A US federal judge heard oral arguments Monday in a lawsuit brought by four major book publishers against the Internet Archive for alleged copyright infringement.
As reported by Reuters, the judge was skeptical about whether copyright law’s fair use doctrine allows Internet Archive offer the scanned books without the permission of the publishers.
The lawsuit was brought by Hatchette Book Group, John Wiley & Sons Inc., Penguin Random House and HarperCollins Publishers, which They claim that digitizing books without demanding payment hurts writers and publishers who lose the right to charge.
The lawsuit claims that the “Internet Archive’s actions grossly exceed legitimate library services, violate Intellectual Property Law, and constitute deliberate digital piracy on an industrial scale“. The difficult balance between culture and business.
The pandemic was the origin of the demand
Internet Archive expanded its digital library during the covid-19 pandemic by scanning the books in its possession and making them available to the public. The move came at a time when librarians were calling for ways readers could access books from home.
The Internet Archive opened its doors in 1996 to digitize newspapers and has grown ever since, now claiming to function as a digital library. The nonprofit organization began digitizing books in 2005 and, according to its website, scans 4,300 books a day at 18 locations around the world.
The Internet Archive boasts of spreading universal access to all human knowledge, but publishers claim it remains illegal, hence the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, while the Internet Archive claims it works to promote education, that has long been the role and goal of publishers, who have invested time, money and resources in creating and distributing books.
By scanning and distributing digital books to readers for free, the lawsuit claims the Internet Archive is exploiting “the investments that publishers have made in their books, and it does so through a business model that is designed to take advantage of the work of others“.
The publishers claim that this practice makes the Internet Archive “nothing more than a massive copier and distributor of pirated works“. We will see how this lawsuit ends, but It can mean a before and after for the internet and culture.