back to article Z-Library operators arrested, charged with criminal copyright infringement

Two Russian nationals accused of operating Z-Library – one of the largest online book piracy websites – have been charged with criminal copyright infringement, wire fraud and money laundering. According to a newly unsealed indictment, 33-year-old Anton Napolsky and 27-year-old Valeriia Ermakova, both of St Petersburg, Russia, …

  1. PhilipN Silver badge

    Wrong Target

    Respectfully suggest the Feds go after the publishers and booksellers onshore USA esp. educational and academic for ripping off students and professors with exorbitant pricing way in excess of pricing offshore. I know of at least one successful business making a mint from arbitraging the price difference.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Wrong Target

      Or journal publishers. You pay to publish, you do reviews for free, and then pay to read the papers. Again. It's not like they need to print this stuff anymore, nor send it overseas.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wrong Target

        To add insult to injury, the data published in those papers is almost entirely produced by public funded studies. So we are paying an entity to pirate the public knowledge and turn it private.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wrong Target

          This is the finest capitalism you can get...

          1. Sanguma

            Re: Wrong Target

            Maintained by the finest Congress money can buy! (Just think how good it was that the UK abolished slavery in 1803 and the US followed suit in the 1860s! If the people buying congresscritters had to see them naked, on the block, in the slave market, there might be a lot of totally preventable suicides! :) )

    2. Matthew Brasier

      Re: Wrong Target

      As an author I can tell you no-one is getting super rich in the publishing chain. There are many people involved in writing, editng, typesetting, producing, printing and distributing a book, and they all need to make a living. While I agree the current system isn't working well, the answer is not "arrest the people doing the job in the way current laws let them", and nor is it "let people have all this work for free".

      1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

        Re: Wrong Target

        You can legitimately ask why the cost of a digital resource, often produced by grant maintained research students with little other input, is relatively so high compared to the printed and physically distributed version? I don't suppose it could be that the publisher is profiteering?

        I could immediately refer to the retail chain - a current book is £11.99 (Kindle), £2.99 (audio) and only £10 hardcopy ... something obviously stinks

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wrong Target

          it's the scarcity thing. I've seen at least once a volume (well, 'digital') which was an eye-watering 170 quid or more, made me blink a good few times. And it wasn't a f... britannica in 25336 volumes or a breakthrough publication on hyperdrive, just a relatively niche compilation, for which the authors, if I remember, got nothing, zilch.

          the thing is, re. 'middle ground', there won't be any. People are a peculiar species, they either want ALL! THE MONEY! (and then some), or - FREE (unless I'm caught) No middle ground where either party would WILLINGLY let go of their original demand. Instead we have what we have, i.e. invisible market hand (suported by 3-letter agencies) on one hand, v. technology (torrents, etc.) on the other.

          1. AbominableCodeman

            Re: Wrong Target

            Don't forget to get this years version, which is identical to last year's. Apart from the arbitrarily reordered chapters, and the answers to the in-text exercises available only through a website, that can only be accessed using DRM serialised single use codes in the hard copy.

        2. Blazde Silver badge

          Re: Wrong Target

          "£2.99 (audio)" with Audible Membership, that's £7.99/month

          For Kindle Amazon are getting a big chunk (possibly as much as 65% for an £11.99 title, vs 15% for a paper book sold via Marketplace). Standard internet network effect price gouging. To be fair to them they did take a gamble, invested heavily in developing Kindle hardware and made the whole thing work at a time when a lot of cynics were saying ebooks would never catch on. And they democratised book publishing. (I for one welcome our new Amazon overlords...)

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: Wrong Target

            On the other hand, with Amazon you're tied to Amazon's ecosystem whether you like it or not.

            I used to use Calibre to rip ebooks that I purchased because my mother's ereader understands epub, not the DRM-infested rubbish that Kindle uses, but it was a moving target that required ADB to grab keys from the Kindle app on a phone and.....pain in the arse.

          2. Filippo Silver badge

            Re: Wrong Target

            That's all true, but do note that the author also gets a much bigger percentage on Kindle, compared to paper.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wrong Target

          Well for a start digital copies incur VAT where printed versions don't so that accounts for around 20% of the difference.

          1. Blazde Silver badge

            Re: Wrong Target

            Rish got rid of that 2 years ago, so that we would all avoid going to bookshops during the pandemic, or some other reason I forget.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Wrong Target

              Did he? I never noticed a sudden and sustained 20% price drop. I wonder where the extra money went? Not even a small price drop related to economies of scale as the market suddenly increased.

