SoA open letter demanding Internet Archive stops 'unlawful' lending gets 750 signatures

SoA open letter demanding Internet Archive stops 'unlawful' lending gets 750 signatures

More than 750 people have signed a Society of Authors (SoA) letter demanding the Internet Archive stops its Open Library project lending scanned books online in the UK.

The SOA is threatening legal action after penning an open letter last month, accusing the San Francisco-based Internet Archive of breaching copyright by lending scanned copies of books on the site. The practice, known as Controlled Digital Lending (CDL), has come under fire from authors’ groups in several countries including the US.

Author Tracy Chevalier and poet Wendy Cope are among the 769 people to have signed the letter since it was written last month, with more signing every day.

Nicola Solomon, c.e.o. of the SoA, said the only response it had received from the Open Library project was “insulting”, coming from an office manager who said authors should contact the organisation directly. The SoA, which represents 10,500 writers, is now considering its next steps, which could include legal action, and is demanding the site be taken down in the UK. It is also increasing pressure by writing directly to organisations that fund the archive to raise concerns.

Solomon told The Bookseller: “Open Library’s practices are unlawful and a direct infringement of copyright. The response we have received from our open letter is frankly insulting, and we are now considering our next steps.

“We have already written to the organisations listed as Open Library’s main funders, urging them to intervene to ensure the site is taken down in the UK.

“We continue work with organisations representing authors and publishers across the world to press Open Library to cease its illegal practices.”

The SOA says it is a “a direct and actionable infringement of copyright “ that people in the UK can loan copies of the books, despite there being no legal basis for scanning books without permission or lending them in the country. Its letter warns the practice “could destroy the e-book market and make it even harder for authors to make a living from their work”.

The Writers’ Union of Canada and the Australian Society of Authors have also hit out over the issue over the past month. Last week, the Association of American Publishers weighed in to the debate around CDL, saying it breaches copyright laws in the US and other countries.

In a statement, the association said: “CDL not only rationalises what would amount to systematic infringement, it denigrates the incentives that copyright law provides to authors and publishers to document, write, invest in, and disseminate literary works for the benefit of the public ecosystem.”

The Authors Guild has also petitioned against CDL, arguing it “allows libraries to justify the scanning (or obtaining of scans) of print books and e-lending those digital copies to users without obtaining authorisation from the copyright owners.”

Open Library is a non-profit venture of the Internet Archive, whose stated aim is offering  “free universal access to books, movies and music as well as 345 billion archived web pages”.

The Bookseller has contacted the Internet Archive for comment.