In publishers' ongoing fight to shutdown pirate sites, Cengage, Elsevier, Macmillan Learning, and McGraw Hill filed a lawsuit on June 5 accusing Google of promoting pirated copies of their textbooks. In the suit, the publishers are seeking unspecified monetary damages as well as a court order to prevent Google from engaging in further copyright infringement.

According to the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Google advertises and promotes known pirate websites that sell unauthorized copies of textbooks and other educational materials in violation of copyright and trademark laws. Furthermore, the suit charges that the tech giant continues to promote these sites despite receiving tens of thousands of infringement notices from the publishers and repeated requests to address Google’s relationship with known pirates of infringing digital content. The suit also stresses that without Google's advertisements, the pirate sites would have a difficult time remaining in business since they are largely unknown to the public save for these ads.

Publishers have a long history of fighting Google over piracy concerns, and this most recent suit notes that publishers have been complaining about its ads since 2021, with Google doing little to address the issue.

“The Publishers have reported infringement after infringement to Google, only to have those reports ignored. Google has continued to advertise infringing works while simultaneously restricting ads for authentic educational works—supporting piracy instead of legitimacy,” the complaint states. “Google’s conduct violates the Copyright Act, the Lanham Act, and New York’s General Business Law, causing immeasurable harm to Plaintiffs. Now, that harm must be remedied."

“Google operates a shopping marketplace that is essentially a thieves’ den. It is rife with pirates, while excluding similar ads from legitimate sellers,” said Matt Oppenheim from Oppenheim + Zebrak, who are representing the publishers. “Google has been told over and over again about the pirates, but puts its own profits ahead of the law.”