A US court has ruled that the Internet Archive’s lending of digitized books infringes on the copyright of the respective publishers. The non-profit organization based in San Francisco is known for its “Wayback Machine” and has scanned numerous books to make them available for loan to users as digital versions. During the coronavirus pandemic, the organization abandoned its previous “one book, one loan” policy and released one title for multiple loans. Four major publishers filed a lawsuit in 2020 and were now deemed to be correct.
Among the millions of book titles that the Internet Archive has scanned for its “Open Library,” many still have copyright claims. The organization lent these titles just like the others that were already in the public domain, invoking fair use without a license agreement or compensation payments to rights holders. At the start of the pandemic, the Internet Archive relaxed the restrictions on lending to offer a replacement for closed libraries and difficult access to learning material, which led to the publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House suing the organization for copyright infringement.
Following the lawsuit, the Internet Archive limited its offerings once again, restricting access to “Open Library” titles to the one book, one loan model. However, the District Court for Southern New York ruled that the Internet Archive could not invoke a “fair use” exception and could only lend titles acquired legally, as libraries do. The court deemed mass scanning and lending to be copyright infringement. The Internet Archive intends to appeal the verdict.