BitTorrent for Dummies. There is -- and you can find it here. According to the website,
"This book not only shows you how to acquire BitTorrent, but also how to use it without picking up worms, viruses, and lawsuits".]
Bit-Torrent may pose a threat
to Wiley's format, but so too
does its vulnerability to
parody (here) ...
John Wiley & Sons has a number of lucrative product lines, few of which have been more high-profile than its much-loved For Dummies franchise.  How many of us have not at one time or another either surreptitiously picked one up in a bookstore and nonchalantly flicked the pages in search of a piece of information that we were too embarrassed to confess not knowing? And how many of us have at one time or another secretly wished that one of these useful tomes was available to relieve our anxieties on a topic that was new to our experience?

Anyway, one title which John Wiley and his corporate offspring must be ruing is BitTorrent for Dummies. According to Jim Milliott ("Wiley Goes After Bit Torrent Pirates", Publishers Weekly, 1 November) the company has filed a copyright infringement suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. All 27 defendants are John Does whom, the publisher claims, are illegally copying and distributing its For Dummies books through the use of BitTorrent file-sharing software. Right now, the 27 are identifiable only by their IP addresses -- and even their most intimate friends probably don't call them by those -- and by the names of their information services providers.

... and here
Wiley says the action is part of its overall anti-piracy programme which, like For Dummies books, is aimed at educating the public (it's also aimed at stopping people copying its content). The company is happy to settle its claims, which makes more commercial sense than litigating them, but the prospect of litigation is a good way of concentrating defendants' minds on agreeing to pay up by way of settlement. A spokesperson says that Wiley has not actually sued anyone, but is only filing the complaint as an administrative step in order to learn the names of the infringers. Wiley states that BitTorrent users on the demonoid.me site downloaded Photoshop CS5 All-in-One-for Dummies more than 74,000 times since 6 June 2010.

As an aside, this blogger notes the acute vulnerability of the For Dummies format to parody and wonders what steps Wiley may be considering taking in order to preserve the integrity of its brand.

Thanks, Chris Torrero, for the link.

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