Internet Archive Sued by Major Publishers

On June 1, publishers Hachette Book Group, Inc., HarperCollins Publishers LLC, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and Penguin Random House LLC filed a copyright infringement complaint against the Internet Archive, alleging that it scans and distributes digital copies of books without a license. This case is being held in the Southern District of New York.

Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library whose stated mission is “to provide universal access to all knowledge.” Founded by Brewster Khale in 1996, the site currently claims to feature 330 billion web pages and 20 million books and texts. After creating a program to digitize books in 2005, Internet Archive now scans “1,000 books per day in 28 locations around the world.” According to the complaint, Internet Archives “defends its willful mass infringement by asserting an invented theory called ‘Controlled Digital Lending’ (‘CDL’),” which is a system that “allows libraries to loan print books to digital patrons in a ‘lend like print’ fashion.” CDL is meant to prevent users from freely distributing or copying copyrighted content.

The plaintiffs claimed Internet Archives caused them considerable harm by offering copyrighted material for free and distributing scanned books without licenses. The complaint writes, “[Internet Archive] does not seek to ‘free knowledge’; it seeks to destroy the carefully calibrated ecosystem that makes books possible in the first place—and to undermine the copyright law that stands in its way.”

Distributing tens of thousands of books every year, the plaintiffs are among the most popular publishers in the United States. Attached to the complaint as an exhibit is a list of the 127 “in-copyright works” allegedly infringed by Internet Archive. As a result of Internet Archives’ alleged copyright infringement, the plaintiffs seek an award of statutory damages and a permanent injunction barring it from further distributing the copyrighted works.

The plaintiffs are represented by Davis Wright Tremaine.