Home » Copyright/Intellectual Property » The Internet Archive’s OpenLibrary project violates copyright, the Authors Guild warns

The Internet Archive’s OpenLibrary project violates copyright, the Authors Guild warns

28 December 2017

From TeleRead:

Four years ago, on the old site, I wrote about how Archive.org’s OpenLibrary project was systematically violating the copyrights of a number of authors, including Diane Duane and Mercedes Lackey. Archive.org seemed to feel that making digital copies of paper books and loaning them out as if they were the paper books as long as it restricted the paper books from circulating while the digital media were out was a fair use of those books. Even though the Authors Guild had been absolutely gung-ho about chasing Google all the way to the Supreme Court just for serving up snippets, the Internet Archive checking out entire books was somehow beneath its notice.

After that, the strangest thing happened: nothing.

For four years, Archive.org has chugged right along digitizing books and setting them up for checkout, without the Authors Guild or anyone else saying one word about it. And while I will admit that, in at least one case, this let me find a long out-of-print book I’d been wanting to get my hands on, it’s still not exactly legal. (Or, at least, it hasn’t been shown to be. More on that later.) Even the X-COM novel that originally prompted me to make that discovery is still up and available.

. . . .

Authors Guild Executive Director Mary E. Rasenberger replied:

This is something we are actively following. We have had letter/email exchanges and conversations with the Internet Archive, and indeed offered to work with them on this project to assist in getting rights from authors of out of print books, but only if they would do it within the bounds of the copyright law. But it appears they are not. Some of what they are doing is arguably fair use under the Haiti Trust and Google Books decisions, but the notion of relying on the first sale doctrine and fair use to allow IA to provide a digital copy to any library that owns a hard copy of a book in their collections and then e-lend that digital copy is ludicrous.  I believe they are relying on an argument made in an amicus brief the IA signed onto in the ReDigi case, which is not going to fly. Yes, fair use even today does have some limits.

Finally, a few days ago, mention of OpenLibrary’s putative copyright violations showed up, posted by authors I follow on Facebook—and as I learned from a reader email today, this is because the Authors Guild finally deigned to alert its members that OpenLibrary was scanning and checking out their books without permission.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Copyright/Intellectual Property

3 Comments to “The Internet Archive’s OpenLibrary project violates copyright, the Authors Guild warns”

  1. This is new to me.

    Observation from visiting openlibrary.org:

    They have a year-end fundraising campaign as a nonprofit: They’ve raised so far $1.347 million against a goal of $1.5, according to their posted information.

    I searched on an obscure historical topic that I was having trouble researching and found two books I didn’t know about.

    Not all books are available as free ebook downloads.

    I haven’t signed up yet. But I probably would have, if I was ready to start reading.

    I do think this is a serious copyright issue and if Authors Guild was worth a damn, they’d be leading on this, not monitoring-only.

    • You have to remember the name is not really the thing. The ‘Authors Guild’ is little more than a pen to hopefully hold authors while they wait to be or are being sheared by trad-pub. So if it won’t put money in trad-pub’s pocket the Authors Guild will say little and do nothing. (Think of on of those whiny little lap dogs that makes lots of noise when their master (trad-pub) gives them the nod.)

  2. The interesting bit is in the comment section, which points one to Section 108 of the copyright law. Apparently libraries actually have all sorts of interesting rights to preserve and copy books, and to lend out said copies.

    They are also allowed to let individual people make copies of a whole work for “private study, scholarship, or research”, if the work is out of print or not available “at a fair price.” That’s in Section 108 (e). Presumably, reading a book constitutes “private study.”

    So actually, it would seem that the Internet Archive is being more restrictive than the law, because it’s not letting people request and make permanent copies that would last a long time; it’s lending out copies of out-of-print works for a brief period of time.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.