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I want to make a website on which users can upload their ebooks and share them with other users of the website.

But I would like to know if it is possible for a user to buy an ebook online and then upload it on my website and share it with other users? (The other users can read and download the ebook for free.)

Is it illegal to share premium ebooks online?

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    They're subject to any copyright restrictions you would think normal books are subject to, so if you/the uploader don't have the permissions for them, yeah, it's going to be illegal, same as anything else. – Ash Nov 9 '14 at 2:16
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Warning: I highly recommend consulting a lawyer for dealing with legal issues such as this one. The advice I provide should not take the place of proper legal counsel.

Unless you have permission from the copyright holder for the work that you are hosting on your website, yes - it most likely is illegal. There are a few possible ways one might deal with this problem and I'll briefly mention them:

  1. Allow only verified users to upload content (this doesn't prevent verified users from abusing the system but it will add an extra roadblock for someone looking to dump a bunch of protected content)
  2. Approve each item before publishing it (tedious and difficult to scale, but very effective)
  3. Publish everything and wait for DMCA takedown requests (I mention this for completeness; I certainly don't recommend going this route)

If your userbase is small, approving each item (or even just the first submission by each user) is probably the way to go.

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The short answer is no, you can't share them for free, because it would be a violation of copyright laws. The exception, of course, would be for e-books of content that is already in the public domain, like the titles you would find at Project Guttenberg. Even then, they ask that you acknowledge them if you are reposting their e-books.

An alternative approach might be to encourage authors to provide you with copies of any e-books that they have decided to make "perma-free". Many authors will give away the first book in a series for free in an effort to drum up interest in the hopes that people will like it enough to go and buy the other books in the series. I know many authors are constantly looking for places to promote such titles, and if you set up your site in a way that they find appealing, they will give you all the content you need. It would certainly help if you could explain how you plan to draw in actual readers.

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