      2. Norman Nescio Silver badge

        Re: Wrong Target

        Tim Harford's More or Less podcast, hosted by the BBC looked into publishing recently (Do half of new books really sell fewer than twelve copies? 22nd October 2022). Worth a quick listen.

        tl;dl (too long; didn't listen) - No, it isn't half: but a surprisingly small percentage sell less than 5,000 copies.

        So I have some sympathy for authors who don't make a lot of money. But I am pretty sure that there is some 'Hollywood accounting' going on, because the likes of Wiley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Scholastic, Elsevier, inter alia are not short of a penny or two. I suspect the ones at the top of the publishing chain, just like the British supermarkets, do a pretty good job of screwing everybody else's costs down so they can make a lot of profit on the result.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wrong Target

        That may be remotely true in conventional book publishing, it's not in textbooks and journals. As an example, a programming "book" retails at a competitive price, viewed by most as fair. A "textbook" for a class on the same subject(and in some cases the literal same book) is 5x as expensive. Same for math textbooks.

        In many cases it's also badly written compared to the "book" version, and then the textbook publishing games start. Minor revisions at least every other year to try to make it impossible to follow a class with the "new" version of the book. And the whole industry glad to point the finger of blame at everyone else while doing everything they can to drive the prices up. My college math textbooks were all more than the 9th edition. One still contained a 48 word run on sentence, and none of them could be used to learn the material with a passing grade on their own. So they were a 3 digit tax that didn't even provide a minimum level of education. If you got stuck with a bad prof, tough luck, there is no way for you to learn what you need to from the department supplied and required material.

        Since most of the universities are public institutions, they COULD have published their own books for their own courses. Calculus certainly hasn't changed much in literal decades. Because the university system chose a predatory model designed to extract as much money as possible out of the students and their families instead of acting in the public and students interest by controlling costs. They want to recoup costs on the marble sports complex and the windowless sardine cans they pass off as student housing, because the more they drive up costs, the bigger their percentage of graft can grow without drawing two much attention. So textbooks stop being about student learning and become one more profit center, like the vending machines every 50 feet. All so the senior management can fuel multi-million dollar salaries funded by strip mining the next couple of decades of future earnings of their graduates.

        The power structure is backwards. The university staff should all be working for last years graduating class. If they don't want to sign off on your paycheck, you might have to lower their textbook price, invest in comprehensive learning resources, and provide student housing at an affordable rate.

      4. swm

        Re: Wrong Target

        I taught computer science. The book publishers would come around pushing their books. When asked, "How much is this book?" they didn't know. They said they would get back to me but never did. The typical cost was $200 per book. I found browsing at Barnes & Noble a book for $35 that had everything I wanted. The college book store didn't want to carry the book so I said my students can get it on Amazon. They finally got the book.

        Many of the expensive textbooks are poorly organized.

        Another scheme is "course packs" where the professor chooses the material to be included and a special run is made to print the books. This insures that the books can't be sold to next year's students because the content will differ.

      5. parlei Bronze badge

        Re: Wrong Target

        There is a huge difference between the "academic piracy" of sci-hub et al and the piracy of books (where textbooks are an ethically greyer area).

        The academic paper is to a large extend funded by the scientists and their grant money, and the publishers do very little of the work but reap excessive profits. A book is a different thing: that is someones work that they was hoping to derive some income from. Not to defend the DRM system, which is nasty (if I buy something I want to own it), but I do understand where it comes from.

        Textbooks: if the publishers were not too rapacious then the issue would be equivalent to the books situation. The authors -- who put in quite a bit of time into producing them -- needs to eat too. But gate-keeping university studies by means of "charging what the market will accept (when given no alternative)" is not a good policy.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Respectfully suggest the Feds go after

      oh please! Gov agencies prop 'the system', and publishing cartels, and many other highly unethical 'phenomena' are a part of that system. It's like asking, pleading, begging humans to get to their senses and stop destroying their own habitat. 2nd nature, won't happen.

    4. Snake Silver badge

      Re: Wrong Target

      Wait: why is it so horrible that authors who sold their creations, and then the manufacturers involved with the distribution of that creation, not be able to feed themselves?

      If cost is a factor in developing nations, can't some of the local academics create equivalent texts that they then freely share, either with online or free-to-license local reprinting?

