Monday, March 30, 2009

Scribd Under Attack

On March 20, I did an article on Scribd, a document-sharing website with more than 50 million monthly users. Anyone can post a document to the site and, according to Wikipedia, Scribd is "the world's largest library of user-generated documents."

In my post here, I quoted the Washington Post from March 17 here:
Scribd has announced that it has partnered with a number of major publishers, including Random House, Simon & Schuster, Workman Publishing Co., Berrett-Koehler, Thomas Nelson, and Manning Publications, to legally offer some of their content to Scribd's community free of charge.
Today the blogosphere was full of stories about published authors railing against Scribd for posting their works without permission. The UK's Guardian had an article here titled "JK Rowling Leads Fight Against Free Book Site Scribd." The article said Rowling was "shocked" to find her books available for free download on the website:
Neil Blair, Rowling's lawyer, said the Harry Potter downloads were "unauthorised and unlawful" and that the website had been asked to take them down. "We are aware of this and we've asked them to take them off," he said. "They are quite helpful and they act immediately, but they won't police it themselves."
The UK's Times Online here said:
Mindful of copyright concerns, Tammy Nam, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Scribd, says that it operates a “notice and takedown system”, where it removes books if their publishers demand it. She said: “If we get a request we usually respond in 24 hours.”
That policy keeps Scribd in compliance with the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). Signed into law in the U.S. on October 28, 1998, the DMCA limits the liability of online service providers if immediately block access to any copyrighted material once notified by the copyright holder or his agent.

Tech Crunch's Jason Kincaid pointed out here:
Rowling and her representatives are concerned that Scribd is not proactively searching its database for pirated content . . . Scribd says that it has an automated system that can prevent content that has previously been marked as pirated from being uploaded again, but . . . I have a hard time believing the system is working very well.
I agree with Jason. Scribd is a great idea that can help publishers promote authors and books. However, after this kerfuffle, the onus is on them to prove they are good citizens of the publishing world, taking an active role in avoiding copyright infringement rather than standing by passively and allowing well-known books to be posted to their site.

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