Pirated copies of Kiwi author Eleanor Catton's prize-winning novel The Luminaries have been removed from Kim Dotcom's file-sharing site, where they could have been downloaded for free.
Just over a week after Catton, 28, became the youngest winner of the Man Booker Prize, copies of the book were on mega.co.nz, the internet mogul's file-sharing site.
The links were taken down yesterday after Mega chief executive Vikram Kumar became aware the book was available illegally. He had been alerted by a Twitter post linking to the WhaleOil blog.
Kumar said the links were never publicly available, and someone would have had to know they were there to find them.
"The person who uploaded this went to great lengths to keep their identity anonymous," he said. "They used a disposable email address, they used proxies and other services for their internet protocol [IP] address. It was an account created specifically for this."
In isolation, these factors would not necessarily raise eyebrows, but the "unusual combination of them" led Kumar to believe the upload of The Luminaries was targeted. He considered it a targeted breach of copyright.
The Luminaries was the best-selling book in New Zealand even before it won the Man Booker. It has sold out in book stores.
Booksellers NZ chief executive Lincoln Gould said the availability of free, illicit copies was most concerning, especially considering many sellers had made the ebook available.
Wellington media lawyer Steven Price said people had to remember copyright holders were sometimes people we liked, and they were getting "ripped off" by illegal downloads.
"Somebody is taking [Catton's] property . . . and for every person that downloads it, that's royalties she's not getting."
The ease of accessing material online meant consumers had developed an attitude of justifying illegal downloads.
"That doesn't have much to do with the law, but it does suggest publishers need to be on their game to serve the needs of people who are willing to pay."
LONG, LONG WAIT
If you want to borrow the Luminaries from a library, be prepared to wait a few months - or even years.
Hard copies have been hard to come by since it won the Man Booker award this month, though it is available online as an ebook.
Unity Books in Wellington has sold out of the 832-page novel, and Wellington Central Library has a waiting list of 174 for its 51 copies.
If you are at the bottom of that list expect a wait of nearly five months, if everyone ahead of you keeps it for the allowable 21 days.
And if you are in Auckland, where Catton lives - the wait is more than four years. Auckland has only 35 copies across its 55 libraries, and 1921 borrowers were waiting to take it out.
Hard copies are listed as "currently unavailable" on the Britain-based Book Depository website.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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