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Scrbd.com raises Copyright questions

Written by Waheedan Jariwalla on 03 April 2009

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Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling has demanded that her wizard novels be removed from the Californian based site www.scribd.com Her legal team claims that the website did not have permission to publish the novels online.

The free document sharing service has been likened to a "YouTube" for documents. The site also features other works, including works by John Grisham, which are freely available to the users.

A spokesperson for the website, set up by Harvard students Trip Adler and Jared Friedman, has said that it operates a "notice and takedown system" where it will remove books if publishers demand the action, however many are concerned that Scribd is not proactively searching its database for pirated content, instead waiting for authors to submit complaints before pulling content down. As the site removes books if its publishers demand it, it makes the site compliant with the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act which says that a website is not held liable for actions of its users of which it is not aware.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as Digital Rights Management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works and it also criminalizes the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself. In addition, the DMCA heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet.

Passed on October 12, 1998 by a unanimous vote in the U.S. Senate and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998, the DMCA amended Title 17 of the United States Code to extend the reach of copyright, while limiting the liability of the providers of on-line services for copyright infringement by their users.

Now that Scribd's piracy issues are receiving widespread attention, more authors and publishers who weren't even aware of the site may begin to discover that their content is being illegally hosted as well.

Scribd currently has more than 50 million monthly users and more than 50,000 documents are uploaded daily.

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