In an indictment unsealed this week, two Russian nationals are now facing criminal charges in the U.S. for their role in running one of the world's most notorious e-book pirate sites.
According to court filings, the U.S. Department of Justice is charging Anton Napolsky and Valeriia Ermakova with criminal copyright infringement, wire fraud, and money laundering for operating the popular Z-Library pirate site. The pair was arrested on November 3 in Cordoba, Argentina at the request of U.S. authorities, just days after site's highly trafficked domains were seized by the DOJ and blocked.
Z-Library, which has been active since 2009, billed itself as “the world’s largest library” and claimed to offer more than 11 million e-books for free download in a variety of file formats via what court documents call a "complex network" of 249 interrelated web domains. It was especially popular site among college students, many of whom used the site to access costly textbooks and expressed dismay with the site's shutdown. The site carried all categories of books, ranging from textbooks to trade books to self-published titles.
“As alleged, the defendants profited illegally off work they stole, often uploading works within mere hours of publication, and in the process victimized authors, publishers and booksellers,” stated United States Attorney Breon Peace, in a statement. “This Office is committed to protecting the intellectual property rights that enable creative and artistic expression, and holding individuals accountable for threatening those rights.”
In a statement, officials at the Authors Guild applauded the arrest and indictment.
“The arrest and indictment of Z-Library operators is one of the biggest breakthroughs in the fight against online criminal e-book piracy to date,” said Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger, in a statement thanking the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and to the FBI for shutting down the site and arresting the principals.
“While we are heartened by the takedown and the resulting reduction in harm to authors, we are not unsympathetic to the plight of those college and other students who have perhaps felt forced to resort to such illegal pirate websites and other free sources of textbooks to help them manage the extremely high cost of higher education," Rasenberger said. "However, these students’ anger is misdirected. The exorbitant cost of education should not be borne by authors and publishers but by the universities, and it should not be used to justify reliance on foreign criminals for textbooks or to trivialize the immense personal and economic harm Z-Library was causing authors who are trying to make a living under increasingly difficult and hostile economic circumstances.”