Textbook Publishers Go After Hotfile

     MIAMI (CN) - Five major textbook companies sued Hotfile and the "foreign national residing in Florida" who ran it, claiming the Internet site profits by illegal file-sharing of their books.
     Pearson Education, McCraw-Hill, Elsevier, Cengage Learning, and John Wiley & Sons sued Hotfile Corp. Anton Titov, in Federal Court.
     Hotfile is a Panamanian corporation that operated the Hotfile website. Titov "designed the Hotfile software, participated in the design of its business model, was one of only a handful of principals responsible for the daily operation of the service and profited from that business," the lawsuit states.
     Hotfile and Titov already have been found liable for copyright infringement in this court, the publishers say, in Disney et al v. Hotfile Corp. et al (Southern District of Florida, Sept. 20, 2013).
     Citing that ruling, the complaint states: "According to the Court, '123 million files available on Hotfile's system have been downloaded 2.9 billion times ... and have resulted in the registration of 5.3 million users. This has worked a significant financial benefit to Hotfile and its founders.'"
     The plaintiffs describe themselves as "five of the largest textbook publishing companies in the United States. They are venerable American institutions, some having been established over 100 years ago. Each year, they publish thousands of titles, most or all of which have been illegally downloaded and then distributed through the operation of the website and service located at www.hotfile.com ('Hotfile' or the Hotfile website'). Plaintiffs depend for their livelihood on the legitimate sale of their works. Hotfile's actions have caused enormous damage to their business."
     Hotfile's online file storage service allows users to anonymously download digital content other users have uploaded with no restrictions on content, the publishers say.
     "The vast majority of the content on Hotfile were unauthorized copies of copyrighted works, many owed by plaintiffs," the complaint states. "Indeed, defendants encouraged the use of their service for copyright infringement. Defendants also profited from the prevalence of copyrighted works on the site, using them as a draw to sell premium access to the site."
     Hotfile attracts users by paying people who post popular and large files, according to the complaint.
     It adds: "Hotfile sold premium subscriptions, which granted users faster download speeds, unlimited number of downloads and longer storage times for files they uploaded. Premium subscriptions were available for nine dollars per month."
     The publishers seek statutory damages up to $150,000 per work infringed and attorneys' fees.
     They are represented by Karen Stetson with Gray-Robinson of Miami, and Matthew Oppenheim with Oppenheim + Zebrak of Washington, D.C.