US Judge Rules Internet Archive Infringed on Copyrights of US Publishers #usa #announcements

Jan Meisels Allen

U.S. District Judge John Koeltl in Manhattan (New York), has ruled that the online library, Internet Archive, infringed on the copyrights of four U.S. publishers by lending out digitally scanned copies of their books.

Internet Archive, based in San Francisco, scanned millions of print books and lent out the digital copies for free. While many are in the public domain, 3.6 million are protected by valid copyrights. That includes 33,000 titles belonging to the four publishers, Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group, News Corp's HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons Inc and Bertelsmann SE & Co's Penguin Random House.

The publishers sued in 2020 over 127 books, after Internet Archive expanded lending with the COVID-19 pandemic's onset, when brick-and-mortar libraries were forced to close, by lifting limits on how many people could borrow a book at a time.

Internet Archive (IA) has since returned to what it calls, “controlled digital lending”.  It currently hosts 70,000 daily e-books borrows. “It argued its practices were protected by the doctrine of "fair use" which allows for the unlicensed use of others' copyrighted works in some circumstances.

Judge Koeltl said there was nothing "transformative" about Internet Archive's digital book copies that would warrant "fair use" protection, as its e-books merely replaced the authorized copies publishers themselves license to traditional libraries. The decision said, "Although IA has the right to lend print books it lawfully acquired, it does not have the right to scan those books and lend the digital copies en masse."

Internet Archive said it would appeal.

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Jan Meisels Allen

Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee