Suit Asks Court to Enjoin Internet Archive from Sharing Copyrighted Works

New York (June 1, 2020): The Authors Guild, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit advocacy group for published authors and journalists, supports the copyright infringement lawsuit brought against Internet Archive by four leading American publishers: Hachette, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, and John Wiley. The suit, filed today in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, asks that Internet Archive be enjoined from mass scanning, publicly displaying, and distributing copyrighted literary works to the public through its branded Open Library and National Emergency Library.

As the Authors Guild has previously written, the Internet Archive has scanned more than 1.4 million physical books, and it posts those scans on its websites for anyone in the world to read without the permission or payment to the author, relying on a faulty legal theory called “Controlled Digital Lending” that the U.S. courts have already flatly rejected.

“Internet Archive’s 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,” said Douglas Preston, author and President of the Authors Guild. “The Internet Archive hopes to fool the public by calling its piracy website a ‘library’; but there’s a more accurate term for taking what you don’t own: ‘stealing.’”

Preston continued, “What Internet Archive is doing is no different than heaving a brick through a grocery store window and handing out the food—and then congratulating itself for providing a public service. It’s not a public service to violate the rights of thousands of hard-working authors, most of whom desperately need the income. We authors want everyone to have access to books, but there are already thousands of excellent public libraries in the United States devoted to providing free access to e-books. Legitimate libraries pay for those e-books, and a portion of that flows back to authors as royalties, helping ensure they can continue to write.”

“Internet Archive has demonstrated a blatant disregard for authors’ copyrights and a lack of respect or acknowledgement that creators deserve to be compensated for their creative work,” said Mary Rasenberger, the Authors Guild’s Executive Director. “It is a slap in the face for authors, whose writing incomes are already down for full-time authors nearly 42% in the past decade, according to the 2018 Authors Income Survey. For most authors, losing even a small royalty can make a big difference to their income, and yet Internet Archive has taken it upon itself to chip away even more at their ability to make a living. "

Rasenberger adds, “We offered to work with Internet Archive in 2017 to create a licensing system that would make Open Library compliant with the copyright law, and that offer was rejected. Internet Archives’ unwillingness to work with authors and publishers to make their program legal unfortunately made a lawsuit the only recourse.”

The Authors Guild supports the publishers’ lawsuit and sees it as an important step towards putting an end to the rogue practice of making works available online without permission, and eventually creating a licensing system for out-of-print books.

To read more about the lawsuit, click here.

To learn more about the Authors Guild’s stance on Internet Archive’s practices, read Douglas Preston’s New York Times op/ed.


About the Authors Guild
The Authors Guild is the nation’s oldest and largest professional organization for writers. Its mission is to empower working writers by advocating for the rights of authors and journalists. The Guild protects free speech and authors’ copyrights, fights for fair contracts and a living wage, and provides an engaged and welcoming community for all published authors. For more, visit www.authorsguild.org.