Two websites that made thousands of eBooks available illegally as free downloads have been forced offline after being served cease-and-desist orders from a global alliance of publishers.

As the Association of American Publishers (AAP) reports, the operators of library.nu and ifile.it were served with court orders in Ireland, where they are located, and the outcome has taken more than seven months to come to fruition.

The piracy operation was thought to turn over more than £7m each year through advertising, premium-level accounts and user-donations. Library.nu acquired more than 400,000 copyrighted eBooks, and made them available for free on a site masquerading as a legitimate provider, and the same operators also ran the affiliated fileshare hosting service at ifile.it, which facilitated the uploads.

“While this action is a significant step in shutting down two major rogue websites stealing content from publishers and others, it also captures the enormous investment of time and cost required for rights-holders to protect their work,” said Tom Allen, President and CEO, AAP. “For every rogue site that is taken down, there are hundreds more demanding similar effort. I can’t think of a more timely example of the need for additional tools to expedite such action.”

The alliance included HarperCollins, Cambridge University Press, Elsevier, Pearson Education Ltd, Macmillan Publishers, John Wiley & Sons and the McGraw-Hill Companies, and was overseen by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association (Börsenverein) and the International Publishers Association (IPA).

“Today, the international book industry has shown that it continues to stand up against organised copyright crime,” said Jens Bammel, secretary general of the IPA. “We will not tolerate freeloaders who make unjustified profits by depriving authors and publishers of their due reward. This is an important step towards a more transparent, honest and fair trade of digital content on the Internet.”

Interestingly, the Library.nu portal now redirects to Google Books, which on the surface seemed like an odd move given the disdain with which a number of publishers have demonstrated towards Google in the past for making books available online without permission.

However, as paidContent reports, it seems that the website owners decided to initiate the redirect off their own accord after receiving the court order.