Internet Archive faces legal complaint from major publishers

The Internet Archive is facing a legal complaint from major publishing houses in the Southern District of New York for allegedly violating copyright laws via its so-called "Open Library."

The site created the service in March in response to the quarantine measures of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House and Wiley — all members of the Association of American Publishers — are now pushing back. They argue that the Internet Archive's service represents willful copyright infringement since the Open Library's materials include scanned and uploaded versions of books provided without licensing or payment to publishers and authors.

The service's collection numbered more than one million with books scanned from three libraries, according to the filing.

"Consistent with the deplorable nature of piracy, IA's infringement is intentional and systematic: it produces mirror image copies of millions of unaltered in-copyright works for which it has no rights and distributes them in their entirety for reading purposes to the public for free, including voluminous numbers of books that are currently commercially available," the companies said in the filing.

The filing also contrasted the Open Library program with traditional public libraries. It alleged that the program's name is misleading and misappropriates the term library since it is a commercial enterprise. The filing stated that the Archive has earned $100 million through supporters and commerce, including the sale of its services, like its large-scale book scanning capability.

In a comment to The Verge, Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle said: "As a library, the Internet Archive acquires books and lends them, as libraries have always done. This supports publishing and authors and readers. Publishers suing libraries for lending books — in this case, protected digitized versions, and while schools and libraries are closed — is not in anyone's interest."