The magazine scan-sharing site controversy goes mainstream

“The magazine industry is being besieged by a new foe: digital piracy,” screams the lede of an AP story yesterday.

If you read this blog, you can guess from earlier this month that the story is about, a site that is reportedly on servers in Anquilla that enables users to share scans of articles from magazines. As I suggested when I first ran across the site on July 22, it was only a matter of time until the site became a take-down notice magnet.

The AP story rounds up all of the potential legal actions magazine publishers can take — and the walls they could run into. It also quotes a July 29 press release on the website where “John Smith” (its creator) claims, “its copies are no different from magazines shared in doctor’s office or salon.”

As I noted in my August 5 post, magazine publishers love the “pass-along” sharing of print versions of magazines as it is part of the circulation they report to advertisers. What I didn’t mention was that a new media niche of what the auditing organization ABC calls e-publications or e-periodicals is available that provides magazine publishers with a digital-version distribution alternative that can be audited and, in some cases, DRM-protected. In other words, is likely perceived more as a threat to the magazine publishers’ own plans for e-magazine distribution rather than as a threat to the printed version. Note, however, that is my interpretation — maybe some magazine publishers actually do think a digital version and paper version of a magazine are the same thing. (Disclosure: Hammock Inc. embraces all media. We produce e-magazine versions and editions and would publish smoke-signals if readers and readers and clients wanted them.)

Another thing: The AP story says they tried to contact “John Smith” but he wouldn’t respond. I’ve found that will respond if you blog about him.

Related: An article in the New York Times looks at how some media companies are working with Google to generate revenues from “pirated content” appearing on YouTube.’s creator responds to critics with incomprehensible buzz-speak

If you follow my link blog, you may have caught my comments about the “Anquilla-based” “magazine-sharing” website, For the record, technically, what is being shared are PDFs of magazines and magazine articles, not actual magazines.

My comments have basically been, “I wonder when they’ll be shut down.” Last week, Folio: reported that the consumer magazine trade group MPA has threatened legal action against them. Today, the website’s creator who is conveniently named John Smith sent an e-mail to the Press Gazette, suggesting the site is a service to the magazine industry.


“We have every intention of working with the industry to provide not only revenue streams that are vast, but also an answer for the publishers in general. Our method will increase current revenue, halt and reverse advertising revenue lost to the internet, and overcome the lack of the ability for magazines to stay current.”

Mr. Doe, I mean, Smith, goes on to say:

“We have ways of drawing revenue from a number of sources, some more obvious than others. Mygazines is hardly a pirate website with the interest of breaking the industry. Rather, we offer a paradigm shift that is far more fiscally comprehensive than meets the eye and yet easily transitionable by even the biggest publishers.”

Had it not been for that e-mail, I think I could have dreamed up some “information wants to be free” philosophical defense for Mr. Smith. I would have said Mr. Smith is just catching the whole Free wave.

But then he had to write an email using phrases and words like paradigm shift and transitionable. I think anyone who uses the term “fiscally comprehensive” should be sued.

Note of irony: The idea of physical “magazine sharing” is, ironically, not something that magazine publishers discourage. If were a service that, say, facilitated you sharing a print magazine with your co-workers or friends — for instance, a BookCrossing for magazines — magazine publishers would be applauding the efforts as any sharing of a physical magazine helps increase the “pass-along” readership of the magazine, and thus enables the magazine to tout a huge “readership” number for the magazine, sometimes many times more than its actual circulation. Obviously (at least as it would seem from the MPA’s action), when it comes to a PDF of the magazine, publishers don’t see the value of pass-along readership. I guess it’s because such pass-along can’t be measure scientifically like, say, the way they scientifically audit physical magazine pass-along readership. (Yes, that was also irony.)