Anger over US book downloads

Authors have attacked a controversial website giving people the chance to download books for free.

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Sussex writers, including crime writer James Herbert and professional pedant Lynne Truss, are among those to have had their books posted on American website Scribd.

Publishers and agents representing JK Rowling and Ken Follett have already been asked for their books to be removed from Scribd.

Scribd said yesterday it as not breaking copyright laws but Mr Herbert criticised illegal downloads after he discovered the popular Californian website was posting his books without his permission.

Mr Herbert, who lives near Henfield, had five of his books on Scribd in December.

Users can read them online, download and print them out free or share them on social networking sited like Facebook and Twitter.

Mr Herbert said: “I think it is a damn cheek.”

“If I have written a book and spent a year or two doing it, I expect to be paid.

“I also believe you can’t beat reading a good book.

“You can’t read well form a computer, even if it’s a hand-held ebook.”

Although the books – Sepulchure, The Rats, Lair ’48 and The Survivor – were posted nearly four months ago, Mr Herbert was unaware they were there until he was contacted by The Argus.

He said he would be talking to his agent and demanding they are removed.

Lynne Truss’s Eats Shoots and Leaves was also posted on Scribd five months ago and has been viewed more than 350 times.

Scribd defended its position yesterday in a blog post saying it abided by copyright laws and took down any documents which violated legislation within 24 hours of being contacted about them.

It said: Scribd takes the concern of copyright holders very seriously.”

But Mr Herbert agreed with critics of the system in which authors and publishers are often unaware their books have been illegally uploaded.

Books can often be accessed for months before writers learn about it.

Scribd was originally set up in 2007 to allow people to publish documents online.

This story was originally published in The Argus, 2 April 2009.

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