The dream of an used e-Book site may be over. A Dutch Court of Appeals has ruled that Tom Kabinet must shut down within three days or pay a daily fine of €1,000.
Tom Kabinet is a Netherlands based used e-Book website that was first established during the summer of 2014. Their launch immediately put them at odds with the Dutch Publishing Association. The publishers believe Tom Kabinet infringes on copyrights. Research suggests 90% of all eBooks that are listed on the site are pirated and that criminals are reselling books they download from torrent websites.
The core business model of the company is facilitating the sale of e-books that users post on their website. They don’t actually host the actual book, but digitally watermark each title to prevent reselling of the same copy over and over. When a book is sold, Kabinet takes a small commission for their role in the transaction.
Things initially looked to be going in favor of the Netherlands e-Book service in July when the court decided that that Tom Kabinet can stay open for business during the court case. The main argument that was employed was the Oracle and Usedsoft case that was decided in Germany some months sooner.
“Where the copyright holder makes available to his customer a copy – tangible or intangible – and at the same time concludes, in return form payment of a fee, a license agreement granting the customer the right to use that copy for an unlimited period, that right-holder sells the copy to the customer and thus exhausts his exclusive distribution right. Such a transaction involves a transfer of the right of ownership of the copy. Therefore, even if the license agreement prohibits a further transfer, the right-holder can no longer oppose the resale of that copy. He can therefore download onto his computer the copy sold to him by the first acquirer. Such a download must be regarded as a reproduction of digital product that is necessary to enable the new acquirer to use the program in accordance with its intended purpose.”
The entire saga between Tom Kabinet and the Dutch Publishers Association was supposed to be all wrapped up on December 23rd, but due to the Christmas holidays, the judgement was postponed until just this week.
Where does this leave Tom Kabinet now? Well, it is tricky. The Dutch Court ruled that they have to close up shop within three days or pay a hefty fine. They also said the business model appeared to be legal in principle.
When many other companies would have simply closed up shop, TC is continuing to fight. They are trying to purge all of the questionable books from their site in a bid to be legitimized, but it might be far too late that now. In the courts and publishers eyes they are a pirate site that is leveraging a court case as their sole argument and it failed. It looks like the dream of a legitimate used e-book site might be over, for now.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.