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John Wiley & Sons has expanded its lawsuit against P2P sharers of its books, adding 46 new “John Does”—file sharers identified only by their IP addresses until Wiley can get their ISPs to fork over their actual identities. This list is made up of people who shared Cooking Basics for Dummies and Vegetable Gardening for Dummies.

PaidContent speculates that Wiley’s goal is to force defendants to settle for a few thousand dollars, as with the RIAA, RightHaven, and other litigators before it. However, this sort of legal approach has proved risky lately, with one recent judge ruling that such Does should be sued one at a time. And RightHaven, who did sue one at a time, has gotten spectacularly slapped down by a number of judges and is now desperately trying to wriggle out of paying the legal fees from its losses. (Though, granted, its approach was based on much shakier ground than Wiley’s to begin with.)

The John Wiley lawsuits suggest the book business is turning to the type of aggressive litigation long used by the music and movie industries. Many critics decry these tactics, claiming that copyright penalties are grossly disproportionate to the offense and that content industries should focus instead on developing new digital business models rather than suing people. Copyright owners believe that lawsuits are an effective deterrent and claim that piracy is making it impossible for them to invest in new content.

Has there ever been an anti-piracy legal campaign that made more money than it spent? Has the deterrent effect ever been shown to prevent more losses by piracy (and not using the standard that every pirate would have bought the work legitimately, either!)? It could be that Wiley is the real “Dummy” here.

I imagine a lot of publishers are going to be watching the outcome very carefully. How this lawsuit goes could determine whether we’ll see dozens of publishers sue their potential customers or else channel their efforts (and money) into more productive ways of averting piracy.

 
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