Magazines win lawsuit against file-sharing website

A collective of magazine publishers from America and Britain has been successful in a copyright lawsuit against a website that invited users to upload and share entire scanned issues of magazines.

Press Gazette reported in July that the Periodical Publishers Association had alerted its members that Mygazines.com was illegally hosting entire copies of magazines such as GQ and Marie Claire and it encouraged publishers to issue cease and desist letters to the PO Box address on the Mygazines website.

PPA said this was unsuccessful and the proprietor of the website was proving difficult to track down. The group then advised members to join in a lawsuit that had begun in America and Canada.

Lawyers representing publishers including IPC’s parent company Time Warner, Natmag owner Hearst, Hachette and Reed Business Information have now settled their case against the proprietors of the site – which was eventually tracked down to an individual living in Toronto, Canada.

The terms of the settlement have not been disclosed, but all titles published by companies involved in the lawsuit have been removed from the website.

American law firm David Wright Tremaine LLC represented the claimants, and was first alerted to the site though the firm’s publishing clients. The firm used a number of different investigative techniques to locate the owner of the site – which had a domain name owned by a company in Anguilla and constantly shifted its web host from country to country.

Lance Koonce, of David Wright Tremaine, said once the firm had tracked down the site’s owner to Canada, it joined forces with Canadian law firm Heenan Blaikie. The US law firm proceeded with a request for an emergency injunction to get content removed in the US and Heenan Blaikie proceeded on a parallel track in Canada.

The Magazine Publishers of America – the equivalent to the PPA – also brought proceedings in Canada and reached a settlement with the site operators.

Koonce said: “The size of the group demonstrates the seriousness with which this infringement was viewed, and the resolve of the publishers to put a stop to it.

“Online piracy is an ongoing threat to all content providers, regardless of medium, and will continue to be a threat until there is a more global understanding among the public that the continuing ability of content providers – including the writers, artists, musicians who author the underlying works – to create and distribute that content depends upon receiving a financial return for their efforts.”

The Mygazines owner has now been identified as Darren Andrew Budd. In July, an individual claiming to be behind Mygazines wrote to Press Gazette under the name John Smith, claiming he was not acting as a “pirate” and said that critics were “completely missing our inactive revenue model”.

Koonce said: “While there are certainly many innovative business models for distributing content, ones that are based upon outright theft of the end product of other people’s efforts, as is the Mygazines site, are merely parasitic and in most cases illegal.”

James Evans Senior, legal executive at PPA, said the site’s operator had been difficult to track down.

He said: “He didn’t respond to people’s notice of takedowns and he tried to make it as difficult as possible to find him. It’s all about permission and maintaining a certain element of control so the brand is protected.

“It’s really highlighted the threat that magazines are facing from online piracy and online copyright infringement.”

Evans added that there were plenty of legitimate services in the UK such as Exact Editions that work with the permission of the publisher.

Mygazines is still operating – but all the titles involved in the lawsuit have now been taken down.

Haymarket title Four Four Two is still on the website. Although Haymarket was not involved in the lawsuit, it is understood to be pursuing the matter.

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