March 25 (Reuters) – A US judge has ruled that an online library run by the nonprofit Internet Archive violated the copyrights of four major US publishers by lending scanned copies of their books.
the to rule By US District Judge John Coltell in Manhattan on Friday came a closely watched lawsuit that tested the Internet Archive’s ability to lend works by writers and publishers protected by US copyright laws.
Over the past decade, the San Francisco-based nonprofit has scanned millions of print books and loaned digital copies for free. While many of them are in the public domain, 3.6 million are protected by valid copyright.
This includes 33,000 titles belonging to the four publishers, Lagardere SCA (LAGA.PA) Hachette Book Group, News Corp’s (NWSA.O) HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons Inc (WLY.N) and Bertelsmann SE & Co’s (BTGGg.F) Penguin Random House.
They sued in 2020 over 127 books, after the Internet Archive expanded lending with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when traditional bookstores were forced to close, by lifting restrictions on the number of people who could borrow a book at one time.
Since then, the nonprofit, which partners with traditional bookstores, has returned to what it calls “controlled digital lending.”
It currently hosts about 70,000 e-books “borrowed” per day.
It said its practices are protected by the “fair use” doctrine, which allows unauthorized use of others’ copyrighted works in some circumstances.
But Koeltl said there was nothing “transformative” about the Internet Archive’s digital book reproductions that would guarantee “fair use” protection, since his e-books merely replace authorized copies of the publishers themselves with a license for traditional libraries.
“Although IA has the right to loan printed books that it has lawfully acquired, it does not have the right to collectively scan those books and lend digital copies,” he wrote.
The Internet Archive promised to file an appeal, saying the ruling “impedes access to information in the digital age, harming all readers everywhere.”
Maria Pallant, president of the American Publishers Association, said in a statement that the ruling “underscores the importance of authors, publishers, and creative markets in a global community.”
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston and Blake Brittain in Washington). Editing by Michael Berry and Jason Neely
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