Internet Archive Copyright Case
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The Internet Archive Copyright Case refers to a March 2023 lawsuit brought against the Internet Archive (archive.org, also associated with Wayback Machine) over its Open Library project, in which scanned versions of books from public libraries are posted online for free access. Publishers sued, arguing that these books (which users could "check out for one hour") were unfair competition with their business selling copyrighted ebooks under the DMCA. The judge ultimately ruled in favor of the publishers, causing subsequent controversy online. Many disagreed with the ruling, arguing that it privileged big publishing companies over the non-profit and its loyal users, as well as potentially having repercussions on physical libraries.
The Internet Archive was founded in 1996 to archive and screen-capture parts of the internet that were deleted at a rapid rate. The Open Library, which expanded the Internet Archive's mission to scanned versions of books, started up in 2007. Hacktivist Aaron Swartz, one of the minds behind Reddit, was among Open Library's principal developers.
The Open Library takes books scanned by brick-and-mortar libraries and makes them available as unique digital copies online to be borrowed by only one person at a time for a limited amount of time. Its collection reportedly numbers in the millions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Open Library lifted the one-person-at-a-time rule in order to increase access to books for people who couldn't go to libraries in person.
In response to this move, publishing companies Hachette, Wiley, HarperCollins and Penguin brought the case to the Southern District of New York against the Open Library on June 2nd, 2020. In March 2023, the Clinton-appointed 77-year-old judge John G. Keoltl ruled in favor of the four publishers.
The Internet Archive had argued that Open Library was legal because 1) the scanned books came from the collections of physical libraries that had already paid for them and 2) the nonprofit helped to promote the sale and spread of books rather than replacing the ebooks sold by for-profit publishers. The publishing companies argued that the Open Library should delete all of its copies and pay damages to them. The court ruling found that the Internet Archive's request to be exempt from paying damages was "premature."
On March 25th, 2023, the preliminary ruling on the case was made, and the publishers won. That same day, the Internet Archive published a blog post called "The Fight Continues," which argued the decision was "a blow to all libraries and the communities we serve," and encouraged users to help the Internet Archive advocate for itself. The Internet Archive plans to appeal the case and also started an online petition to support it.
Following the initial ruling, many disagreed with the decision and voiced their support for the Internet Archive on social media. For example, on March 25th, 2023, Twitter user @JunnKamille tweeted their support of the Internet Archive, earning over 143,000 likes in one week (seen below).
Also on March 25th, Twitter user @Q_Review offered their support, earning almost 73,000 likes in one week (seen below). Sometimes, these posts seemed to catastrophisme, arguing that the entire Internet Archive was under attack instead of just Open Library.
A thread of debate notably opened up around author Chuck Wendig on March 25th, 2023. One of Wendig's books was listed among those that the publishers argued had been unjustly scanned and added to Open Library. Tweets targeting and mocking Wendig circulated widely, such as the one by Twitter user @fart (seen below), which earned over 17,000 likes in a week. Wendig, however, clarified that he had nothing to do with the lawsuit and it was all the publishers, a position that Open Library confirmed.
 Internet Archive – The Internet Archive
 BBC – A library bigger than any building
 Ars Technica – Internet Archive opinion
 Wikipedia – John G. Koeltl
 Internet Archive – The Fight Continues
 The eRegister – How the Internet Archive faces potential destruction at the hands of Big Four publishers
 Vice – Internet Archive Loses Historic Copyright Case, Vows to Appeal
 Battle for Libraries – Petition
 Twitter – @JunnKamille
 terribleminds – No, I Still Don’t Have Anything To Do With The Publisher Lawsuit Against The Internet Archive
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Mar 31, 2023 at 09:26AM EDT
Apr 02, 2023 at 03:29AM EDT
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