Cooperative Online Library Smashed by Police

This story by enigmax at TorrentFreak is chilling. It explains the two sides of the story around the site, Chitanka.info, a site operated in Bulgaria like a cooperatively curated, online lending library. I am unfamiliar with the laws in that country, but how this story unfolded seems entirely unwarranted, especially given the detail that many of the works were uploaded by the authors themselves.

According to the government, the site was run by “a six person criminal group” with a “strict hierarchy” located in various cities around the country and the site’s server had been found hidden in the roof of a public building in Sofia. They also claimed that the “gang” added around 600 books, dictionaries, textbooks and other literary works every month.

The rest of the rhetoric is exactly the same moral panic we’ve heard before. At the behest of a book association, various publishers and translators, the authorities went straight to criminal action against the site. Most of the rest of the article are quotes from Chitanka, in tones of disbelief, debunking the claims upon which civil action was completely bypassed.

Aside from complying with any takedown requests (we are informed that the site took down any books associated with complaints), there is a fairly detailed post to be found here which suggests that under current Bulgarian law, as an “altruistic library” Chitanka is perfectly legal.

I can’t help but think as I read this how much big content here in the US would dearly love to be able to jump straight to criminal enforcement for the slightest copyright complaint. Haven’t we seen draft legislation exactly to that effect in the last few years, none of it thankfully getting anywhere? A chill runs down my spine as I think of the leaked drafts of ACTA that I’ve read through discussing civil and criminal enforcement that could encourage this sort of behavior much more broadly.

In the case of Chitanka, there has been at least a small victory for sanity.

But, as usual, the Internet community has reacted to the perceived injustices in the best way they know how – by copying. A torrent has appeared on The Pirate Bay titled “Static version of chitanka.info as of 2010-05-24″ which contains all of the material previously carried by Chitanka.

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