All Your Books Are Belong to Us* – JURIST – Commentary – Legal News & Commentary

“A remarkable number of people apparently think libraries are bad, because they provide information for free, rather than forcing people to pay. In response to the Covid-19 crisis, the Internet Archive created the National Emergency Library, a repository of e-books that people can check out virtually, rather than visiting a library and checking out a book in person.

Most people were delighted by this creative and selfless effort of a charity to make books available to people who rely on libraries. After all, not everyone can afford to just buy everything they want to read on Amazon. While an e-book is no substitute for the real thing, something is better than nothing, and a lot of people trapped at home could benefit from increased access to reading material.

But publishers didn’t see it that way. On the contrary, they freaked out, and encouraged their allies to do the same. Among other things, the Authors Guild and its members took to Twitter to complain that the Internet Archive was essentially stealing their paycheck, by enabling people to read books for free, rather than paying for them.

As I’ve previously argued, their complaint is pure landlordism. Authors – or rather, publishers – want to collect their rents and are mad that some people might not pay. Ironically, they don’t even identify any actual lost sales, just the potential….”

Opinion | The Pandemic Is Not an Excuse to Exploit Writers – The New York Times

“Authors have been hit hard by the pandemic, especially emerging writers who have books coming out in the next few months. With bookstores and libraries closed and book tours canceled, they are facing an enormous challenge in connecting with potential readers. It could be a career-destroying time for some authors, many of whom are struggling to make a living.

Enter the “National Emergency Library” to make things even worse. On March 24, Internet Archive, a nonprofit self-described as a “digital library of free and borrowable” content, announced that it was granting itself powers to distribute e-books free to anyone who wants them. Citing the pandemic, it has removed all lending restrictions from its archive until June 30….”

Authors fume as online library “lends” unlimited free books | Ars Technica

“For almost a decade, the Internet Archive, an online library best known for its Internet Wayback Machine, has let users “borrow” scanned digital copies of books held in its warehouse. Until recently, users could only check out as many copies as the organization had physical copies. But last week, The Internet Archive announced it was eliminating that restriction, allowing an unlimited number of users to check out a book simultaneously. The Internet Archive calls this the National Emergency Library.

Initial media coverage of the service was strongly positive. The New Yorker declared it a “gift to readers everywhere.” But as word of the new service spread, it triggered a backlash from authors and publishers….

“As a reminder, there is no author bailout, booksellers bailout, or publisher bailout,” author Alexander Chee tweeted on Friday. “The Internet Archive’s ’emergency’ copyrights grab endangers many already in terrible danger.”

“It is a tarted-up piracy site,” wrote author James Gleick….”

Why a National Emergency Library Would Have Been Unnecessary – Disruptive Competition Project

“Last week, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Internet Archive announced the National Emergency Library (“NEL”), which expanded digital access to the books in its collection. The New Yorker welcomed it as “a gift to readers everywhere.” Predictably, the Authors Guild, the Copyright Alliance, and the Association of American Publishers condemned the move as infringing copyright. Overlooked in this controversy is that had the 2008 attempted settlement of the litigation over the Google Library Project been approved by the court, the NEL would likely have been unnecessary….”

Internet Archive’s National Emergency Library Harms Authors – The Authors Guild

“The Authors Guild is appalled by the Internet Archive’s (IA) announcement that it is now making millions of in-copyright books freely available online without restriction on its Open Library site under the guise of a National Emergency Library. IA has no rights whatsoever to these books, much less to give them away indiscriminately without consent of the publisher or author. We are shocked that the Internet Archive would use the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse to push copyright law further out to the edges, and in doing so, harm authors, many of whom are already struggling.

With mean writing incomes of only $20,300 a year prior to the crisis, authors, like others, are now struggling all the more—from cancelled book tours and loss of freelance work, income supplementing jobs, and speaking engagements. And now they are supposed to swallow this new pill, which robs them of their rights to introduce their books to digital formats as many hundreds of midlist authors do when their books go out of print, and which all but guarantees that author incomes and publisher revenues will decline even further.

