home > anti-piracy > Website Blocking >
Z-Library claims to be the world’s largest e-book library, and while Amazon might dispute that, there’s no shortage of content for visitors to enjoy. With 10.8 million e-books and nearly 89 million articles, the Z-Library is an impressive resource, but trouble is ahead in India. After a publisher found 10 of his books in Z-Library, a court ordered ISPs to ban the site.
Taking knowledge online is essentially free, but those curating that knowledge may have their own plans as to where, when, and at what price their work will be made available.
For millions of website publishers, the problem mostly resolves itself, but for those with more restrictive offerings in mind, such as physical book sales or a digital subscription offering, the broader internet can prove a disruptive competitor.
Millions of academic papers, novels, textbooks and journals are now just a few clicks away, making unlicensed sites like Sci-Hub and Libgen extremely popular and prime candidates for piracy enforcement. Shutting down the platforms has proven impossible, with publishers regularly seeking injunctions requiring ISPs to ban them.
Sci-Hub fights such a case in India and receives support from students and academics. But while everyone was focused on Sci-Hub’s groundbreaking standoff, which some see as crucial to achieving equality in education in a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, another lawsuit against a similar website slipped into court unnoticed and went with one significant prize from the race.
Z-Library is suddenly no longer available
A few days ago Aroon Deep from Enttrackr contacted us with an interesting find. When trying to access Z-Library, a Libgen-related platform that offers almost 100 million articles and e-books, something else appeared instead.
“The website has been blocked in accordance with the order/order of the Hon’ble Court,” the message read.
Deep noted that the same text appeared when accessing the Z-Library from ISPs such as ACT Broadband and Reliance Jio, but which court ordered the ISPs to ban the site, and on whose behalf, was unknown. The ongoing Sci-Hub/Libgen case has been widely reported around the world, but it seems nobody saw this Z-Library case coming, despite its obvious relevance to Sci-Hub and the broader debate on access to knowledge.
Publisher targeted Z-Library in a West Delhi court
The Z-Library ban mystery was solved yesterday when the Department of Telecommunications disclosed the ban order and Deep posted a link on Twitter.
The document confirms that a judge in a Delhi court ordered local ISPs to start blocking the Z-Library in response to a complaint by publisher Taxmann Publications Pvt Ltd. Background to the case set out in previous filings shows that at least 12 parties are named as defendants.
allegations of copyright infringement
Defendant #1 is listed as z-lib.org and is complemented by three other domains – 1lib.in, booksc.org and booksc.eu. Defendants 2 to 10 are internet service providers including Vodafone, Reliance Jio, Tata Teleservices and Bharti Airtel. Defendants 11 and 12 are Indian government agencies, the Ministry of Communications and IT and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY).
In April 2022 the court heard that Taxmann Publications Pvt Ltd is a reputable company which has spent “a huge amount of money” developing its business. Taxman, a publisher of books on tax and corporate law, considers Z-Library a “rogue website” that engages in widespread piracy, including offering pirated copies of ten books for which it owns the rights .
Plaintiff’s attorney said that Z-Library does not have a physical address to which a notice could be served, but after considering his claim, the court was satisfied the publisher had a case.
Court issues injunction
In an order dated May 12, 2022, District Judge Dinesh Bhatt wrote that since Taxmann owns the rights to the ten books and Z-Library is offering them in electronic format free of charge, an injunction to stop future violations is appropriate.
“In view of the foregoing, Defendant #1 is prohibited from making Plaintiff’s books (ten books, as identified in the complaint) available for download on its website in PDF format or any other mode,” the order reads .
Two other orders dated May 21 and August 1, 2022 are not currently available on the court’s website, but the pattern is known in Indian lockdown cases. By order of the court, the two defendant ministries ordered the said ISPs to implement a ban in order to prevent their subscribers from accessing the “rogue site” in question.
Compliance with the final blocking order (linked below) will be reviewed in September. Two or three of the ISPs didn’t immediately block the Z-Library domains, leading to warnings from the other ISPs that the Z-Library would remain accessible if they didn’t block at the same time. All ISPs must do this now.
Given the scope of the injunction and the limited domains listed, the Z-Library will likely remain accessible through other domains available to it. Some of these were temporarily suspended by a Chinese registrar last year following copyright complaints from Harvard, but the decision was later reversed.
The blocking order (file number: CS (COMM)/221/2022) can be found here (pdf)