Two Russian nationals have been arrested by the FBI for links to virtual libraries and pirated books. They are charged with criminal copyright infringement, wire fraud and money laundering. The operation was done through websites associated with Z-Library. This is the world’s largest repository of pirated books and articles. The Department of Justice revealed that, while these sites were seized, Russian nationals were arrested in Argentina at the request of the United States.
Napolsky and Valeriia Ermakova are the Russian nationals being charged in Brooklyn federal court. The three aforementioned violations of which they are accused are directly related to the actions of Z-Library. Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, argued in a statement that “as alleged, the defendants illegally profited from the work they stole.” Peace also made it clear that “they often uploaded works within hours of publication, and in the process victimized authors, publishers and booksellers”.
Pirated books in a booming industry
Since 2009, as reported in the indictment, Z-Library, is active and promotes itself as “the world’s largest library”. It claims to have more than 11 million e-books available for open download. “In addition to its home page, Z-Library operates as a complex network of approximately 249 interrelated web domains,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release.
It was also stated that “as part of this action, these domains were disconnected and confiscated by the United States government”. The Motherboard portal had made the first announcement, last week, that Z-Library had been removed. This came after authors and publishers complained that users were using TikTok to promote this site as a spot to pirate books and articles.
Networks as a pirate promotion center
The hashtag #zlibrary has reached over 19 million views on TikTok. The Authors’ Union filed a complaint with the Office of the United States Trade Representative during the first days of October. There it referred “to the countless videos posted by college and high school students and others around the world.” The same advertised this place to go to get free e-books.
The Department of Justice, in a press release on the matter, stated that it “extends its particular thanks to the New York Authors Guild and the London Publishers Association for their assistance”. Dave Hansen is executive director of the Authors Alliance, a nonprofit organization that supports authors who wish to make their works widely available to the public.
Hansen told Motherboard that the FBI removed Z-Library as part of a broader effort to limit access to pirated content. For the Authors Alliance executive, the work was done because normally there is a block to accessing the material through a paywall. For Hansen, students and researchers who rely on these types of libraries are the most affected by these types of seizures.