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Publishers get ready to go to war with Poland's version of MegaUpload

The Polish Chamber of Books is preparing a case against Chomikuj, whose content storage and sharing facilities it claims are being used to pirate books.
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Written by Michiel van Blommestein on

A group of book publishing companies are filing a suit in Poland against Chomikuj.pl, a popular file-sharing service. The publishers are planning to take the website to court after the summer break, according to Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita.

Poland's publishing industry trade body, the Polish Chamber of Books, has been looking into legal action against Chomikuj (which means 'to hamster' in Polish) for a couple of years now, but has failed to get backing from enough publishers to bring a class action lawsuit.

With a sufficient number of publishers now on board, and the publishers - including legal publisher C.H. Beck and scientific publisher PWN - are ready to demand the portal's closure, the paper reports.

The Polish market for books is worth close to a $1bn a year, according to the Polish Chamber of Books.

For those outside Poland, the Chomikuj.pl site might not be a familiar one, but the service (which is akin to MegaUpload in both function and use) is massively popular in the country, drawing around 6 million unique users every month.

Officially, the service is for storing content online. Unofficially, the content is often pirated, and shared illegally between multiple users and it's drawn the ire of publishers for being used to share their books as PDFs.

Like its cousins, Chomikuj  defends itself by saying that it's only offering a vehicle for users to back-up the content they own, and that it can do nothing about those individuals who choose to misuse it.

Chomikuj also claims it has tried on several occasions to negotiate with content producers. However, it says, the publishers aren't interested and only want the service shut down.

The subject of Chomikuj is likely to crop up in the ongoing discussions between representatives of the various rights-holder industries and Poland's minister of digitisation, Michal Boni.

With the ACTA copyright treaty crashing and burning in Europe (a process that started with street protests in Poland and spilled out across its borders), the publishers are seeking some kind of alternative action on piracy, painting Poland as a haven for copyright infringement.

Legal action against piracy in Poland has so far concentrated on targeting individual users that have been sharing files - Poland is one of the countries in Europe where downloading files from an illegal source is legal.

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