Publishers Sue Internet Archive for Mass Copyright Infringement
August 6, 2020
A group of the largest publishing houses in the United States recently filed a lawsuit in a New York federal court against the Internet Archive for willful mass copyright infringement. See Hachette Book Group, Inc. v. Internet Archive, 1:20-cv-04160, (S.D.N.Y. June 1, 2020), ECF No. 1. The publishers, which include Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House, allege that the Internet Archive operates publicly available websites that enable users to download complete digital copies of in-copyright books. Without acquiring any licenses or making any payments to the authors or publishers, these websites are distributing protected works of authorship for free. It’s easy to see why the plaintiffs are upset.
According to the publishers, Internet Archive offers digital scanned versions of over 1.3 million books at the www.openlibrary.org and www.archive.org websites. And with a stated goal of increasing this number of archived books by millions, it hopes to offer an “Open Library” that distributes free copies of almost every book ever written. These digital versions are created by scanning printed books and uploading the scanned versions to Internet Archive’s servers for access by internet users. Entire digital copies of fiction and non-fictions books are available with just a few clicks.
Initially, the Internet Archive claimed to limit the number of scanned copies available for download to the number of print books in its collection. However, in light of the global pandemic, the Internet Archive stepped into its self-proclaimed role as “National Emergency Library” and offered its “Open Library” to an unlimited number of individuals simultaneously. Thus, there is no limit to the copying and distribution of these digital versions of books protected by copyrights. While the Internet Archive refers to its collection as a library, this unlimited access and distribution is unlike the libraries that we are accustomed to.
While this case is in its infancy, the Internet Archive will argue that this mass copying and distribution is protected by fair use, and that the purchase of the print copies in its collection and subsequent digital distribution are protected under the doctrine of first sale. The publishers argue that these defenses do not hold water, and that the Internet Archive’s actions flout the Copyright Act. I agree with the publishers, but only time will tell how these defenses hold up.
The original complaint for this lawsuit can be found here – https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.nysd.537900/gov.uscourts.nysd.537900.1.0.pdf.
Dustin Mauck focuses his practice on intellectual property and technology disputes, counseling, and licensing.
RegitzMauck PLLC is an intellectual property boutique based in Dallas, Texas. The firm focuses on providing value-based legal services to cost-conscious clients seeking high quality legal representation in intellectual property and technology matters and disputes.