Writers Around the World Support Legal Action Against Internet Archive

The Writers' Union of Canada
Press Release

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) has joined a US Authors Guild amicus brief filing in United States District Court, supporting the lawsuit of four prominent US publishers against the Internet Archive’s (IA) “controlled digital lending” scheme. TWUC has donated funds in support of the brief as well. The full brief is available on the Authors Guild site.

Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, and John Wiley Sons, Inc. are suing the San Francisco-based IA, claiming copyright infringement on a massive, industrial scale. The IA’s “Open Library” program scans physical copies of the books in its collection and then, without permission or lawful right, makes those digital files globally available online, intentionally undermining the legitimate ebook market at both the commercial and library levels.

As our colleagues at the Authors Guild put it:

“…it is piracy, pure and simple, however artfully disguised as “fair use” and public service. Indeed, as litigation uncovered, the Internet Archive’s scanning operation… is a lucrative commercial enterprise that between 2011 and 2020 generated $30 million in revenue from libraries.”

IA is making a claim of “fair use” to the Court, insisting a radical new legal theory called controlled digital lending allows its activity, and is no different from an actual library lending physical copies. This despite no digital license, purchase agreement, nor permission to scan.

TWUC has received many complaints from members with works in the Open Library collection, and despite thousands of take-down requests from authors around the world, IA has made no significant change to its practices. The Union is aware that controlled digital lending is being studied and advanced by anti-copyright activists in Canada. As well, IA operates a Canadian branch of its scanning activity through Robarts Library at the University of Toronto.

TWUC believes this piratical practice must be shut down in its country of origin to avoid similar disruption here and elsewhere.

“Authors love libraries — genuine libraries,” insists TWUC Chair Rhea Tregebov, “but genuine libraries work within the law, and purchase the right to distribute digital books; they don’t just make bootleg copies in the back room.”

In early July, the publishers filed a motion for summary judgment on the strength of the evidence they’ve produced so far. Since then, a wave of anti-copyright briefs have been offered to the court from US academics sympathetic to IA. TWUC felt it was essential the global creator community be heard from as well. Along with its partners at the UK Society of Authors (SofA), the International Authors Forum (IAF), and the Canadian Authors Association (CAA), TWUC is filing its opinion with the court.

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The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is the national organization of professionally published writers. TWUC was founded in 1973 to work with governments, publishers, booksellers, and readers to improve the conditions of Canadian writers. Now over 2,5300 members strong, TWUC advocates on behalf of writers’ collective interests, and delivers value to members through advocacy, community, and information. TWUC believes in a thriving, diverse Canadian culture that values and supports writers. 

For additional information:
John Degen, Executive Director
The Writers’ Union of Canada

Rhea Tregebov, Chair
The Writers’ Union of Canada

Date: August 15, 2022