Government staffers and at least one Liberal MP have allegedly gained illegal access to a pirated copy of Malcolm Turnbull’s memoir, which the publisher claims originated from the prime minister’s office.
Hardie Grant said “a massive breach” of intellectual property rights has been committed and that it would be referring the matter to the Australian Federal Police.
The company cited an email that said a top aide distributed an electronic version of the autobiography, A Bigger Picture to “millions” of other people.
It’s alleged a person working for prime minister Scott Morrison was responsible for circulating the e-book among politicians and staffers.
The staffer has since apologised, according to the ABC.
Hardie Grant became aware on Saturday evening of the breach after some people reported the “illegal edition” had been sent by an address within Mr Morrison’s office.
The publisher said its law firm HWL Ebsworth later sent a cease and desist notice to a staff member in that office.
“This illegal distribution of the ebook signifies a massive breach of intellectual property right, a problem that effects many bestselling books throughout the industry,” Hardie Grant said in a statement.
Chief executive Sandy Grant said its lawyers intend on taking legal action against the person responsible for sharing the e-book and any site further distributing the file.
It received a statement from Mr Morrison’s office saying it “will not comment on legal proceedings”, and that “staff have been reminded of their obligations under copyright law, and of the high standards of conduct expected of them”.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed on Sunday that she received a copy of the book and deleted it.
But she said it had “absolutely not” come from the prime minister’s office.
“I’ve received and deleted and I would encourage anyone who has received (it), to do the same thing,” the senator told ABC’s Insiders on Sunday.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said a “personal friend” sent him a copy of the book via WhatsApp, but he immediately deleted it.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate, whether it’s his book or any other book or movie, that we take away the livelihoods of those people that are out there trying to make an honest dollar,” he told reporters.
Australian Publishers Association chief executive Michael Gordon-Smith said, “illegal copying erodes the viability of publishing businesses and the livelihood of authors even at the best of times”.
“It does more damage at a time when publishers are suffering massive reductions in revenue, reducing working hours and laying off staff; authors are unable to attend book tours; and writers festivals have closed,” he continued.
Extracts of the book published in The Australian last week showed Mr Turnbull does not believe the Morrison-led coalition deserved to win the 2019 election.
He has also criticised Mr Morrison’s bid to portray himself as the “daggy dad” from the suburbs during the election campaign.
The former leader is set to be interviewed on ABC’s 7:30 program on Monday.