In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Internet Archive announced its “National Emergency Library,” which temporarily suspended the waitlists for borrowing e-books and made writers and publishers see red. What started as general outrage has now become a copyright infringement lawsuit.
In their lawsuit, four of the nation’s largest publishers have accused The Internet Archive, or IA, of being engaged in “willful mass copyright infringement.” In their case, filed in federal court on Monday, plaintiffs HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, Penguin Random House and John Wiley & Sons seek to block operations of the nonprofit group and collect damages for allegedly infringed books.
The publishers say that providing digital copies of books to whoever wants them ignores the costs of making books and the basic copyright principles and shows a lack of respect for writers and others involved in publishing. What they are doing is seen as an attempt to undermine existing copyright law.
The IA considers itself a library that freely lends digital copies of millions of books that it acquires through purchases, donations, and in collaboration with physical libraries. Legal representatives for publishers and writers have repeatedly accused the group of infringement—handing out free books and depriving authors of badly needed income.