Why Scribd is Unethical

Got any idea why more people aren’t hating on Scribd? They seem like the height of jerk-ness.

“The users” upload copyrighted pdfs. Scribd slams ads on them and then paywalls the users to download other people’s works that Scribd don’t have the rights to distribute.

In other words, Scribd are essentially making money off pirated content. Some may say, “so what – that’s no different from a torrent site.” To that, I will reply that Scribd is, in some ways, actually worse than a torrent site. Here’s why:

Scribd is basically a piracy haven for .pdfs. But with the added buffs that many newbies don’t understand how to use torrent. Scribd is pirated content directly on the ‘main’ WWW. Just like Megaupload/ Rapidshare, and .mp3s in the 90ies. Such things are usually stopped by the authorities. I think that, if they are to take a consistent line, then Scribd should be stopped as well. (Or at least forced to patrol their site some more. It’s not hard to install copyright algorithms like those Youtube has in place.)

Furthermore, with Scribd as opposed to a torrent site, there is the added nuance that with torrent sites, you download illegal stuff and that’s that. No one pays money for anything, no one has to come back to the torrent site every time they want to use the stuff. Scribd does both of these things. They capitalize off other people’s work to a far harsher degree than your normal torrent site (which of course, is already no small problem).

Scribd directly paywalls goods that they don’t have the rights to paywall. Think about it. If you go to a torrent site, then you don’t pay. With Scribd it’s basically an internet store selling things that are illegal for them to sell. The user gets the experience of having paid for his product, but in fact the author is never compensated. Nor is the uploader to Scribd. Only Scribd itself.

If we compare Scribd directly to a torrent site, Scribd would be a site where you have to pay the torrent site money with your credit card every month to get the torrents you wanted, or you’d have to open the torrent site and give them ad revenues every time you wanted to open a torrent.

Therefore, I would argue that, in these ways, Scribd is worse than a torrent site.

Scribd blows the fluffy horn of “free sharing” while at the same time making no efforts to take down obvious copyright infringements like Twilight and Harry Potter (with millions of views to their servers). “Gee, we didn’t know.” They squeeze far more dollars out of other people’s work than, say, the Pirate Bay and similar sites do. In this way, the Pirate Bay is actually more about “free sharing” than Scribd ever was.

So in sum, they rip off the authors of .pfds, do nothing to prevent the “abuse” of their site (in fact, they bait users to post what they may have of .pdfs).

Scribd seems like an operation designed to make it as easy as possible for Scribd to profit off copyrighted works to which they do not hold the rights. They probably should be closed down. Not for doing what they do, but for the way they do it (no controls, no effort to prevent the site from becoming a piracy haven, shamelessly making money off documents that are uploaded there illegally).

So basically, why aren’t more people calling Scribd out as the jerk operation that it is?