The scourge of pirate music websites is well established and receives more than its fair share of global headlines, but the less-acknowledged trade in pirate eBooks has been gaining more coverage in recent weeks. And we’re not talking about Treasure Island either.

As we noted a couple of weeks back, two websites that made thousands of eBooks available illegally as free downloads were forced offline after being served cease-and-desist orders from a global alliance of publishers.

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

Now, publisher Hachette UK is moving to have its eBooks taken off Mobiles24, and has issued a ‘letter before action’ to the site’s owner, Mark Worthington, after the site allegedly made a number of its eBooks available to download for free, without permission.

Hachette UK is made up of several publishing companies and imprints including Headline Publishing Group, Hodder & Stoughton, John Murray, Orion Publishing Group, Octopus Publishing Group, Little, Brown Book Group and Hodder Education Group. It’s owned by Hachette Livre, a global publishing group based in France.

As The Bookseller reports, Worthington has been given until Wednesday 29th February to comply with Hachette’s request to remove all unauthorized Hachette content.

“We have said repeatedly that we will take action against anyone who infringes our copyright and the rights of our authors,” says Hachette UK’s CEO Tim Hely Hutchinson. “The explosion in legitimate sales of eBooks has encouraged some people to appropriate files and we view this as theft. We take any infringement extremely seriously and we will do everything we can to protect the rights of our authors including, where possible, pursuing copyright infringers through the courts.”

It’s not just little download sites that are being taken to task over their illegal publishing exploits. Last May, we reported that a trio of French publishers was suing Google for almost €10m, after claiming that the Internet giant had scanned thousands of its books without consent as part of its on-going Google Books project.

This triple whammy followed a similar case two years previous when La Martiniere – another French publisher – sued Google for the exact same reason, and it was successful in its claim. It won €300k, though it had been seeking around €15m.

Whilst music and movie piracy continues to gain global attention with sites such as The Pirate Bay facing a number of  legal wranglings, it seems that the rise of the eBook industry is heralding a new wave of piracy. I think we can expect to see a fair few more cases come to light through this year and beyond.