Open Library - Authors Guild

Thank you to the many members, other authors and organizations, publishers and agents who responded to our emails about Open Library. We received tremendous feedback, which has been very helpful.

Your feedback confirmed that a massive number of in-copyright books, some quite recent, are available in Open Library, as well as through the Internet Archive itself.

As noted in previous emails to members, since 2011, the Internet Archive has sought donations of hard-copy books from libraries and individuals for purposes of scanning them, with promises of respecting copyright. Many libraries and others have cooperated and provided them with a trove of books.

The Internet Archive describes Open Library as follows:

“The Internet Archive’s Open Library project will bring four million books online, through purchase or digitization, while honoring the rights of creators and expanding their online reach. Working with U.S. libraries and organizations serving people with print disabilities, Open Libraries can build the online equivalent of a great, modern public library, providing millions of free digital books to billions of people.”

But, contrary to their statement that they are “honoring the rights of creators,” they are not respecting creators’ copyrights. They do not limit Open Library to people with print disabilities. Rather, they are displaying and distributing full-text copies of copyrighted books to the entire world without authorization, in flagrant violation of copyright law.

If you go to the site, openlibrary.org, you can type in the name of any book or author. Many if not most books are listed, but that does not mean the book is available to read on the site. Not all of the listings contain links to scanned copies yet. If a book is available for e-lending, then a “Borrow” button will appear; or it will say “Add to Waitlist” if someone else has the book checked out. If you click on “Borrow,” you are given immediate access to read the book online; and you also have the option to download a pdf or an epub file to your device. Like e-lending from a regular library, these files are intended to become unreadable after the “loan” period. But unlike e-lending from a regular library, Open Library is not serving up licensed or purchased ebooks, but digital scans they created themselves without authorization or any payment to the publisher or author.

Legitimate libraries, on the other hand, license ebooks from publishers for limited periods of time or a limited number of loans; or at much higher prices than the ebooks available for individual purchase. Those license agreements also specifically define the user community (i.e., town residents or university group) that the library can e-lend to. Publishers license ebooks in this way to prevent the library e-lending programs from significantly interfering with the market for their books. If readers could just go online and easily find ebooks to “borrow” from libraries, and a library only pays $9.99 to e-lend the book indefinitely, needless to say, publishers’ income from the book would be greatly diminished.

Note that the listing for your book may also show that there is a “Daisy” copy available. Those “Daisy” copies are specifically-designed (and protected) copies for the print disabled and are potentially fair use. Those are different from the e-lending copies available to the public and, from what we understand, are not likely to materially interfere with the market for the book.

If you are an Authors Guild member and find unauthorized copies of your books available on openlibrary.org or internetarchive.org, please let us know by filling out this form. This is for our informational purposes only. We will not be sending takedown notices or taking any action on your behalf. If you have already sent a takedown request, please let us know whether the Internet Archive has complied with it. We gather they have been responsive to many, but not all requests.

Below are instructions for getting the Internet Archive to remove unauthorized copies of your books from their websites.

What You Can Do

1. Check openlibrary.org and see if copies of your books are available on Open Library for e-lending and download without authorization. You may also search on internetarchive.org for unauthorized copies of your books that came from third-party websites.

2. If you want your book taken down from Open Library and/or the Internet Archive, and you normally request takedowns through your publisher, you should contact the publisher and provide them with the information through your normal channels.

3. If you send takedown notices yourself, you may send a notice directly to the Internet Archive. The address to email a takedown request to is info@archive.org.

Their copyright policy can be found at https://archive.org/about/terms.php.

The takedown notice should include all of the following information and be addressed to info@archive.org. Please ensure that all information provided is accurate.

1. An exact description of where the material about which you complain is located within the Internet Archive collections;

2. Your address, telephone number, and email address; 

3. A statement by you that you have a good-faith belief that the disputed use is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law; 

4. A statement by you, made under penalty of perjury, that the above information in your notice is accurate and that you are the owner of the copyright interest involved or are authorized to act on behalf of that owner; and 

5. Your electronic or physical signature. 

Here Is a Form Takedown Notice

Dear Internet Archive,

I am the author of the book(s) noted below. It has come to my attention that, without permission from either me or my publisher [insert name], you are making my book(s) available to read and/or download on your website openlibrary.org and/or internetarchive.org. Please remove my book(s) from the Open Library website, the Internet Archive, and any other website(s) owned or controlled by you.

My book(s) is/are entitled: [list all books made available for reading on or downloading from either site without permission].

They are located at the following URLs on your site: [provide URL for each book].

My contact information is: [insert address, telephone number, and email address].

I attest under penalty of perjury, that I have a good faith belief that the Internet Archive’s and Open Library’s use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law; and further that the information in this notification is accurate, and that I am the copyright owner.

Electronic signature: [provide e-signature or type name]