United States : IFJ renews calls to end unlawful practices based on the flawed theory of “Controlled Digital Lending”.

The Internet Archive, a US-based library announced on 16 June that it was ending its "National Emergency Library", to return to "traditional" Controlled Digital Lending. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomed the announcement but expressed concerns over authors’ and journalists’ rights. It reiterates its calls on the Internet Archive and libraries to end these unlawful practice.

The US Capitol building, Washington, DC. David GANNON / AFP

The Internet Archive ended last month the "National Emergency Library" it had established on 24 March to provide books to support emergency remote teaching, research, independent scholarship, and intellectual stimulation during the Covid-19 closures”. The initiative, denounced as a major copyright violation, faced national backlash with major book publishers filing a lawsuit which led to the Archive ending the service.

The Archive announced that it would return to "traditional" Controlled Digital Lending. But the IFJ opposes the so-called "Controlled Digital Lending" (CDL), saying that this is not what traditional libraries do, or what the Internet Archive has actually been doing. CDL is a flawed legal theory that allows the Internet Archive and its library partners to scan and distribute complete copies of hundreds of thousands of books, with no authorisation from or compensation to their authors or rights holders.

We reiterate the objections to CDL which we and other organisations expressed last year in a joint "Appeal from the Victims of Controlled Digital Lending", in addition to further concerns raised by our affiliate in the U.S., the National Writers Union,”said Anthony Bellanger IFJ General Secretary.  This so-called “lending”, as practiced by the Internet Archive, has disastrous consequences for authors in the book industry and constitutes a serious threat for other sectors. We urge the Internet Archive, its supporters, and other libraries to engage in a constructive dialogue with authors including journalists on how to enable and create digital libraries, in ways that fully respect authors' rights." 

The “Appeal to Readers and Librarians from the Victims of CDL” was co-signed in February last year by the IFJ and 36 other national and international organisations of authors, journalists, translators, illustrators, photographers, graphic artists, literary agents, book publishers, and administrators of reproduction rights and public lending rights. It is accompanied by a detailed FAQ which explains why CDL is illegal, what the Internet Archive is doing, and how it undermines authors’ incomes. 

A few months later, the IFJ World Congress adopted a Congress Resolution No 38, which demanded an immediate halt to the practice of CDL and called on the Internet Archive to recognise that its activities are interfering with the rights of authors and their ability to earn a living.

Everyone involved in producing CDL e-books is getting paid – except the authors. The Internet Archive and its library partners must talk to writers and their organisations to understand how schemes like CDL deprive us of our livelihood and undermine the work we are already doing to make our personal backlists available to readers in new digital forms,” said National Writers Union (NWU) President Larry Goldbetter.

The Internet Archive has so far refused to engage in discussions with the NWU and writers’ organisations.

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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