The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), with co-counsel Durie Tangri, is defending the Internet Archive against a lawsuit that threatens its Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) program.
The Internet Archive is a nonprofit digital library, preserving and providing access to cultural artifacts of all kinds in electronic form. CDL allows people to check out digital copies of books for two weeks or less, and only permits patrons to check out as many copies as the Archive and its partner libraries physically own. That means that if the Archive and its partner libraries have only one copy of a book, then only one patron can borrow it at a time, just like any other library.
Four publishers sued the Archive, alleging that CDL violates their copyrights. In their complaint, Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House claim CDL has cost their companies millions of dollars and is a threat to their businesses. They are wrong. Libraries have paid publishers billions of dollars for the books in their print collections, and are investing enormous resources in digitization in order to preserve those texts; CDL helps them take the next step by making sure the public can make full use of the books that libraries have bought and paid for.
This activity is fundamentally the same as traditional library lending, and poses no new harm to authors or the publishing industry. In fact, the Internet Archive is helping to foster research and learning by making sure people all over the world can access books and by keeping books in circulation when their publishers have lost interest. As the world contemplates a dramatic increase in distance learning in response to the pandemic--without a correspondingly dramatic increase in financial resources for education-- this service will be even more desperately needed.