      As a micropublisher I'm completely aware of how much this stuff actually costs, from creation, printing, binding, and surprisingly, shipping (paper is HEAVY!). It adds up really, really quickly. Sadly. Especially if you use decent quality stock, not newsprint grade. Those lovely perfect-bound, heavy cardboard-filled covered, nice print stock texts aren't cheap to produce and then ship, even in tremendous quantities.

      And have you recently checked international shipping rates from the United States? Ouch, is an excellent word. Prices have pretty much DOUBLED in the past year for any 'significant' package size, weight or value. I just had to use postal, with its inherent risks versus FedEx, for an international shipment because my cost had doubled for the FedEx package and I certainly couldn't pass that level of cost on to the buyer.

  2. DrBobK

    Is it still on Tor?

    1. pluraquanta

      They only ceased the domains, so I'd imagine so. Probably not for long though, assuming no-one's around to manage the servers anymore.

      1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

        lot of very capable engineers were made available this week, if I am not mistaken...

    2. Aussie Doc

      Is it still on Tor?


      The onion link still works.


  3. GlenP Silver badge


    They always were expensive, relative to "popular" books but the costs go up substantially with lower volumes so I didn't mind paying, back in the pre-Internet, pre-Google days there wasn't a lot of option.

    Where I objected (40 years ago now) was being told a particular book was an absolute requirement for the start of a 1st year Pure Maths course only to never once actually open it. Rumour had it that our lecturer was a friend of the author and only made it required reading to boost his sales while lecturing on a totally different set of topics.

    I have found An Introduction to Computational Combinatorics very useful though - as a sleep aid! :)

    1. Blazde Silver badge

      Re: Textbooks...

      I had at least 2 lecturers shamelessly make their very own books required reading. To be fair they both structured the course around the book but they weren't cheap and older books would have done just as well.

      I always waited until the book was actually used before buying it. Sometimes you'd need one chapter for a week and could just return it to the shop afterwards.

      1. Paul Kinsler

        Re: make their very own books required reading.

        In some cases the textbooks are a result of a lecturer polishing [1] their existing lecture notes, and are thus designed closely around the course they are presenting -- other texts simply wouldn't have the same degree of match. Other texts might do, but not infrequently a given lecturer's course is matched to their preferred emphasis(es), and so you might need to refer to two or more alternate textbooks, and even then find the notation, conventions, or preferred terminology differ.

        [1] Although I say "polishing" -- but in fact there is an astonishing amount of work required to turn even quite comprehensive notes into an actual textbook.

      2. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: Textbooks...

        "at least 2 lecturers shamelessly make their very own books required reading. To be fair they both structured the course around the book ..."

        A triumph for pseudo-education. A course should impart knowledge and understanding. That doesn't require the use of specific texts, except in the extremely rare case where the author has made a significant scientific breakthrough (e.g. Einstein or Feynman). In all other cases, any text that contains and clearly expounds the relevant information should suffice.

        However, this is apparently current accepted practice. The majority of public lectures I've attended in the last few years have been summaries of the presenter's latest book (i.e. personal promo to encourage sales). That it has infected formal academia is no great surprise given its transition into a consumer service.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Textbooks...

          A friend of mine once related a story about a course he was on. The lecturer basically "read" a chapter from the book per lecture and, being a "busy" researcher, disappeared at the end, no time for questions or discussion. The class attendance got smaller and smaller over the course of the term as students realised they got just as much information simply be reading the book and not bothering to turn up to have someone read it to them!

          Many, many years ago when I went to university, one of the first things we were told was to head off to the Student Union bookshop where we'd almost certainly find second hand copies of all or most of the books on the reading list. From what I understand of "modern" education, that's less of an option these days as the "current reprint" version of text books is the only acceptable version due to changes and updates in some cases, especially when the lecturer is the author.

      3. AbominableCodeman

        Re: Textbooks...

        Then you've missed the latest fashion for omitting vital parts of the text and making them only available through the use of single use passcodes contained in the textbook.

      4. LybsterRoy Silver badge

        Re: Textbooks...

        --I had at least 2 lecturers shamelessly make their very own books required reading. --

        Were either of them related to Gilderoy Lockhart?

    2. Pirate Dave Silver badge

      Re: Textbooks...

