Feds arrest Russians accused of running the largest pirated e-book library

Last month, the alleged masterminds behind Z-Library—an e-book pirate site that claims to be “the world’s largest library”—were arrested. According to a press release yesterday from the US Department of Justice, Russian nationals Anton Napolsky and Valeriia Ermakova have been charged with “criminal copyright infringement, wire fraud and money laundering for operating Z-Library.”

“As alleged, the defendants profited illegally off work they stole, often uploading works within mere hours of publication, and in the process victimized authors, publishers, and booksellers,” Breon Peace, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.

At the request of the US government, Napolsky and Ermakova were arrested in Argentina on November 3. On the same day, the US government seized “a complex network of approximately 249 interrelated web domains,” the press release said. For many less web-savvy users, the domain seizure essentially shut down access to Z-Library’s 11 million e-books, but anyone on the dark web knows it’s still up and running—suggesting that while arresting Napolsky and Ermakova has stifled Z-Library, it has not shuttered it, and it could come back.

TorrentFreak reported that it’s still unknown if the pair has been involved with Z-Library since the start. Michael J. Driscoll, the assistant director in charge at the New York Federal Bureau of Investigation field office, seems to suspect they have. Although the indictment is only focused on the duo’s alleged criminal activity between 2018 and 2022, Driscoll said that they are believed to have “operated a website for over a decade whose central purpose was providing stolen intellectual property, in violation of copyright laws.”

“Intellectual property theft crimes deprive their victims of both ingenuity and hard-earned revenue,” Driscoll said. “The FBI is determined to ensure those willing to steal and profit from the creativity of others are stopped and made to face the consequences in the criminal justice system.”

If Napolsky and Ermakova are charged, the indictment said that they will be required to “forfeit any property, real or personal, constituting, or derived from, proceeds obtained directly or indirectly as a result of such offenses.” TorrentFreak reported that Argentina has not yet received a request from the US to extradite the accused Z-Library operators, but that will be the next step toward shutting down Z-Library.

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