IA is using a global crisis to advance a copyright ideology that violates current federal law and hurts most authors. It has misrepresented the nature and legality of the project through a deceptive publicity campaign. Despite giving off the impression that it is expanding access to older and public domain books, a large proportion of the books on Open Library are in fact recent in-copyright books that publishers and authors rely on for critical revenue. Acting as a piracy site—of which there already are too many—the Internet Archive tramples on authors’ rights by giving away their books to the world….”

US Authors Guild Joins With AAP and Copyright Alliance on CASE Act

“On last Wednesday (May 1), the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019 (called the CASE Act) was introduced on the floors of the US House by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York) and Doug Collins (R-Georgia) as HR 2426; and in the Senate by John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) as S 1273….

“The CASE Act would create a streamlined, much less formal process than currently exists in federal court,” according to the [Authors Guild] staff’s messaging. “The parties would not need to hire attorneys and all proceedings would be conducted remotely, drastically reducing the cost. A three-‘judge’ tribunal within the Copyright Office would hear small copyright cases. … The process would also be entirely optional for both parties.” …

There is disagreement about the bill, albeit respectful, coming from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the nonprofit that works to defend civil liberties issues as they pertain to the digital space. “Though it’s well-intentioned,” a letter from April 23 on the subject from the EFF reads, “this bill would re-ignite the nationwide problem of copyright trolling, just as the federal courts are beginning to address this abusive practice.” 

The foundation’s position is that the CASE Act makes it easier, not harder, for copyright trolls to operate, and that it raises potential threats to the privacy of “home and business Internet subscribers.”

The EFF writes, “We recognize that federal litigation can be expensive, making the pursuit of many small-dollar-value claims impractical for copyright holders. But we believe that much of that expense results from procedures that promote fairness, established and refined through decades of use. Creating a new, parallel system that allows copyright holders to dispense with those procedures invites abuse, especially given the Copyright Office’s institutional bias.” …”

Controlled Digital Lending Is Neither Controlled nor Legal – The Authors Guild

” “Controlled Digital Lending” or “CDL” is a recently invented legal theory that allows libraries to justify the scanning (or obtaining of scans) of print books and e-lending those digital copies to users without obtaining authorization from the copyright owners. A position statement on CDL, along with an accompanying white paper, was issued this past October by legal scholars, the culmination of several academic meetings on the subject. The statement and paper argue that it is fair use for libraries to scan or obtain scans of physical books that they own and loan those books through e-lending technologies, provided they apply certain restrictions akin to physical library loans, such as lending only one copy (either the digital copy or the physical copy) at a time and only for a defined loan period.

A couple dozen organizations, including Internet Archive, as well as a number of academics and academic librarians, are listed as signing the position statement. Several major library systems, including the California State University libraries and the Boston and San Francisco public libraries, are signatories and apparently already rely on CDL to e-lend scanned copies of books….”

Authors Guild Attacks Libraries For Lending Digital Books | Techdirt

It’s been a few years since we last had to write about the Authors Guild — a group that ostensibly represents authors’ interests, but really acts more like a front group for publishers’ interests (often in opposition to the actual interests of authors). As you may recall, the Authors Guild spent tons of the money authors gave it for dues on suing libraries. Specifically it sued and lost against Hathitrust (a collection of libraries which were scanning books to make a searchable index), and then had the same result with Google and its book scanning project. In both cases, the courts deemed such scanning and indexing as fair use — a transformative use of the work.

Apparently, unable to comprehend that maybe it shouldn’t attack libraries, the Authors Guild is at it again, threatening the Internet Archive and other libraries for daring to start a carefully designed program to lend out copies of some of their scanned works. The system, called Controlled Digital Lending was put together by a bunch of libraries and the Internet Archive to lay out a system that they believe is clearly covered by fair use, by which digital scans of certain books could be made available on loan like any other library book. The whole setup of the Controlled Digital Lending system is carefully laid out and designed to mimic traditional library lending….”