Copyright Expert on Publishers Lawsuit: “The idea that lending a book is illegal is just wrong”

On July 22, 2020, Pamela Samuelson, Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law and Information at the University of California, Berkeley, spoke at a press conference about the copyright lawsuit against the Internet Archive brought by the publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House. These are her remarks:

Good afternoon. Very happy to be here with you today. The Authors Alliance has several thousand members around the world and we have endorsed the controlled digital lending as a fair use and I think that this is a lawsuit I hoped would never happen. Because controlled digital lending has been going on for such a long time, it’s really tragic that at this time of pandemic that the publishers would try to basically cut off even access to a digital public library like the Internet Archive is running.

I don’t know about your library, but my libraries in California are closed. I can’t get any books out of even the University of California Berkeley Library at this point, the whole campus is closed, and so while I haven’t been using the Open Library for my research purposes because they don’t have the books in it that I need, I do think that that it’s just a heartless, tragic thing that this lawsuit is really trying to stop a very positive thing that Internet Archive has been doing.

I’m one of the legal scholars who has endorsed the controlled digital lending statement. I think that even under some second circuit opinions, one can say that the Open Library has actually a utility-enhancing transformative use. It’s certainly nonprofit, it’s educational, and it promotes literacy and many, many positive things. I think that the idea that lending a book is illegal is just wrong.

I would actually like to point out that in Germany, where copyright laws are generally stronger than in the United States, that the Darmstadt Technical University was able to succeed in its non-infringement claim for digitizing a book, and here’s the important point: just because the publisher wanted to license an ebook to that library, the Court of Justice of the European Union said it’s not an infringement for the library to actually digitize one of its own books and make that book available to the public. So if that’s true in Germany, I think it should be true in the US as well.

About the speaker:

Pamela Samuelson is the Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law and Information at the University of California, Berkeley. She is recognized as a pioneer in digital copyright law, intellectual property, cyberlaw and information policy. Since 1996, she has held a joint appointment at Berkeley Law School and UC Berkeley’s School of Information. Samuelson is a director of the internationally-renowned Berkeley Center for Law & Technology. She is co-founder and chair of the board of Authors Alliance, a nonprofit organization that promotes the public interest in access to knowledge. She also serves on the board of directors of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as on the advisory boards for the Electronic Privacy Information Center , the Center for Democracy & Technology, Public Knowledge, and the Berkeley Center for New Media.

6 thoughts on “Copyright Expert on Publishers Lawsuit: “The idea that lending a book is illegal is just wrong”

    1. Petrik

      Add to that a law that while it is in copyright, it should also be in print. So many books not available as the publisher just stops printing them. The only chance you have is to get it through a library or pay exorbitant fees on the secondhand book market. That’s something publishing houses should be sued for.

      Reply
  1. Pingback: Copyright Expert on Publishers Lawsuit: “The idea that lending a book is illegal is just wrong” Internet Archive Blogs – The Death of the Mind

  2. Adam

    Agreed too. Good info showing off that Germany, despite its more aggressive copyright regime, actually allowed this useful practice.

    The sources are:
    https://www.engadget.com/2014-09-11-libraries-can-digitize-books.html
    https://www.courthousenews.com/eu-high-court-endorsesright-to-digitize-books/

    There is a dark information about this that publishers are doing a shady practice and says that libraries are hurting Authors: https://maxonwriting.com/2019/08/01/are-libraries-bad-for-authors/

    Reply

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