New magazine-sharing site escapes copyright laws abroad

A new site that lets users share digital copies of magazines conveniently slips around U.S. copyright laws by hosting its domain name and servers abroad.

With its tagline, "upload. share. archive.", it may have been inevitable that the magazine-sharing Web site Mygazines.com would face allegations of copyright infringement.

Mygazines, which announced its launch in late July, allows users to upload and share magazines. Digital copies of the magazines on the site are easy to read, and users can comment on them, leave ratings, and use articles to create their own "custom" magazines.

The site is free to join, and there are no advertisements, but that hasn't allayed concerns of magazine publishers.

Dawn Bridges, a spokeswoman for Time Warner's Time division, told the AP that the publisher is looking into ways to have the site shut down.

Usually, a company encouraging its users to share copyrighted material could be held accountable for infringement. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the file-sharing site Grokster could be held liable for the copyright violations of its users, since the site took "affirmative steps to foster infringement."

There is a hitch in the case against Mygazines, however. Mygazines is registered in the Caribbean island of Anguilla and hosted in Sweden, by the notorious PRQ. The Stockholm-based PRQ is owned by the founders of BitTorrent tracker site Pirate Bay and is known for hosting other dubious sites.

With its domain name registered abroad and its servers beyond U.S. borders as well, Mygazines seems to have slipped around the jurisdiction of U.S. copyright law. Even though publishers could pursue legal action against the site for material available in the U.S., there'd be no way to get representatives for the company to court or to collect damages.

So if Time and other publishers are looking to thwart Mygazines and its more than 16,000 users, it may have to go after VeriSign, which maintains the master .com database.

Or, it could look across the Atlantic. It's not an impossible task: in February 2008, a Swedish prosecutor charged four men connected to Pirate Bay with conspiracy to violate copyright law; a week later, a Danish ISP was ordered to block Pirate Bay.

 

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