Tags: Coronavirus | Internet Archive | e-books | publishers | authors

Publishers File Lawsuit Against Internet Archive Over Free E-Books

curved bookshelf with hundreds of books stacked inside
(Joel Saget/Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 01 June 2020 02:24 PM

Several publishers have joined forces in a lawsuit filed Monday against nonprofit Internet Archive for providing free electronic books to readers, The New York Times reports.

The suit filed by publishers Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons and Penguin Random House alleges the nonprofit’s release of 1.3 million e-books for free is taking money away from authors and publishers.

In March, the group announced it was creating “a National Emergency Library to serve the nation’s displaced learners” after the coronavirus outbreak shut down libraries and book stores. The nonprofit said it would lift all restrictions on its book lending until the pandemic was over. Previously, book borrowers had 14 days to read their free book.

The lawsuit, which accuses Internet Archive of “willful mass copyright infringement,” was filed in federal court in Manhattan, according to the newspaper.

“There is nothing innovative or transformative about making complete copies of books to which you have no rights and giving them away for free,” Maria A. Pallante, president of the Association of American Publishers, told The New York Times. “They’ve stepped in downstream and taken the intellectual investment of authors and the financial investment of publishers, they’re interfering and giving this away.”

Pallante said publishers were considering filing suit even before the virus outbreak and Internet Archive's announcement to lift its borrowing restrictions. 

Brewster Kahle, the founder and digital librarian of Internet Archive, defended his organization and said it was serving as a library during the public health crisis.

“As a library, the Internet Archive acquires books and lends them, as libraries have always done,” he said, in an email to The New York Times. “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.”

But Internet Archive doesn’t operate like a public library with an e-book lending program, the newspaper reports. Libraries pay licensing fees to publishers and agree to make them available for a set time period or a certain number of times. Internet Archive acquires copies through donated or purchased books, which are then scanned and put online. It has no agreement with publishers directly.

Kahle said that the group decided to drop lending time restrictions because teachers were looking for more resources to help with remote teaching. He added that authors who did not want their books on the site could opt out.

But many authors named in the lawsuit say they disagree, including Malcolm Gladwell, John Grisham and Elizabeth Gilbert.

Douglas Preston, a writer and president of the Authors Guild, told the newspaper that the “wholesale scanning and posting of copyrighted books without the consent of authors, and without paying a dime, is piracy hidden behind a sanctimonious veil of progressivism.”

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Several publishers have joined forces in a lawsuit filed Monday against nonprofit Internet Archive for providing free electronic books to readers, The New York Times reports. The suit filed by publishers Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons and...
Internet Archive, e-books, publishers, authors
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2020-24-01
Monday, 01 June 2020 02:24 PM
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