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Court Rules: Internet Archive Violated Publisher Copyrights by Lending Ebooks

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A judge has said that the Internet Archive is not allowed to lend out digital copies of books from a group of four publishers led by Hachette Book Group. This means that the nonprofit did something called breaking copyright laws – which are laws that protect authors’ work. Judge John G. Koeltl declared this on Friday.

The Internet Archive started a project called the ‘National Emergency Library’ which made over 1.4 million books available online for free during the time when lots of libraries had to close because of coronavirus. That decision by The Internet Archive has since caused a legal disagreement.

Before the Coronavirus pandemic stopped everyone from living normal lives, the Open Library program of the Internet Archive required people to wait until it was their turn to borrow its books. But when everyone had to stay indoors, The Internet Archive changed this rule to make it easier for them to get reading materials. This didn’t go well with the Copyright Alliance and in June 2020, 4 big publishers — Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House and John Wiley & Sons – sued The Internet Archive because they thought it was allowing ‘illegal sharing’ of books. That same month, the Internet Archive ended up stopping its National Emergency Program before scheduled time.

This week, a court was deciding if the Internet Archive could keep using copyrighted books without permission. The Internet Archive claimed that their work was protected by Fair Use and others had done something similar before and succeeded. However, the judge said no because the copying of those books wasn’t changing them in any way. Then the Association of American Publishers said this ruling upheld the importance of people who make new stories for everyone to enjoy.

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On Saturday, the Internet Archive announced that they disagree with the decision and will appeal it. They said that libraries aren’t just customer service departments for companies, but they are important and need to have the right to keep books, preserve them and loan them out so democracy can exist everywhere. This decision is not good for readers, authors, or libraries and so they plan on appealing it.

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