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Z-Library claims to be the largest e-book library in the world and although Amazon may dispute this, visitors are not lacking in content. With 10.8 million ebooks and nearly 89 million articles, Z-Library is a great resource, but in India there are problems ahead. After a publisher found 10 of his books on Z-Library, a court ordered ISPs to block the site.
Absorbing knowledge online is essentially free, but those who organize that knowledge may have their own plans for where, when, and at what price their work is made available.
For millions of website publishers, the problem usually resolves itself, but for those considering more restrictive offerings, such as selling physical books or a digital subscription offering, the Internet in the sense large may prove to be a disruptive competitor.
Millions of scientific papers, novels, textbooks and magazines are now only a few clicks away, making unlicensed sites like Sci-Hub and Libgen hugely popular and prime candidates for the fight against piracy. The platforms have proven impossible to shut down, so publishers regularly get court injunctions that compel ISPs to implement blocking.
Sci-Hub is fighting such a case in India and is receiving support from students and scholars. But as everyone focused on the historic stalemate of Sci-Hub, seen by some as key to educational equality in a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, another lawsuit aimed at a similar site slipped through the court unnoticed and walked out with a hefty prize.
Z-Library suddenly becomes unavailable
A few days ago, Aroon Deep from Entrackr contacted us with an interesting discovery. When you attempted to access Z-Library, a Libgen-related platform that offers nearly 100 million articles and ebooks, something else popped up instead.
“The website has been blocked in accordance with Hon’ble Court’s instructions/orders,” the message read.
Deep discovered that the same text appeared when accessing Z Library from ISPs including ACT Broadband and Reliance Jio, but which court ordered ISPs to block the site and in whose name was unknown. The ongoing Sci-Hub/Libgen affair has been widely reported around the world, but it seems no one saw this Z-Library affair coming, despite obvious relevance to Sci-Hub and the debate. broader on access to knowledge.
A publisher targeted Z-Library in a West Delhi court
The Z-Library blocking mystery was solved yesterday when the Ministry of Telecommunications disclosed the blocking order and Deep posted a link on Twitter.
The document confirms that a judge sitting in a Delhi court ordered local ISPs to begin blocking Z-Library in response to a complaint filed by publisher Taxmann Publications Pvt Ltd. The background to the case set out in earlier documents shows that at least 12 parties are named as defendants.
Copyright infringement claims
Respondent #1 is listed as z-lib.org and joined by three additional domains: 1lib.in, booksc.org and booksc.eu. Defendants 2-10 are internet service providers, including Vodafone, Reliance Jio, Tata Teleservices and Bharti Airtel. Respondents 11 and 12 are departments of the Government of India, the Ministry of Communications and Informatics and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY).
In April 2022, the court heard that Taxmann Publications Pvt Ltd is a reputable company that has spent a “huge amount of money” to grow its business. Taxmann, a publisher of tax and corporate law books, considers Z-Library a “rogue website” that engages in large-scale piracy, including offering pirated copies of ten books to which it owns the rights.
The plaintiff’s attorney said Z-Library did not have a physical address where a notice could have been served, but after reviewing his claim, the court was satisfied the publisher had a case.
The court issues an injunction
In an order dated May 12, 2022, District Judge Dinesh Bhatt wrote that since Taxmann owns the rights to all ten books and Z-Library is offering them free in electronic format, an interim injunction to prevent future infringement was appropriate.
“In view of the foregoing, Defendant #1 is precluded from offering Plaintiff’s books (ten books as mentioned in the Complaint) for download in PDF format or any other mode on its website,” reads the prescription.
Two other orders, dated May 21 and August 1, 2022, cannot currently be viewed on the court’s website, but in Indian blocking cases the pattern is well known. Following a court order, the two ministries named as defendants order the named ISPs to implement a block, in order to prevent their subscribers from accessing the “rogue site” in question.
Compliance with the final blocking order (link below) will be reviewed in September. Two or three of the ISPs did not immediately block Z-Library domains, triggering warnings from other ISPs that if they did not block together, Z-Library would remain accessible. All ISPs will have to do this now.
Given the scope of the injunction and the limited domains listed, Z-Library is likely to remain accessible through other domains available to it. A number of them were temporarily suspended last year by a Chinese registrar following copyright complaints from Harvard, but the decision was later overturned.
The blocking order (file number: CS (COMM)/221/2022) can be found here (pdf)