NEW YORK (AP) – Four of the country’s largest publishers have sued a digital library for copyright infringement, alleging that the Internet archive illegally offered more than a million scanned works to the public, including favorites such as Toni Morrisons’ Song of Solomon, “Malcolm Gladwell’s” Blink “and Cormac McCarthy’s” The Road “.
“Without any license or payment to authors or publishers, Internet Archive scans printed books, uploads these illegally scanned books to its servers, and distributes literal digital copies of the books in their entirety through public-facing websites,” documents submitted Monday in federal court Monday in New York. “With just a few clicks, any Internet-connected user can download full digital copies of copyrighted books.”
In March, the Internet archive announced that it had established a “National Emergency Library” in response to the coronavirus outbreak that closed most of the country’s schools and libraries. According to the Archives, the emergency library would “support distance learning, research activities”, independent scholarship and intellectual stimulation “with free digital material.
“We hope authors will support our efforts to ensure temporary access to their work during this time of crisis,” said a statement on the archive’s website, www.archive.org. The emergency library will last at least until the end of June. The archive also provides free access to over 1 million older public domain books that are not copyrighted.
Founded in 1996 and based in San Francisco, the archive has defended its recent actions by saying it works like a traditional lending library, a non-profit entity that provides free books. The publishers have argued that the archive partially does not function as a traditional library because it provides paper book scans without reaching licensing agreements with copyright holders. The Archives have said it acquires paperback and hardcover books through purchases and donations and then scans them.
Plaintiffs, including Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, and Wiley, are seeking a permanent injunction against the library and an undetermined amount of damages. Court articles refer to page views on the archive site, over 50,000 in New York State only, but not how many books were actually borrowed.
“There is nothing in copyright law that allows the massive copying and distribution of 1.3 million scanned books to the public, regardless of whether those copies are downloaded by one person or millions,” said Maria Pallante, president and CEO of the association’s trading group of US publishers, said in an interview.
Monday’s legal action continues a long battle between the traditional publishing community, for which copyrights underpin its activities, and the Internet community, which has advocated making as much material as possible available for free. Authors and publishers condemned the emergency library launch in March, but historian Jill Lepore praised it, writing in a New Yorker essay that “If the books you need aren’t in a bookstore, and especially if you’re one of the current more than a billion students and teachers exclude your class, sign up, log in and borrow! ”
In the past 30 years, publishers have competed with Google, Amazon.com and others for digital content. In 2019, several publishers sued Amazon-owned Audible.com for a planned audiobook program for schools with captions that claimants allegedly infringed copyright law. The matter was settled earlier this year, and Audible said it would seek permission from copyright holders before using captions.
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