Shopify fires back at textbook publishers, defends infringement policies

2 minute read

The logo of Shopify is seen outside its headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

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  • Shopify said it responds quickly to infringement, despite publisher claims
  • Accused publishers of trying to get around copyright law

(Reuters) - Shopify told a Virginia federal court Friday that it deals with repeat copyright and trademark infringers on its platform properly, rejecting claims by leading textbook publishers that it aided widespread IP piracy.

The Canada-based e-commerce company also said the publishers sued because they couldn't convince Congress to change the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which protects internet hosts such as Shopify from court claims if they address user infringement reasonably.

Shopify in a court filing called the lawsuit "an attempt to do through this Court what Plaintiffs could not achieve in the legislative sphere," where they allegedly had sought to change the law to "impose liability for the infringements of others on internet platforms like Shopify" and expand "the universe of actors subject to copyright damages."

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Publishers Macmillan Learning, Cengage Learning, Elsevier, McGraw Hill, and Pearson Education sued Shopify last month, alleging the company turned a blind eye to repeat notices that its users sell pirated digital textbooks and other materials.

The publishers asked the court for statutory damages of up to $150,000 per infringed copyright and $2 million for each counterfeited trademark and listed more than 3,400 copyrights that Shopify users allegedly violated.

Shopify said in the Friday filing that it had "promptly and appropriately" responded to the publishers' notices and terminated the accounts of repeat infringers.

The company said that fewer than 2% of the merchants the publishers targeted were still active on the platform.

Shopify also pushed back against assertions that it had ignored takedown requests, arguing the publishers didn't respond when it asked for additional information in some cases.

The publishers' attorney Matt Oppenheim of Oppenheim & Zebrak said in a statement that they were confident in their legal position and "glad to see that Shopify agrees they are subject to U.S. law and a U.S. court."

Shopify and its attorneys at Latham & Watkins didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is Macmillan Learning v. Shopify Inc, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, No. 1:21-cv-01340.

For Shopify: Andrew Gass, Allison Stillman and Jessica Stebbins Bina of Latham & Watkins

For the publishers: Matt Oppenheim and Scott Zebrak of Oppenheim & Zebrak

Read more:

Textbook publishers sue Shopify over alleged 'massive' IP violations

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com