A group of authors and other creative professionals are lending their names to an open letter protesting publishers’ lawsuit against the Internet Archive Library, characterizing it as one of a number of efforts to curb libraries’ lending of ebooks.
Authors including Neil Gaiman, Naomi Klein, Cory Doctorow and Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, lent their names to the letter, which was organized by the public interest group Fight for the Future.
“Libraries are a fundamental collective good. We, the undersigned authors, are disheartened by the recent attacks against libraries being made in our name by trade associations such as the American Association of Publishers and the Publishers Association: undermining the traditional rights of libraries to own and preserve books, intimidating libraries with lawsuits, and smearing librarians,” the letter states.
A group of publishers sued the Internet Archive in 2020, claiming that its open library violates copyright by producing “mirror image copies of millions of unaltered in-copyright works for which it has no rights” and then distributes them “in their entirety for reading purposes to the public for free, including voluminous numbers of books that are commercially available.” They also contend that the archive’s scanning undercuts the market for e-books.
The Internet Archive says that its lending of the scanned books is akin to a traditional library. In its response to the publishers’ lawsuit, it warns of the ramifications of the litigation and claims that publishers “would like to force libraries and their patrons into a world in which books can only be accessed, never owned, and in which availability is subject to the rightsholders’ whim.”
The letter also calls for enshrining “the right of libraries to permanently own and preserve books, and to purchase these permanent copies on reasonable terms, regardless of format,” and condemns the characterization of library advocates as “mouthpieces” for big tech.
“We fear a future where libraries are reduced to a sort of Netflix or Spotify for books, from which publishers demand exorbitant licensing fees in perpetuity while unaccountable vendors force the spread of disinformation and hate for profit,” the letter states.
The litigation is in the summary judgment stage in U.S. District Court in New York.
Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons Inc and Penguin Random House are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.