Book publishers win federal case against Internet Archive over scanning and lending books

March 26 (UPI) -- Four publishing companies have won a federal case against the digital public library Internet Archive over scanning and lending their books out online.

HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, Penguin Random House and Hachette Book Group petitioned to stop the library resource from offering their books in its online database. A federal judge ruled that while Internet Archives was offering the titles fair use, it did not outweigh the damage to the publishers.


In his decision, U.S. District Court Judge John Koeltl said the publishers established a case of copyright infringement, and Internet Archives copied entire works without permission.

In a blog post on its website, Internet Archive said it plans to appeal the decision.

"Libraries are more than the customer service departments for corporate database products. For democracy to thrive at global scale, libraries must be able to sustain their historic role in society-owning, preserving, and lending books," the statement said. "This ruling is a blow for libraries, readers, and authors and we plan to appeal it."

The book publishers claimed that Internet Archive "is engaged in willful mass copyright infringement."

"With just a few clicks, any Internet-connected user can download complete digital copies of in-copyright books from defendant," court documents read.


Internet Archive was founded in 1996. Since then, it has evolved its efforts to meet its mission statement of "universal access to all knowledge." It gives users access to 240,000 movies, 1.8 million texts and more with a constantly growing database.

The digital library came under fire after launching its National Emergency Library during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, making 1.4 million book titles available to readers with no waitlist, according to court documents.

The quartet of publishers filed the lawsuit against Internet Archive in June 2020, leading to it shuttering the National Emergency Library a short time later.

Internet Archive claimed that access to titles on its database did not cause any decrease in the print sales of those titles, and that those titles ascended Amazon rankings after being included.

The prosecution argued that the metrics cited by Internet Archive did not adequately meet its burden to prove a lack of harm to the publishers, or that the presence of titles in its database in any way led to improved rankings or sales elsewhere.

"The publishing community is grateful to the Court for its unequivocal affirmation of the Copyright Act and respect for established precedent," Maria A. Pallante, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers, said in a statement.


"In rejecting arguments that would have pushed fair use to illogical markers, the Court has underscored the importance of authors, publishers, and creative markets in a global society."

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