Months after a final round of reply briefs was filed, a federal judge is now ready to hear oral arguments for summary judgment in a closely watched copyright case filed by four major publishers against the Internet Archive over its program to scan and lend library books.
In a brief order filed late last week, Judge John G. Koeltl set March 20 at 1 p.m. to hear arguments, which will be heard over the phone rather than in a Manhattan courtroom.
The order ends months of waiting. The parties filed their initial cross motions for summary judgment on July 7, 2022, with each side asking the court to decide the case in their favor ahead of trial. A final round of reply briefs for summary judgment was filed on October 7, 2022. And it has been more than two years since four major publishers—Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House, organized by the Association of American Publishers—first filed its copyright infringement lawsuit, alleging that the Internet Archive's controversial program to scan and lend books under an untested legal theory known as "controlled digital lending" is little more than a massive piracy operation "masquerading as a not-for-profit library."
In their third and final reply brief, attorneys for the plaintiff publishers say the “undisputed facts and settled law” lead to the “inexorable conclusion” that IA’s scanning and lending of library books is copyright infringement on a massive scale.
The publisher brief labels the Internet Archive a "commercial" actor and CDL “a cynical branding exercise designed to repackage industrial-scale copyright infringement" that competes with a “thriving” licensed access library e-book market. “Since the purpose of copyright is to incentivize the creation of new works, authors and publishers—not IA—hold the exclusive right to publish their books in all formats and distribute them via select channels,” the brief argues.
In their final brief, attorneys for the Internet Archive counter that the IA’s "controlled" scanning and lending of library books is protected by fair use, and that the evidence will show no harm to the publishers' marketplace.
"Libraries deciding how to meet their patrons’ needs for digital access to books are not making a choice between paying e-book licensing fees or getting books for free. Libraries pay publishers under either approach,” the IA brief argues. Rather, IA lawyers say the case is about whether "the selection of books available from libraries digitally will be chosen by librarians," or determined by publishers’ "unilateral and unreviewable" licensing choices.
"This Court is being asked to decide whether copyright law gives publishers the power to dictate which books in a library’s collection can and cannot be loaned digitally," IA lawyers conclude.
The contentious copyright case has engaged a wide range of stakeholders, with amicus briefs filed on both sides.