Is it just me or is the Scribd business model totally whacked out?

Someone tell me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the Scribd business model at least something like this:

1. Encourage people to violate copyright by uploading whole scanned books to the Scribd website.

2a. Charge people money for downloading the pirated copies OR

2b. Give pirated copies away to people who upload additional pirated materials, making the treasure chest even more attractive to people who chose the 2a route

3. Take down only those few PDFs publishers complain about

4. $$$!

Honestly, it seems like half of the things I search for in Google these days are links to Scribd documents. Its like Napster, if Napster was designed for European graduate students who waned to push the minor works of Deleuze into The Cloud.

I know there is a whole underground economy of PDF sharing that grad students and others engage in that I’m only beginning to understand, but how can Scribd be so brazenly out front on this one? Or am I missing something?

Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at rex@savageminds.org

8 thoughts on “Is it just me or is the Scribd business model totally whacked out?

  1. Make it easy and cheap to get the books legally, in e form, and few people will bother with pirate sites. Some will, yes … but most people will prefer ease of access and safety.

  2. There is no legal difference from services such as Youtube. US Courts have ruled on this several times. The company provides a service. The user who uploads the material is the infringer. This is enshrined in the DMCA safe harbor provisions. From the Wikipedia summary:

    “DMCA Title II, the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (OCILLA), creates a safe harbor for online service providers (OSPs, including ISPs) against copyright liability if they adhere to and qualify for certain prescribed safe harbor guidelines and promptly block access to allegedly infringing material (or remove such material from their systems) if they receive a notification claiming infringement from a copyright holder or the copyright holder’s agent.”

    Scribd is actually quite assertive in issuing takedown notices, and has filters installed to catch infringement. You are being silly when you say they “encourage people to violate copyright” when every statement on their site does the exact opposite. The uploader is explicitly asked to confirm they understand copyright and that they are not infringing anyone’s rights.

    You might disagree with these provisions in the DMCA but without them it is hard to see how any service like this could exist.

  3. I know there is a whole underground economy of PDF sharing that grad students and others engage in that I’m only beginning to understand

    um. shhhhh.

  4. Well, I dont know if Scribid´s business model is oudated or not, because I do not use it. Filestube or Library.nu have more PDFs them Scribid´s staff could dream of.

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