Book Publishers and Internet Archive face-off in court over library e-books

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A federal court in New York is currently hearing arguments in the Hachette v. Internet Archive case, which could shape the future of library e-books.

The hearing will decide whether libraries should rely on digital licenses provided by publishers or scan and lend copies of their books. It centers on the Open Library program, which is built around a concept known as controlled digital lending (CDL) (CDL). CDL involves digitizing copies of books in library collections and offering access to them as e-books on a one-to-one basis.

The case is being brought by Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House, who claim that the Open Library program violates copyright law by allowing users to “check out” digitized copies of physical books. The case will be broadcast live via teleconference, with the phone number made public.

If the Internet Archive loses the case, it could potentially be on the hook for billions of dollars in damages. This could jeopardize other aspects of its operations, such as the Wayback Machine, which has become a vital archival resource by preserving websites.

The lawsuit was initially spurred by the National Emergency Library launched by the Internet Archive during the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Emergency Library removed the “own-to-loan” restriction, allowing an unlimited number of people to access each e-book for two weeks. Publishers and authors objected to the move, prompting Hachette, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House to file a lawsuit.

The sources for this piece include an article in TheVerge.

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