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Publisher's Books so Good They Get Hacked

Leverager of our synergies
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I am sending this because I thought No Starch Press' story of copyright
infringement would be of interest to you. Recently, we discovered that two of
our books have been illegally circulated on the Internet. Because this was
the result of anti-copying circumvention by the perpetrator, we could have
pursued legal action under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. However, we
have chosen not to, and we outline our reasons why in the story immediately
following this message.
Please contact me with any further questions.
John Mark Walker
Marketing Manager
No Starch Press

No Starch Press Chooses not to Prosecute Under the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act (DMCA)
San Francisco, April 3, 2003 -- Apparently, No Starch Press' books are so good
that others see fit to illegally distribute them. The independent computer
book publisher announced today that two of its books, "Absolute BSD" (ISBN
1886411743, July 2002, $39.95) and "Crackproof Your Software" (ISBN
1886411794, November 2002, $34.95) were illegally circulated by a cracker,
mostly likely in eastern Europe. The cracker, who goes by the moniker "EEN",
probably downloaded them piecemeal from an online reference site and
converted them into PDF format with no copy restrictions. He then placed them
on various bulletin boards on the Internet. A spokesperson for the online
reference site (which hosts works from many other major publishers) claimed
that this was the first time anything of this sort had happened.
Bill Pollock, President of No Starch Press, had this to say: "Clearly, this
act violates copyright and is patently illegal. It's also very difficult to
prosecute, especially since there is no smoking gun. While some might say
that we should pursue both the online reference site and the maker of the
tools likely used for the conversion, I disagree. The legal issue is with the
copyright violator, not with the maker of the file conversion software."
Pollock added that there may even be a welcome side-benefit: "I am in no way
encouraging people to post illegal copies of books. But the funny thing is
that having that illegal copy floating around may actually serve to increase
print sales of the books by making them visible to a wider audience." Pollock
noted, however, that in this case, all references to No Starch Press were
removed, thus curbing the amount of extra notoriety to be gained.
No Starch Press is not opposed to releasing books for free online. In fact,
the company has successfully published three books under open licenses in the
past. "Readers can view or download the complete editions of No Starch Press'
'Programming Linux Games', 'Linux in the Workplace', and 'The Linux Cookbook'
online," says Pollock. Thus far, the online availability of these books does
not appear to have hurt print book sales, despite popular fears to the
contrary. However, as Pollock added, "We like to leave the decision to
publish free versions of books up to our authors. In this case, however, the
wishes of the books' authors were not respected, and that is of great concern
to us."
While the case could be prosecuted under the DMCA (Digital Millennium
Copyright Act), Pollock will not pursue such action. "The act of copyright
infringement is illegal, but file conversion tools have legitimate uses and
should not be criminalized. We support the Digital Choice and Freedom Act,
which would reform the DMCA to recognize the rights of readers."
The irony of one of the cracked books being "Crackproof Your Software" is not
lost on Pollock, either, though that book is not about securing online books.
"One of our bestselling titles is 'Steal This Computer Book'; perhaps someone
took the title a little too seriously, though they've yet to hack that one."
###Contact: John Mark Walker johnmark@nostarch.com 415-863-9900
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First, I applaud the decision not to use a bad law in a good cause.
But using the word "hack" in this way really dilutes the meaning of the word even beyond its current degraded use. Originally, hackers were people who did clever and unusual things. Then, because of media phobia of people who are clever and unusual, "hackers" came to mean people who used such abilities to break into computer systems. Here "hacking" is reduced to plain copying of text. Next we'll hear of people "hacking" texts with Xerox copiers, I suppose.
The two armies met. But instead of battle, they decided to eat some pie and contemplate this tiny ad:
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