From the press release:
The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) joins with our partner organizations, the U.S. Authors Guild (AG), the U.K.’s Society of Authors (SoA), and the International Authors Forum (IAF) in strongly condemning the unauthorized lending of books scanned for the website Internet Archive.
Web users around the world are able to access and borrow scanned books from the Open Library site. All that is required is a free membership in the online Open Library.
“TWUC has found copies of Canadian works in the Internet Archive’s Open Library,” added TWUC Executive Director John Degen. “We believe these are unauthorized scans and loans. The harm this does to the e-book market, and to genuine library sales, is incalculable.”
This story has been going for a little over a year now, and it recently flared up again about two weeks back when The Authors Guild issued a statement criticizing the legal argument the Internet Archive made in defense of its piracy, and noting that the Internet Archive was no longer responding to DMCA notices.
I read that statement at the time but didn’t really say anything because I wanted to work out my position on this issue.
While I completely support the legal argument cited by the Internet Archive, I do not support how the IA is interpreting that argument.
The Internet Archive is trying to use an as yet unproven legal argument called “controlled digital lending” as legal cover for The Open Library. CDL uses existing rulings and US copyright law to make the case that there is a fair use argument for libraries scanning the print books in their collection, and lending the scanned copies in controlled circumstances.
This is a solution to the problem of mid-20th century books that are out of print and may never be re-released; CDL gives libraries the option of sharing a digital copy while preserving their print copy. In this limited niche case CDL is a boon to the public, and furthermore it is quite similar to what the HaithiTrust and other libraries are already doing.
Let me be clear: CDL is a good thing in specific situations, and it will benefit the public as a whole. It deserves your support.
The Internet Archive, on the other hand, is trying to use CDL to justify the general case of scanning print books and lending the copies through The Open Library.
That is not the same thing.
The Internet Archive is scanning and lending books that were published as recently as three and four years ago. These books are available both in print and digital, through both retail and library channels, so there was never any concern that the books might be unavailable or were in need of rescue – not in any way, shape, or form.
You cannot make a sound argument that CDL is intended to cover what the Internet Archive is doing. If nothing else, lending copies to anyone anywhere in the world is a violation of the very concept of “controlled” digital lending.