With 27 years of existence, Internet Archive It has established itself as the great library of the Internet. In it you can find not only vestiges of the web that are no longer in operation, but also a large amount of digital resources, including books, movies and music. However, the Internet Archive has been facing a lawsuit for two years that could lead to its closure, as four publishers accuse the library and its lending service of causing them harm and violating copyright.
One of the most popular Internet Archive services is Controlled Digital Lending (CDL), which grants users access to a digital library of books. Its operation consists in users can borrow as many copies of a book as the Internet Archive and its partners physically own, so if the Internet Archive only has one copy of a book, it can only lend it to one person, while the rest of the people who are interested in the book will have to wait for their return. Basically, it is a digital implementation of the typical operation of physical libraries.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) explains that CDL is a way used by the Internet Archive to keep books in circulation whose publishers have lost commercial interest. However, publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House think the service violates copyrightso they decided to file a lawsuit on June 1, 2020 to request the destruction of all the alleged illegal copies of the works offered by the digital library and that the digital library compensate them for the hypothetical damages that CDL has caused them.
The initial oral hearing of the case took place on Monday of this week in the courthouse for the Southern District of New York. The Internet Archive has defended the digital rights of all libraries, arguing that a library has the right to make and lend a digital copy of a printed book it owns without obtaining official authorization from the original publisher. Unsurprisingly, the publishers disagree.
Internet Archive currently has approximately 1.3 million books in digital format through CDL. The digital library has exposed that, with its service, it essentially does the same processes as with traditional library loans and that it does not represent real damage to authors or the publishing industry. He has also said that libraries have collectively paid publishers billions of dollars to include books in their print collections, plus he is investing heavily in digitization in order to preserve those books.
The plaintiff publishers demand not only payment for the alleged damages caused, but also the destruction of the millions of books that have been digitized by the Internet Archive. Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, has labeled the publishers’ request “horrendous” and that, if it goes ahead, it will have “a chilling effect on the hundreds of libraries that lend digitized books like we do. This could be the time of the Alexandria Library burning: millions of books from our community libraries, missing.”
We’ll see how this turns out, but the great power of the copyright industry is well known, so it stands to reason that the Internet Archive has run into a tough nut to crack.