In another sign of the friction between the Internet Archive and major publishers, Penguin Random House denies claims that it demanded the removal of Art Spiegelman’s acclaimed Holocaust graphic memoir Maus from IA digital circulation due to soaring sales in the wake of recent efforts to censor the book.
In a February 10 blog post Chris Freeland, director of Internet Archive’s Open Libraries Initiative, claims that PRH demanded that IA remove the book from its lending library because “in their words, ‘consumer interest in Maus has soared’ as a result of a Tennessee school board’s decision to ban teaching the book.” Freeland goes on to state that “By its own admission, to maximize profits, a Goliath of the publishing industry is forbidding our non-profit library from lending a banned book to our patrons: a real live digital book-burning.”
Contacted by PW, Freeland described the demand to remove to book from circulation as a “direct quote from PRH,” although he declined to be more specific about who or what division at PRH made the demand. Freeland said that it’s IA’s policy to honor takedown requests and the book has been removed from circulation.
However, Lisa Lucas, senior v-p and publisher of Pantheon Schocken, the PRH division which publishes Maus, denies the allegation. In response, Lucas emphatically denied the claim. “That is not true,” she said, framing the issue around copyright concerns rather than consumer demand. “Art Spiegelman has never consented to an e-book of Maus," Lucas said. "Therefore, PRH asked the Internet Archive to remove the PDF and stop pirating Maus because it violates Art Spiegelman’s copyright.”
Although best known for its collection of public domain titles, the Internet Archive also offers a lending library of more than 2 million modern titles “not in the public domain,” Freeland said. IA offers digital lending of these titles under a controversial policy called Controlled Digital Lending, or CDL, in which IA scans the book and lends out a PDF of the title, one copy per lender at a time, much like a physical book.
In June 2020, four publishers, including PRH, filed a lawsuit against the IA charging it with copyright infringement. The case is still working its way through the courts.