      My Statistics professor required us to buy his "textbook", which had been written by him and "published" by the local Kinko's Copies. Each book had a unique code on the inside front cover, and we were required to logon to the Prof's personal website and register that code to our name, or he would not give us a grade for the class. As well, there was an included CD (burned, not pressed) with numerous Excel spreadsheets on it that were required for the class, all were password encrypted, and it seems like the password was somehow tied to the book code. Ah, and he would not allow codes to be re-used, so there was no selling the book and disc on after finishing the class.

      The whole thing was annoying as hell, and to this day, 25 years later, still gets me dander up just a bit. Oh, and he wanted around $150 for the bundle back in the late 1990's. My "end of course" survey was not at all flattering.

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: statistics professor and the self-published scam

        The uni should have squashed that immediately, from the conflict of interest to the forced purchase indoctrination. The entire class should have marched to the director's office and demanded an immediate investigation as to why, and who, this was allowed by.

      2. GrumpenKraut

        Re: Textbooks...

        Wow, that makes my blood boil. Cars have been smashed for less than that.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Textbooks...

        I too, had a professor who required us to buy his "textbook" printed at a local printing shop. Exact opposite story, though - this was 2000ish and the book was around $25, versus the $130 textbooks required for other classes, so was far cheaper. (I think he had the printers sell it at his cost, rather than profit from it.)

  4. Lil Endian Silver badge

    Z-Library != zlib

    LMAO I haven't clicked on an article so fast for years! (Excluding BOFH ofc!)

    I must need some time off thinking the piece would be about zlib. Now that would be worthy of the tag "Cyber Crime Aah! Feck!"

    1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

      Re: Z-Library != zlib

      if you look at the zlib source code repository, you'll see that it go a documentation section that did grow somewhat, lot of epubs...

      1. Lil Endian Silver badge

        Re: Z-Library != zlib

        Vat eez zees zorz kowd ju speek of?

        [Sorry for the lack of proper white space my array[$param(0)..$param(1)] of $param(Type) = (|); was out of place

  5. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

    Where is latest dump?

    most be around somewhere...

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: Where is latest dump?

      They got most of their content from Library Genesis anyway, which is still around. Their Tor link still works, as far as I know.

  6. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Free education for all

    Academic papers should be free for all, first because most of them are written by people paid or subsidized by taxpayers. Having to pay to access those documents is a shame.

    == Bring us Dabbsy back! ==

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even more of a shame is the arbitrary extension of copyright

    I recently came across a paper on an electronics related subject which was published in the early part of the previous century. It was fundamental work I was interested in reading about.

    Regardless of the fact that the paper was even out of Disney's ridiculously long copyright period, the academic publisher still wanted $75 for the privilege of reading the paper! Somehow the academic publishing mafia thinks this is OK. I think they should be taken out and shot.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    still online: http://zlibrary24tuxziyiyfr7zd46ytefdqbqd2axkmxm4o5374ptpc52fad.onion/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Not anymore...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nope

        yes, still online

        1. Aussie Doc

          Re: Nope


  9. martinusher Silver badge

    Not all books are opyright

    Like with music the assumption by both publishes and their pet courts are that everything out there is owned / controlled by them and everyone needs to pay them a fee to access it. The epitome of 'rentier capitalism'.

    The reality is a lot of material is in the commons, its available for the cost of duplicating it. There comes a time when the old sheet music trick of changing a few phrasing marks here and there and registering the edit as a new copyright just won't wash any more. You've got to make original material (and to those who claim that any sort of copying is ripping the very crust from their childs' mouths, no, its not -- its the publishing combines that take all the money so self-publish if you want to get paid.)

    There's a special place in Hell for those (like the IEEE) who sell standards documents. Standards by their nature have to be public domain.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not all books are opyright

      Niether UK British Standards nor ISO standards are in the public domain - they have to bought (at a round a hundred quid a shot) and copies notionally are tied to the purchaser and can't be transferred. However the content of both is provided free of charge by professionals.

  10. CJ Hinke

    Vital resource seized for greed

    I’ve made 33 books in my academic career with five in process plus hundreds of journal articles. I for one ignore my publishers. The very first thing I do is post my books for free.

    On Z-Library, on Scribd, on Internet Archive, on my own websites. This is an old capitalist trick called advertising! The people who like your book or find it useful or beautiful will buy a more attractive & convenient print copy & perhaps gift their friends & colleagues.

    As an author, I get about a buck a copy. Nobody loses, particularly with print-on-demand books which sell for a higher markup.

    Academic publishers & journal have been shameless gougers since their beginning. Sonny Bono let that happen.

