Publishing Companies Say Google is Liable for Promoting Pirated Textbooks

“The pirates are scofflaws who run illegal businesses devoted to piracy and frequently operate from abroad where they can often evade judgment enforcement. Google is a preeminent U.S. company that claims to set the ‘industry standard’ for eliminating ‘rogue sites’ from its advertising services.” – Publishers’ complaint

Several major educational publishing companies, including Macmillan, Elsevier and McGraw Hill, have sued Google in a New York district court alleging contributory and vicarious copyright infringement, trademark infringement and violations of New York’s General Business Law. The companies claim that Google’s search engine is facilitating infringement by promoting pirate sites that sell heavily discounted versions of educational textbooks.

According to the complaint, the publishers have been sending Google notices of infringement for years, but Google’s response has been “a circus of failures.” Rather than removing the ads for the infringing works, Google “has continued to do business with known pirates,” said the complaint, and “even threatened to stop reviewing all of the Publishers’ notices for up to six months simply because the Publishers appropriately re-submitted notices for infringing works that Google previously failed to act upon.”

The complaint included several examples of searches that resulted in ads for infringing works, such as McGraw Hill’s textbook Anatomy and Physiology: The Unity of Form and Function. A Google search for the book turned up paid ads that were almost entirely ads for infringing copies of the book. The Pirate Sellers include companies with names such as “madebook,” “LivyLuxe,” “Athena Line Store,” “Biz Ninjas,” “Cheapbok” and “Nardab,” “all of which have been included in the Publishers’ notices of infringement to Google,” said the complaint. Without Google’s Paid Ads feature, the sites would not show up in search results, the Publishers added. The Pirate Sellers also show up in Google’s shopping tab.

Most of the ads include images of the Publishers’ textbook covers, “which neither Google nor its Pirate Sellers are authorized to use to advertise or sell Infringing Works,” the complaint said, giving the books a look of legitimacy. The books are also priced extremely low, drowning out the market for the regularly priced textbooks. The complaint explained:  “Of course, the Pirate Sellers can sell their Infringing Works at such low prices because they did nothing to create or license them; they just illegally made digital copies of the Publishers’ works.”

In the case of Macmillan Learning’s textbook Calculus: Early Transcendentals, the complaint noted that the Publishers sent Google “at least ten notices…containing 651infringing URLs concerning the Pirate Seller, but Google continues to advertise the Pirate Seller’s Infringing Works.”

The companies further accused Google of being hypocritical in its purportedly pro-IP stance, including via various statements that claim it promptly blocks content from appearing when it is found to be in violation of copyright and that it verifies advertiser identities. “By claiming to subject ads to a review for infringing material, lending its seeming seal of approval to the ads, Google makes its users even more likely to purchase the Infringing Works they find through Google,” said the complaint.

Google also restricts ads for legitimate e-books, thus making the textbook market “upside down,” said the complaint. The search engine’s practices also harm consumers, who are often buying inferior products with lower resolution, that are incompatible with certain devices and contain non-working links.

The complaint claims the Publishers have been sending Google notices since June 2021, leading to numbers in the hundreds, and that they have been “directed to the agent Google has designated to receive infringement notices.” But in three examples, the Publishers sent:

“44 separate notices over a 14-month period identifying a Pirate Site at matchlistcity.shop (and at least 174 unique Infringing Shopping Ads promoting that seller’s Infringing Works and linking to the Pirate Site);

57 separate notices over a 15-month period identifying a Pirate Site at nardab.com (and at least 485 unique Infringing Shopping Ads promoting that seller’s Infringing Works and linking to the Pirate Site); and

at least 56 separate notices over an 15-month period identifying a Pirate Site at testbank23.com (and at least 2596 unique Infringing Shopping Ads promoting that seller’s Infringing Works and linking to the Pirate Site)

and yet “Google continued to provide its services to assist and support the pirate[s’] infringement,” said the complaint.

The Publishers also attempted to sue the Pirates in district court and Google was aware of the injunctions issued in those case, but “with each case it became clearer that the problem needed to be addressed by Google,” said the complaint. “The pirates are scofflaws who run illegal businesses devoted to piracy and frequently operate from abroad where they can often evade judgment enforcement. Google is a preeminent U.S. company that claims to set the ‘industry standard’ for eliminating ‘rogue sites’ from its advertising services.”

The complaint is seeking claims for relief on four counts: contributory and vicarious  copyright infringement and violations of New York’s General Business Law, all asserted by the Publishers (Cengage, Macmillan Learning, Elsevier, and McGraw Hill); and trademark infringement, asserted by the Trademark Plaintiffs (Cengage, Macmillan Holdings, Elsevier, Elsevier B.V., and McGraw Hill). The complaint is also asking the court to find that google willfully infringed and is seeking damages and attorneys fees and costs.

Share

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com.

Join the Discussion

One comment so far. Add my comment.

  • [Avatar for Pro Say]
    Pro Say
    June 7, 2024 06:48 pm

    Well, yea, bu … bu … but information just wants to be free, free, free!

    (Welcome to our world, publishing companies. A world where Google (along with their Big Tech partners-in-crime) has no compunction and feels no shame also free-riding on the patented inventions of untold numbers of inventors and patent owners. Money over morals, our creator friends; money over morals.)

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Varsity Sponsors

IPWatchdog Events

Patent Portfolio Management Masters™ 2024
June 24 @ 1:00 pm - June 26 @ 2:00 pm EDT
Webinar – Sponsored by LexisNexis
August 22 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EDT
Women’s IP Forum
August 26 @ 11:00 am - August 27 @ 5:00 pm EDT
IP Solutions, Services & Platforms Expo
September 9 @ 1:00 pm - September 10 @ 2:00 pm EDT
Webinar – Sponsored by Anaqua
September 19 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EDT

From IPWatchdog