The “Internet Archive” Is Marked as a Pirate Site by Publishers

By Bill Toulas / June 2, 2020

It looks like the “Internet Archive” is in trouble, as a group of major publishers is targeting it for piracy. More specifically, Hachette Book Group Inc., HarperCollins Publishers LLC, John Wiley & Sons Inc., and Penguin Random House LLC have submitted a lawsuit against the non-profit in a New York court. They are accusing the online knowledge repository of blatant piracy and typical copyright infringement violations. On the crosshairs of the group is “Open Library,” a project of the Internet Archive that hosts every book that has ever been published.

The publishers are obviously not happy with the inclusion of some of the titles that are to be found in the Open Library's massive 25-million catalog. The rights for many of the titles belong to these publishers, including recent bestseller fiction titles, popular self-help books, and widely sought-after biographies. Open Library is offering full scans of these publications, allowing its visitors to read them without limitations, or even to download them on their computers. Naturally, creators and distributors feel that the platform is undermining their profits, as it is freely giving away books that people would otherwise have to pay for.

Internet Archive's Open Library is using a system called “Controlled Digital Lending,” which is meant to serve as an online library system that lends the books to their members for a limited time and on a controlled volume basis. However, the publishers feel that this is just a cover for copyright infringement since the people who download the copies of the books can keep them forever. Moreover, they can distribute the writings to others, systematically copy them, engage in unlicensed public displaying, and generally cause magnified trouble to the creators. As the lawsuit characteristically writes:

“IA’s blatant, willful infringement is all the more egregious for its timing, which comes at the very moment that many authors, publishers, and independent bookstores, not to mention libraries, are both struggling to survive amidst economic uncertainty and planning deliberatively for future, changing markets.”

What the publishers are now requesting is the approval of statutory damages that go up to $150,000 per infringement. The lawsuit is also including a point on “secondary liability” for contribution to copyright infringement against Internet Archive in order to cover for the scenario where the Internet Archive would attempt to pass the responsibility to the users. Of course, the lawsuit also requests the approval of a preliminary and even a permanent injunction against the Open Library platform so that the associated copyright infringement activities of the Internet Archive stop right here.

For a better user experience we recommend using a more modern browser. We support the latest version of the following browsers: For a better user experience we recommend using the latest version of the following browsers: