John Wiley & Sons filed a copyright infringement suit last week in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York involving 27 “John Does” the publisher claims are illegally copying and distributing its For Dummies books through the use of Bit Torrent file sharing software. At present, Wiley only knows the IP addresses and names of the information services providers of the John Does, but a company spokesperson said the intent of the lawsuit is to learn the names of the infringers so the company can contact them to work out a settlement.

The Wiley spokesperson said the lawsuit is part of its overall anti-piracy program aimed at educating and stopping people from illegally copying its content. “Our objective is to approach them and to settle if they will agree to stop the infringement, sign a release to that effect, and agree to pay modest compensation,” the spokesperson said. Wiley has reached such agreements in other instances with copyright infringers, but this is the first time it has filed suit where it does not know the identity of the actual pirates, or, as the spokesperson put it, this is the first time the company has waged legal action in the “Bit Torrent environment.” The spokesperson noted that Wiley has not actually sued anyone, but has filed the complaint as an administrative step to learn the names of the infringers. “Our goal is to educate and settle,” the spokesperson said.

In the complaint, Wiley said losses from the pirating are “enormous,” though it could not put an exact amount on the damages. The company did note that Bit Torrent users on the site downloaded Photoshop CS5 All-in-One-for Dummies more than 74,000 times since June 6, 2010.

Wiley’s anti-piracy program began in 2004 and has four parts: education and deterrence: legislative; enforcement and litigation; and finding new business models to avoid business disruptions.