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In its effort to defend the record labels, musicians and the recording industry at large, the RIAA became perhaps one of the most disliked organizations in the world.

Yes, most people will agree that piracy is wrong and that laws protecting content creators and rights holders are sensible, but the RIAA's tactics in fighting piracy, which infamously included widely-publicized lawsuits against grandmothers (dead or alive), didn't win it many fans.

The RIAA, of course, hasn't been alone. The MPAA has employed similar tactics in its efforts to defend against the pirating of movies. And we can't forget the adult entertainment firms which have also turned to mass lawsuits.

Interestingly, book publishers have largely been silent when it comes to privacy, at least on the surface. That's somewhat notable given that few things are as easy to copy and distribute digitally (DRM-be-damned) than the written word.

But yesterday, TorrentFreak published the copy of a lawsuit it obtained showing that John Wiley and Sons, a major book publisher, is suing 27 individuals in New York federal court for distributing copies of its 'For Dummies' books on BitTorrent.

Apparently, they're just a handful of the infringers with a penchant for the company's books; John Wiley and Sons' complaint claims that a single book, Photoshop CS5 All-In-One For Dummies, has been downloaded nearly 75,000 times since June 6, 2010 trhough a single BitTorrent site.

So does this mean that book publishers are going to follow in the footsteps of the RIAA?

TorrentFreak notes that:

Although Wiley’s suit can be classified as a mass-BitTorrent lawsuit, the complaint is quite different from the ones we’ve seen thus far. Also, Wiley has hired the law firm Dunnegan LLC which has no track record of filing similar cases."

But what's interesting is that the as-yet-unnamed 27 defendents in the company's suit allegedly distributed its books just weeks ago on October 18 and 19.

That hints that John Wiley and Sons is getting more proactive about policing infringement, and it would seem entirely plausible that this initial lawsuit will be amended to add additional defendents.

Obviously, if this does mark the beginning of a trend in which book publishers take a more aggressive stance against infringers, one would hope that they'll learn from some of the mistakes the RIAA and MPAA have made.

In other words, they'll recognize that lawsuits, even if they do have some deterrent effect, often come at a significant cost, and at the end of the day, making sure you're offering compelling digital products to your customers across multiple channels and platforms is the only real way to secure your future.

Patricio Robles

Published 1 November, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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