Italian publisher on trial in New York for stealing 1,000 manuscripts

He was arrested at New York JFK airport and charged on January 7, 2022 with “electronic fraud”. Accused of having usurped the identity of several personalities from the publishing world, Filippo Bernardini, 30, a former employee in London of the American publishing house Simon & Schuster, admitted on Friday January 6 before federal justice in New York the theft of more than a thousand manuscripts of famous writers thanks to an ingenious system of identity theft.

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What purpose ? That of obtaining, between the summer of 2016 and January 2022, more than a thousand proofs of novels and other literary works by prestigious authors before their publication. “Filippo Bernardini used his knowledge within the publishing industry to set up a system to steal valuable works from authors and threaten” thus this world of the edition, explains the federal prosecutor of the parquet floor of Manhattan, Damian Williams.

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The defendant decided to plead guilty. The young Italian faces 20 years in prison and has already returned 88,000 dollars (€82,000) as part of this guilty plea procedure, which spared him a criminal trial.

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Employed at Simon & Schuster in London as “rights coordinator”he admitted to having had unpublished manuscripts sent to him for more than five years, sometimes from famous authors or their representatives, by writing to them from false e-mail addresses of publishers or agents. literary.

Defense of intellectual property

Filippo Bernardini created “more than 160 Internet domains” sometimes changing a single letter in his email address and taking known identities of his interlocutors to better deceive them.

The publisher Simon & Schuster, which had fired its employee a year ago, assured Friday, January 6 in an email that the “protecting the authors’ intellectual property was of the utmost importance” and thanked the US Federal Police, the “FBI, and the Department of Justice”.

Motivations still mysterious

The publishing world had been buzzing for years with rumors of spoofing attempts, not always successful and mysterious because the thefts were apparently not followed by ransom demands or pirated releases of the books.

In 2021, New York Magazine revealed how the Swedish editors of the thriller series Millenium were approached in 2017 by a so-called colleague in Italy asking them to send him a secure link giving access to the manuscript, then being translated. .

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In 2019, the literary agent of Canadian writer Margaret Atwood revealed that the proofs of the sequel to “The Scarlet Maid”, “The Wills”, had also been targeted. Writers like Sally Rooney and Ian McEwan have also been approached, according to the New York Times.

Filippo Bernardini’s sentence will be pronounced by the American federal justice on April 5, 2023.

Italian publisher on trial in New York for stealing 1,000 manuscripts