January 29, 2022

pirated copies available on the internet 15 days before its release

When the first buyers flock to bookstores on January 7 for the new Michel Houellebecq, Annihilate, others will have already read a pirated copy downloaded before Christmas. And the scorned author can do nothing about it, like his publisher.

Many sites illegally offer thousands of free e-books, earning money from intrusive advertisements. The vast majority are books already published: just buy the digital version, and make it available to everyone.

But in the case of a book as awaited as a novel by Houellebecq, one of the French authors the most translated and sold abroad, with 300,000 copies planned for this release, it was necessary to obtain a copy beforehand. Which is much more difficult … but not impossible, obviously.

“It seems that the text is already circulating on the networks, in a quality PDF, according to the echoes that I have”, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, a blogger specializing in electronic books, Hervé Bienvault.

On Wednesday, Le Parisien was the first to relay the information, talking about a PDF file on a website that claimed to have another Twitter user.

There are in fact, notes AFP, two sites where we find this quality copy as well as a third site which allows to obtain, still illegally, an Epub version (intended for e-readers), filled with computer slag.

Hervé Bienvault evokes that day “8,000 downloads on a single Quebec site”, and “many choices possible” like “a Russian server” and “mirror sites well known to academic circles”.

Contacted by AFP, the publisher Flammarion replied that its legal and IT departments were doing their best to obtain the closure of the internet pages in question.

It is to sink into an infernal maze. For example, the first website on which Flammarion found Annihilate is domiciled in the United States, then returns to various storage sites domiciled in France, Germany and the United States. To succeed in “killing” all these internet pages, the steps are extremely tedious.

As the press noted, this is not the first time that Houellebecq has been hacked. End of December 2014, Submission, which was due for release on January 7, 2015, was also hacked.

“We have taken note of the situation and our legal department is dealing with the problem”said Flammarion. At the time, it was unheard of in France.

We strongly suspect the pirate of having scanned, with unsophisticated means, a copy intended for a journalist. The case will not be followed up: no investigation, no culprit of this flagrant violation of copyright.

This time the illegal PDF file ofAnnihilate end of 2021 does not seem to come from a journalist. The book identifier (ISBN) number is not complete, with “X’s” in place of the last seven digits, while print copies have a full ISBN. And on the other hand the scan, impeccable, appears to be made from sheets printed flat, not bound in volume, while the journalists have received a volume ready for sale.

Flammarion wrote to them in mid-December: “Out of respect for the readers who will not find it before this date [la sortie le 7 janvier], we ask you very solemnly to respect the embargo set for Thursday, December 30 “, in other words, reveal nothing of the content of the 736 pages. But a week before the deadline, they are no longer the only ones to have read the novel.

For this new novel, the publishing house has put the package: the book, immaculate white cover, hardback, the title in red, without capital letters, matching twine bookmark, old-fashioned, is published in a very neat collection, produced according to the directives of Michel Houellebecq. Three more of his novels Extension of the field of wrestling, Elementary particles and Platform are reissued in this deluxe format.

E-book piracy remains poorly punished. A single case in the matter ended up in French justice: in May, the correctional court of Nanterre sentenced nine people, members of the “Team AlexandriZ” who had pirated nearly 24,000 titles between 2010 and 2013.