    We write because it’s vital to us to have people read our minds. For-profit publishers suck the life out of such sentiments, their books remaining in copyright but out-of-print & unobtainable.

    …Except for Z-Library, one a the few charities to which I donate money as well as books. For those of us in education in the third world where there are few libraries or university funding, Z-Library is a vital resource. Or we’re back to my students Xeroxing their textbooks.

    I’m betting these worthy folks had a backup plan like The Pirate Bay & will live to sail on.

    CJ Hinke


    Thammasat University


    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vital resource seized for greed

      I don't want to be a scarecrow (which I usually am), and a doomsayer (which I am), but I see signs, with my own eyses, that the Golden Age of Print (physical or digital) is nearing the end in the real of the great unwashed, aka mainstream public. On first sight you might say: I worry not, cause there always will be those who have to / want to / desire to read, particularly the works of fact, v. fiction. I would hope so, as I can't see how you can accomplish a certain degree of academicism off youtubes. On the other hand, the particular species under discussion has proven incredibly resourceful in streamlining the 'effort' part of their achievement curve, and I'm worried they'll find a way round those pesky alpabet codes.

  11. Sanguma

    First things first

    As we all know, the US pretty much sets the background for publishing internationally and the like; and as we all know, Disney Corp has done copyright to death in favour of keeping control of that dratted mouse. (it's what the Mouse Boys are good at, though ... Roasted Mouse!!!) Though they have yet to publish the posthumous works Walt Disney must have been busy at, to require posthumous copyright extensions. We should demand that Disney Corp do the decent thing and publish those posthumous works ...

    It's amusing, though. The US had a very very bad reputation in the 1800s for book piracy. It's one of the undercurrents in one of Chas Dickens' novels, Martin Chuzzlewit, where the central character, Martin Chuzzlewit, makes a journey to the US where he meets a succession of people, all regarded by their peers as the "most remarkable man in America" ... Dickens was not impressed by the US. I can imagine him writing a successor story to A Christmas Carol where the central character complains about publishers not being interested in the novels he's written posthumously.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: First things first

      They even stole the language. Although like many poor quality pirate copies there are a few typos

    2. Diogenes

      Re: First things first

      Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance was premiered in the US because they were sick of the way the Septics ripped of HMS Pinafore.

  12. Tron Silver badge

    True story...

    The very first threatening letter I received from lawyers was from academic publishers whom I had condemned online for their high prices and stranglehold on a market that the net should have opened up, delivering low cost/no cost educational resources to the entire planet.

    The internet was a gift to academia to allow it to justify its existence and its use of public money by making academic work available widely for free. But academic publishers didn't like the idea of taking their snouts out of the trough and have fought long and hard to keep syphoning off cash from students, schools and colleges, either PAYG from textbook sales ('updated' regularly or customised for specific institutions, to undermine the second hand trade) or via subscriptions.

    And yes, academic pricing is most definitely rapacious.

    1. Aussie Doc

      Re: True story...

      Dear nasty lawyers

      "I refer you to the reply given in Arkell v Pressdram (1971)"

  13. bonkers

    maybe combat the knowledge trolls with a library?

    I deeply object to fact that most scientific papers are paywalled.

    Invariably they are publicly or charitably funded, to some extent, and therefore should return that investment by being publicly available.

    The idea that the public purse should then finance maybe 150 years of free policing and prosecution, to support a few immensely rich knowledge trolls, is absurd.

    For that is the deal with regard to copyright. For comparison, patent rights extend for only 17-20 years and do not provide either policing or prosecution.

    Copyright is way too generous, especially since being extended to 70 years after the death of the author - a massive windfall, or land-grab if you prefer...

    The only benefit to the public of this immense free deal, is that there are lending-library provisions and that the material will ...eventually... become public domain.

    ### So, could the aims of Zlibrary be met, entirely legally, by using these lending-library provisions? ###

    I wouldn't mind, if in order to meet these provisions, it had to be through a pesky online PDF viewer. It would be nice if it allowed screenshots, and/or hyperlinks. It is the difference between listening to a track on youtube, and downloading an MP3.

    This should be applicable to scientific papers and books alike.

    Do Reg readers have a better-informed opinion on whether this might be possible?

    Further comments/opinions would be welcomed.

    PS: I'm aware of Unpaywall, which is great, but only works for open documents. Similarly, there is, the few links i tried didn't work - but given it is serving PDF files, it will always be subject to shutdowns.

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