Member companies of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) have filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Internet Archive (“IA”) in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The suit asks the Court to enjoin IA’s mass scanning, public display, and distribution of entire literary works, which it offers to the public at large through global-facing businesses coined “Open Library” and “National Emergency Library,” accessible at both openlibrary.org and archive.org. IA has brazenly reproduced some 1.3 million bootleg scans of print books, including recent works, commercial fiction and non-fiction, thrillers, and children’s books.
The plaintiffs—Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons and Penguin Random House—publish many of the world’s preeminent authors, including winners of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Newbery Medal, Man Booker Prize, Caldecott Medal and Nobel Prize.
Despite the self-serving library branding of its operations, IA’s conduct bears little resemblance to the trusted role that thousands of American libraries play within their communities and as participants in the lawful copyright marketplace. IA scans books from cover to cover, posts complete digital files to its website, and solicits users to access them for free by signing up for Internet Archive Accounts. The sheer scale of IA’s infringement described in the complaint—and its stated objective to enlarge its illegal trove with abandon—appear to make it one of the largest known book pirate sites in the world. IA publicly reports millions of dollars in revenue each year, including financial schemes that support its infringement design.
In wilfully ignoring the Copyright Act, IA conflates the separate markets and business models made possible by the statute’s incentives and protections, robbing authors and publishers of their ability to control the manner and timing of communicating their works to the public. IA not only conflates print books and eBooks, it ignores the well-established channels in which publishers do business with bookstores, e-commerce platforms, and libraries, including for print and eBook lending. As detailed in the complaint, IA makes no investment in creating the literary works it distributes and appears to give no thought to the impact of its efforts on the quality and vitality of the authorship that fuels the marketplace of ideas.
This lawsuit is not about the occasional transmission of a rare or aging title under appropriately limited circumstances, nor about anything authorized or in the public domain. Rather, this lawsuit condemns the fact that IA solicits and collects truckloads of in-copyright books in order to copy and make them available without permission, purposely denigrating their commercial value. As the complaint alleges, there are no provisions under copyright law—not library or educational exceptions, not fair use, not the first sale doctrine, nor anything in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act—that support IA’s theft or the manner in which it steals.
The lawsuit reflects widespread anger among publishers, authors, and the entire creative community regarding IA’s actions and its response to objections.
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