Book publishers file suit against Internet Archive over free digital library

Top book publishers are taking the founder of the digital non-profit library called Internet Archive to court over how it's lending e-books.

When libraries closed down during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Internet Archive expanded digitizing books. The so-called National Emergency Library allowed unlimited numbers of readers to check out e-books for a two-week lending period. 

But now, publishers are calling the act "digital piracy." 

The publishing houses are suing, saying it hurts authors and is a mass copyright infringement. Lawyers argue that, in just a few clicks, any internet-connected user can download complete digital copies of in-copyright books.

"Nobody will be able to profit off of their creative works of authorship," said Kel Belkin, a constitutional law attorney. "People should have access to books, but what they’re doing is giving people copies of these to anyone who wants them there's nothing being paid to these publishing houses their efforts to market and profit are effectively being rendered null and void."

In court, lawyers representing the Internet Archive compared the "controlled digital lending" of the copies to traditional library lending. 

Ahead of the proceeding - the group's founder issued a virtual statement pushing back against critics. 

"The dream of the internet was to democratize access to knowledge but if the big publishers have their way excessive corporate control will be the nightmare of the internet," said Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive.