Alert | Feds Knock On Comicbook Provider Door

Comic Books Alert | Feds Knock On Comicbook Provider DoorWhen dude got the letter or telephone call from the big boys he should have known it was a wrap…I am just saying the feds don’t come to have fun with you and sip on a coke when they knock on your door. Those boys aren’t there for a social call!

The federal government has sued six websites that allowed visitors to view comic books for free without permission from the publishers or authors.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Tampa, Fla., by the U.S. Department of Justice against the domains ComicBooksFree.com, HTMLcomics.com and PlayboyMonthly.com, among others.

The lawsuit says Gregory Steven Hart of Tampa-based Database Engineers Inc. ran the sites. A phone message was left Friday with the company. No attorney for Hart was named in the lawsuit, nor was a phone number listed for Hart.

The FBI began investigating Hart in 2009. Batman, X-Men, The Simpsons and other comic books were available for free on the sites. HTMLcomics.com alone claimed to host over 100,000 issues.

The publishers sent Hart letters demanding that he stop distribution of copyrighted material, but Hart refused.

In November 2009, Hart was contacted by the attorneys for Marvel Comics Group. He told them he designed the Web site, and although he did not personally own the comics being displayed, he received digital image files from people who scanned the comics and posted them on the site, the suit says.

According to the lawsuit, Hart advised the attorneys that if no company agreed to a revenue-sharing arrangement, he would continue to operate the site without charging users to view the comics. HTMLcomics.com received between 400,000 and 500,000 hits per day. Among the comic books available on the sites were: Astonishing X-Men, Batman and Superman.

Hart established HTMLmagazines.com, which made available for viewing copies of various magazines including Playboy. Federal agents searched his home in April, seizing records, computers and DVDs with copyright-protected images.

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