Writer Associations Condemn Unauthorized Digital Scanning and Lending

The Writers' Union of Canada
Press Release
Unlicensed lending of scanned books violates authors’ rights, and damages the marketplace.

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) joins with our partner organizations, the U.S. Authors Guild (AG), the U.K.’s Society of Authors (SoA), and the International Authors Forum (IAF) in strongly condemning the unauthorized lending of books scanned for the website Internet Archive.

Claiming fair use under U.S. law, the Internet Archive has created an “Open Library” that allows for the borrowing of books scanned from within the physical collections of myriad libraries associated with Internet Archive. As reported by the Authors Guild, “Internet Archive’s Open Library has started rejecting notices sent by Guild members asking for unauthorized digital copies of their books to be taken down.” They cite a new legal theory called controlled digital lending as the authority for their interpretation of U.S. fair use. 

A recent legal decision in the U.S. (Capitol Records v. ReDigi) eliminates any uncertainty about this kind of unauthorized redistribution of copyright-protected works. Such lending cannot be claimed as fair use, as it directly competes with legitimate sales.

“This is an outrageous trespass on the rights of authors,” said TWUC Chair Eric Enno Tamm. “The Writers’ Union is calling on the Internet Archive to stop this practice immediately, and to respect the licence terms for works in library collections.”

Web users around the world are able to access and borrow scanned books from the Open Library site. All that is required is a free membership in the online Open Library.

“TWUC has found copies of Canadian works in the Internet Archive’s Open Library,” added TWUC Executive Director John Degen. “We believe these are unauthorized scans and loans. The harm this does to the e-book market, and to genuine library sales, is incalculable.”

Both the Authors Guild and the Society of Authors have created online open letters to Internet Archive about the unlicensed lending of scanned books. Canada’s authors are encouraged to join these campaigns here and here.


The Writers’ Union of Canada is our country’s national organization representing approximately 2100 professional authors of books. The Union is dedicated to fostering writing in Canada, and promoting the rights, freedoms, and economic well-being of all writers. www.writersunion.ca

For additional information:
John Degen, Executive Director
The Writers’ Union of Canada
416.703.8982 Ext. 221

DATE: January 23, 2019