An international alliance of publishers and publishing associations has succeeded in getting a Munich court to serve cease and desist orders to the operators of two Web sites that have been illegally offering more than 400,000 copyrighted books for free. The operators, currently based in Galway, Ireland, are estimated to have earned over $10 million annually from advertising sales, donations and premium subscriptions.

According to the Association of American Publishers, the investigation took over seven months to complete and spanned seven countries. A total of 17 publishing companies filed requests for injunctions involving 170 titles. The Landgericht, a regional Munich court hearing the case, issued its order in December, but was only able to serve the injunctions on Irina Ivanova and Fidel Nunez, the operators of the Web site and, on Tuesday.

AAP president Tom Allen said the case is "a clear example of the complexities in dealing with international Web sites." Not only was it difficult to find the identities of the operators of the sites, but the top level domain names led as far as Italy and the Pacific island of Niue. Servers were also moved from Germany to the Ukraine. The legal action was coordinated by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, the International Publishers Association and the law firm Lausen Rechtsanwälte. “It’s very difficult to find solutions to piracy when [pirates] hide their identities and jurisdiction is in question,” said Maria Danzilo, legal director at Wiley Global Education (a division of John Wiley, which is one of seven AAP members who participated in the action).

Coming shortly after the defeat of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), Allen said the difficulty in pursuing action in this case highlights the need to find an easier, and more efficient, way to deal with international pirates trading in U.S. intellectual property. Allen told PW that while he hopes the action deters others from pirating U.S. content, he is under no illusions that one court ruling will eliminate the issue. “There is an underlying problem that can only be constrained by legislation,” Allen said. “We want to protect jobs in the creative industries by pursuing people who are scatter all over the world.”

Danzilo noted that publishers are in contact with Dr. Ursula Feinder-Schmidt, the lead lawyer on the case at Lausen Rechtsanwälte, to ensure that the injunctions are enforced. Publishers are also in touch with Feinder-Schmidt about coming up with ways to combat massive copyright infringement. As Danzilo put it, the case “is not the end of the story--it’s just the first round.”