Publishers sue Shopify for alleged copyright and trademark violations
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Publishers sue Shopify for alleged copyright and trademark violations

Five major publishing companies have filed a lawsuit against Shopify over pirated learning materials like PDFs of ebooks and test materials. Macmillan Learning, Cengage Learning, Elsevier, McGraw Hill and Pearson Education allege that the e-commerce platform failed to remove listings and stores that violate each publishers’ trademarks and copyrights. Their complaint, filed Wednesday in the US District Court for Eastern District of Virginia, states that Shopify allows many websites to use its technology to illegally print and sell textbooks, test banks and other materials that are identical or “substantially indistinguishable” from the publishers’ products.

The lawsuit alleges that Shopify “plays host, enabler, and protector to a world of digital textbook pirates”  and “assists and profits from the online sale of infringing copies” of textbooks and other merchandise. The complaint asserts that since 2017, Shopify had received detailed legal notices nearly every week naming specific subscribers who use the company’s services to engage in piracy. Despite this, the publishers stated that Shopify failed to take action against people selling allegedly “pirated content” on the platform.

Shopify’s failure to handle textbook pirates, according to the publishers, has a negative impact on the companies’ bottom lines. The illegal digital copies of textbooks are offered for a fraction of the price of official digital textbooks, lowering perceived value and resulting in decreased sales.

The publishers seek the maximum amount of statutory damages provided by law, up to $150,000 per infringed copyright and $2 million for each counterfeited trademark.