Book publishers and Internet Archive ask court to settle e-book lending fight

  • Internet Archive has declared its library program to be copyrighted
  • Publishers say program is a front for massive infringement

(Reuters) – A group of major book publishers and the Internet Archive both asked a federal court in Manhattan on Thursday to rule in their favor before trial in a copyright dispute over the online library program of Archive.

The publishers sued the San Francisco-based Internet Archive in June 2020 for its free online lending of digitally scanned copies of their books printed during the COVID-19 shutdowns through its “National Emergency Library.” They called the program a front for massive copyright infringement.

The Archive told the court on Thursday that all of its books were legally purchased and paid for, and should be treated like any other library.

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Publishers Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons Inc and Penguin Random House argued that they had shown that the archives went “way beyond” normal libraries by “appropriating every copyrighted work copyright that she can find without license or payment”.

Maria Pallante, president of the publishers’ trade group, the Association of American Publishers, said in a statement Thursday that the Archive “has wrapped its large-scale counterfeiting business in a cloak of public service.”

Archives attorney Corynne McSherry, legal director of the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, said Friday that publishers were “looking for a new right outside of US copyright law: the right to control the how libraries can lend the books they own”.

The Archive announced shortly after the complaint was filed that it would stop offering unlimited digital copies and limit them to one borrower at a time. He then told the court that he “does what libraries have always done: buy, collect, preserve and share our common culture”.

The publishers told the court Thursday that the Archive “freerides on authors’ literary contributions” and “aggressively competes with licensed digital works from publishers.”

The editors also filed statements from people who said they were harmed by the archive, including author Sandra Cisneros, best known for her 1983 novel “The House on Mango Street.”

“Real libraries don’t do what the Internet Archive does,” Cisneros said. “The libraries that raised me paid for their books, they never stole them.”

The archive told the court on Thursday that, like physical libraries, it was protected from claims by the doctrine of fair use copyright.

“Never in the history of the United States have libraries needed to obtain special permission or pay license fees to loan out the books they already own,” the Archive said.

The case is Hachette Book Group Inc v. Internet Archive, US District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1:20-cv-04160.

For the editors: Elizabeth McNamara of Davis Wright Tremaine, Scott Zebrak of Oppenheim + Zebrak

For the Internet Archive: Joseph Gratz of Durie Tangri, Corynne McSherry of the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Read more:

Book publishers press ahead with building ’emergency’ online library during pandemic

Book publishers say Internet Archive discovery ‘stonewalling’

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Blake Brittain

Thomson Reuters

Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Contact him at [email protected]

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