On June 1, 2020, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) filed suit against the Internet Archive (IA) on behalf of four of its book publisher members—Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House. The suit asks the court to enjoin the illegal mass scanning and distribution of literary works by the Internet Archive (IA), which it offers to the public through its Open Library.
According to a statement released by AAP, its CEO Maria Pallante noted, “[The] complaint [filed] illustrates that the Internet Archive is conducting and promoting copyright infringement on a massive scale. In scanning and distributing literary works to which it has no legal or contractual rights, IA deliberately misappropriates the intellectual and financial investments of authors and publishers and brazenly ignores the copyright law that Congress enacted.
According to a statement by Copyright Alliance CEO Keith Kupferschmid, he noted, “For too long, the Internet Archive has brazenly scanned and distributed published works while refusing to abide by the traditional contours of copyright law. The Internet Archive would like the public to believe that the books are rare and older titles used for research, but in reality, they are scanning and distributing recent works, fiction and non-fiction, thrillers and kids’ books — all without the authority of publishers and authors and well beyond the scope of what is permitted by copyright law.” According to an Authors Guild statement, President and author Doug Preston added, “Internet Archive’s wholesale scanning and posting of copyrighted books without the consent of authors, and without paying a dime, is piracy hidden behind a sanctimonious veil of progressivism.”
To put it another way, while the Internet Archive masquerades as a library, it does not behave like one. Legitimate Libraries pay for the eBooks they lend, helping to support authors, publishers and the creation and dissemination of books. Internet Archive doesn’t pay authors for books – it simply takes the books, copies them and distributes them without any permission, and without compensating the authors or publishers who created the books in the first place. To be clear: this lawsuit is about stopping systematic theft. It is not about library lending.
The Internet Archive has dramatically expanded its infringing activity since the suit was filed. In June of 2020 IA admitted that there were more than 1.3 million in copyright books offered on their site, but since then, the number of titles has ballooned to over 3.49 million. The number of users of the website has also increased, doubling from the 2.7 million users in September of 2019 to 5.5 million by April of 2022—increasing the harm to authors and book publishers across the country.
On July 7, 2022, publishers filed a motion for summary judgment against the Internet Archive was filed in reference to the publishers’ lawsuit for the continued mass scanning and distribution of literary works through its Open Library.
And on July 13, an opinion piece by Copyright Alliance CEO Keith Kupferschmid was published in Publishers Weekly, titled Standing Up for Copyright, which addresses IA’s actions.
In the piece, Kupferschmid states that “[The] Internet Archive would have you believe that because it is scanning hard-copy books without permission and ‘lending’ digital versions, that it’s some innovative transformation covered by copyright law’s fair use exception. This could not be further from the truth…the fact is, eBooks already exist and are widely available in the market and through libraries. Internet Archive isn’t creating something new; it’s just cutting authors and publishers out of the picture. There is nothing innovative or creative about what Internet Archive is doing unless you count the scale of its program and the audacity of its fair use claims as a creative spin on traditional theft.”
On August 12, 2022, numerous amicus briefs were filed on behalf of the publishers’ suit by professors, copyright scholars, non-profits representing creators, creator coalitions, and international rightsholders, as follows:
- Professors and scholars of copyright law
- International rightsholders
- Authors Guild and creator coalition
- Copyright Alliance
Authors and publishers have been making their voices heard across social media and the internet. Acclaimed author Sandra Cisneros filed a declaration in the case, writing “When I went on the Internet Archive’s website and saw that scans of my books were being distributed to anybody who wanted them for free – without my permission or any payment – I was appalled. I found the experience so viscerally upsetting that I could not stay on the website for long. It was like I had gone to a pawn shop and seen my stolen possessions on sale.” Cisneros also wrote “Internet Archive hurts all of the authors whose work it steals and it should be stopped so that it does not threaten anybody else’s chances of making a living from their pen.”
According to a statement quoting authors Malcolm Gladwell, John Grisham, Elizabeth Gilbert and Douglas Preston, the “wholesale scanning and posting of copyrighted books without the consent of authors, and without paying a dime, is piracy hidden behind a sanctimonious veil of progressivism.”
Please see below for more information regarding industry and media responses to the Internet Archive’s “National Emergency Library” and to its continued efforts to lend books without compensating authors and publishers.
- It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times: The Internet Archive’s Misguided Effort to Liberate Books (Neil Turkewitz)
- The Emergence of Copyright Looting (Copyright Alliance)
- Open Letter to Brewster Kahle From Anonymous Librarian (The Trichordist)
- The Liberating Authors from the Means of their Survival Edition (Neil Turkewitz)
- Internet Archive Uses Pandemic to Justify Looting (Illusion of More)
- 12 Questions For Boston Public Library President On “Emergency National Library” Endorsement (The Trichordist)
- Tell Internet Archive to Remove Your Books from the So-Called National Emergency Library (Authors Guild)
- Authors Protest Internet Archive Pirating Their Books (The Digital Reader)
- COVID is Not an Excuse to Throw the Accepted Rules Out the Window: Copyright as the Canary in the Coalmine. (Hugh Stephens Blog)
- The Controversy Over the National Emergency Library (Plagiarism Today)
- A Legal Analysis of Making Copyrighted Works Available Online During the Coronavirus Crisis (Hudson Institute)
- Internet Archive’s “Emergency Library”: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (Copyright Alliance)
- Copyright Notebook: Observations on Copyright in the Time of COVID-19 (CPIP)
- The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Response to PublicKnowledge’s Call to Arms in Defense of the Internet Archive (Neil Turkewitz)
- Superpowers In River City: Anti-Artist Activist Brewster Kahle’s Revealing “National Emergency Library,” the Faux Triumph of Privilege (Chris Castle)
- Piercing the Sanctimonious Veil of Progressivism: An Examination of a Defense of the Internet Archive Grounded in an Alternative Reality (Neil Turkewitz)
Media Coverage and Op-Eds
- Authors, Publishers Condemn the ‘National Emergency Library’ As ‘Piracy’ (NPR)
- ‘Emergency’ Online Library Draws Ire of Some Authors (New York Times)
- Copyright Alliance Blasts Internet Archive’s Emergency Library launch as “Vile” (ZDNet)
- The Internet Archive’s Copyright Emergency (Copyright and Technology)
- The Internet Archive Started an “Emergency” Online Library. Authors Are Furious. (Slate)
- The Pandemic Is Not an Excuse to Exploit Writers (NYTimes op-Ed by Douglas Preston)
- The National Emergency Library Must Support Both Authors and Readers. (Washington Square News op-Ed by Helen Wajda)
- Copyright Office Skeptical of ‘Emergency Library’ Legality (2) (Bloomberg Law)