Piracy site takes on academic publishers

Piracy site takes on academic publishers
A new student literature website has emerged on the Swedish internet landscape. Student Bay could challenge academic publishing in the same way as Pirate Bay took on the music industry.

Student Bay works as a file-sharing system and makes use of software from Rapid Share. Students are encouraged to scan in and upload pages of course literature into an archive that they can then browse and download from. The archive is hosted by rapidshare.com.

“We do not have any files. We simply rent web space,” said a support technician at Rapid Share to The Local. He added that “we do not support illegal files, such as copyrighted material. We remove them on request.”

Students seeking to download a book from Student Bay without having uploaded a book first are requested to pay a 20 kronor (US$3.30) fee by text message.

Student Bay, which was launched earlier this week, carries a logo almost identical to that of The Pirate Bay. The contact information link on Student Bay leads readers directly to The Pirate Bay site. But despite the apparent connection, Pirate Bay founder Gottfrid Svartholm-Warg claims he has no knowledge of the site.

“I don’t know anything about it,” he told The Local.

The telephone number given as a contact for Student Bay and The Pirate Bay has been out of service when The Local has tried to call.

Four of the men behind The Pirate Bay will stand trial later this year on charges of being accessories to breaking copyright law for making films and music available for download on their web-site.

The Pirate Bay sees itself as a champion of the little guy in the face of market dominance by the giants of the music and film industries.

Elin Rosenberg, the chairperson of the Swedish National Union of Students, argued that the Student Bay site has come about as a result of the tight financial situation in which many students find themselves.

“We have been saying for ages that more needs to be done to keep down prices for academic literature.”

Rosenberg was keen to emphasize that while “an illegal solution is never a good solution”, the responsibility lies with publishers to ease the financial burdens placed on students in Sweden today.

Stefan Persson, CEO, of academic literature publisher Studentlitteratur AB, instead placed the responsibility for easing student financial difficulties on the state.

“I have every sympathy for the financial situation of students but the costs that are often quoted surprise me. The Student Barometer puts the average student’s academic literature expense at 150 kronor (US$ 25) per month, far less than for mobile telecoms for example,” Persson told The Local.

Persson pointed out that the sales tax on academic literature was cut from 25 percent to 6 percent around five years ago and that, added to competition and lower costs from internet retail, has meant that book prices have dropped accordingly.

Students have always copied books, Persson points out, but there could be a difference in the scale if Student Bay were to grow.

“We defend our authors and copyrighted material and legal measures would come into consideration.”

Elin Rosenberg emphasized that although students want to act within the law “if there is no possibility to act legally then alternatives must be found.”

A press release from Student Bay published on its site on Thursday follows the same line of reasoning.

“In Sweden it is claimed that education is free. Despite this students are forced every term to spend thousands of kronor on books necessary for their education. It is totally unreasonable.”