24 November 2023

The Internet Archive, best known for Wayback Machine – its service for archiving large amounts of web pages – but which also hosts copies of books, documents, videos and even video games, he said. the right to do so, in the same way as a library? Or is it massive hacking?

On Friday March 24, Judge John G. Koeltl of the Manhattan Court (New York, United States), who had to determine whether a trial would be necessary to settle the dispute, agreed with the plaintiffs, the international publishers HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, Penguin Random House and Hachette Book Group, a subsidiary of Hachette Livre France. They accuse the foundation managing the Internet Archive of offering free digital copies of millions of books subject to copyright.

According to Mr. Koeltl, the Internet Archive does not produce its own content but merely offers the download of “derivative works”, in the American sense of the term, that is to say copies of books which would normally have subject to a request for authorization from their respective owners.

Read also: In the United States, Internet Archive sued by publishers

“National Emergency Library”

In 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic and while many physical libraries were closing their doors, Internet Archive, which already offered a free book “loan” service, launched an operation called “National Emergency Library”: it had removed the limitation which, until then, prevented the same book from being consulted simultaneously by several people.

Through this non-commercial service, Internet Archive believes that it falls within the framework of the American doctrine known as the fair use (which provides intellectual property exemptions in the context of facilitating the dissemination of ideas). But the four international publishers, disagreeing with this vision, decided to file a complaint against the foundation in June of that year.

Brewster Kahle, co-founder of the Internet Archive, announced on Saturday that his organization would appeal the decision. According to him, by not recognizing the Internet Archive’s legitimacy to “lend” digital copies of books, justice would attack libraries in general: “For democracy to thrive, libraries must be able to carry out their historic role: owning, preserving and lending books. »

Corrigendum on March 28 at 6 p.m.: clarification of the name of the subsidiary of Hachette Livre France, which is among the complainants.

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