ruling by U.S. District Judge John Koeltl in Manhattan on Friday
came in a closely watched lawsuit that tested the ability of
Internet Archive to lend out the works of writers and publishers
protected by U.S. copyright laws.
The San Francisco-based non-profit over the past decade has
scanned millions of print books and lent out the digital copies
for free. While many are in the public domain, 3.6 million are
protected by valid copyrights.
That includes 33,000 titles belonging to the four publishers,
Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group, News Corp's HarperCollins
Publishers, John Wiley & Sons Inc and Bertelsmann SE & Co's
Penguin Random House.
They sued in 2020 over 127 books, after Internet Archive
expanded lending with the COVID-19 pandemic's onset, when
brick-and-mortar libraries were forced to close, by lifting
limits on how many people could borrow a book at a time.
The nonprofit, which partners with traditional libraries, has
since returned to what it calls "controlled digital lending".
It currently hosts about 70,000 daily e-books "borrows".
It argued its practices were protected by the doctrine of "fair
use" which allows for the unlicensed use of others' copyrighted
works in some circumstances.
But Koeltl said there was nothing "transformative" about
Internet Archive's digital book copies that would warrant "fair
use" protection, as its e-books merely replaced the authorized
copies publishers themselves license to traditional libraries.
"Although IA has the right to lend print books it lawfully
acquired, it does not have the right to scan those books and
lend the digital copies en masse," he wrote.
Internet Archive promised an appeal, saying the ruling "holds
back access to information in the digital age, harming all
Maria Pallante, the head of Association of American Publishers,
in a statement said the ruling "underscored the importance of
authors, publishers, and creative markets in a global society."
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston and Blake Brittain in
Washington; editing by Michael Perry and Jason Neely)
[© 2023 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2022 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Thompson Reuters is solely responsible for this content.