Court determines that Internet Archive infringed publisher copyrights by renting ebooks
In its high-profile lawsuit against a group of four US publishers led by Hachette Book Group, a federal judge has decided against the Internet Archive. According to Reuters, Judge John G. Koeltl ruled on Friday that by lending out digitally scanned versions of the group’s books, the organisation had violated their copyrights.
The “National Emergency Library” was introduced by the Internet Archive in the early stages of the pandemic, which is what sparked the lawsuit. In reaction to libraries throughout the world closing their doors owing to coronavirus lockdown measures, the organisation offered more than 1.4 million free ebooks during the program, including copyrighted works.
There used to be a waitlist to borrow a book from the Internet Archive’s Open Library programme before March 2020 since it used a “controlled digital lending” method. The Internet Archive removed these limitations when the epidemic struck to make it simpler for people to obtain reading material while stranded at home. The Copyright Alliance immediately criticised the attempt. The Internet Archive was also sued in June 2020 for allegedly allowing “willful mass copyright infringement” by Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, and John Wiley & Sons. In the same month, the Internet Archive also prematurely ended the National Emergency Program.
The Internet Archive claimed going into this week’s trial that the project was allowed by the fair use doctrine, which under some conditions permits the unauthorised use of works protected by copyright. According to The Verge, the Google Books Search project’s subsidiary HathiTrust successfully used a similar defence in 2014 to fend off a court lawsuit from The Authors Guild. Judge Koeltl disagreed with the Internet Archive’s position, stating that renting unauthorised copies of books does “nothing transformative.” Despite having the legal permission to do so, he stated, “[the Internet Archive] does not have the right to scan those books and lend the digital copies of them in bulk.” The decision “underscored the importance of authors, publishers, and creative markets in a global society,” according to Maria Pallante, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Publishers.