Infringement Alert

From the SFWA Legal Affairs Committee:

The Internet Archive (  is carrying out a very large and growing program of scanning entire books and posting them on the public Internet. It is calling this project “Open Library,” but it is SFWA’s understanding that this is not library lending, but direct infringement of authors’ copyrights. We  suspect that this is the world’s largest ongoing project of unremunerated digital distribution of entire in-copyright books. An extensive, random assortment of books is available for e-lending—that is the “borrowing” of a digital (scanned) copy.  For those books that can be “borrowed,” Open Library allows users to download digital copies in a variety of formats to read using standard e-reader software. As with other e-lending services, the books are DRM-protected, and should become unreadable after the “loan” period. However, an unreadable copy of the book is saved on users’ devices (iPads, e-readers, computers, etc.) and can be made readable by stripping DRM protection. SFWA is still investigating the extent to which these downloadable copies can be pirated. Unlike e-lending from a regular library, Open Library is not serving up licensed, paid-for copies, but their own scans.

These books are accessible from both and If you want to find out if your books are being infringed at the Internet Archive, go to, search metadata for your name. You have to register, log in, and “borrow” the books to see if they are there in their entirety. A secondary search at may turn up some additional titles, but will also show books that are in the Open Library database that have not been infringed.

Statement from SFWA President, Cat Rambo:

I would like to emphasize that SFWA’s objection here is that writers’ work is being scanned in and put up for access without notifying them.

The organization appreciates the wide range of possible opinions on the matter of copyright, but will continue to insist that it is up to the individual writer whether or not their work should be made available in this way.

If you believe that your copyright has been violated by material available through the Internet Archive, please provide the Internet Archive Copyright Agent with the following information at the address listed below. Alternatively, you can use the SFWA DMCA Notice Generator ( ) to create a DMCA notice that you can send to the address below. As a temporary measure, authors can also repeatedly “check out” their books to keep them from being “borrowed” by others.


  • Identification of the copyrighted work that you claim has been infringed;
  • An exact description of where the material about which you complain is located within the Internet Archive collections;
  • Your address, telephone number, and email address;
  • A statement by you that you have a good-faith belief that the disputed use is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law;
  • A statement by you, made under penalty of perjury, that the above information in your notice is accurate and that you are the owner of the copyright interest involved or are authorized to act on behalf of that owner; and
  • Your electronic or physical signature.

The Internet Archive Copyright Agent can be reached as follows:

Internet Archive Copyright Agent
Internet Archive
300 Funston Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94118
Phone: 415-561-6767

10 Responses

  1. Aaron

    Someone who takes a book out of a conventional public library can photocopy the book before they return it. Blaming the library for this would be an error. Telling the library they should clear it with authors before their books are made available would be an error. Encouraging people to abuse a public library, either with legal takedown notices or by mechanically abusing taking out books to prevent library patrons from doing so, would be an error. SFWA has an interest in protecting authors, but this is a counterproductive misattribution of blame and an attack on a public service that does a great deal of good for the preservation of our material culture.

    The inability of offline-first organizations to understand digital metaphors contributes to the overall poor discourse on cultural preservation, diffusion, and fair compensation for authors; by putting scare-quotes around verbs that would not be controversial in an offline library, the SFWA engages in fearmongering.

    Moreover, the point of “stopping” piracy “enabled” through this manner is moot, because these books are already available via piracy — individuals who purchase books on Amazon, Google Play, or on paper at a bookstore can already scan or de-DRM books. The task is technically trivial. A reader who is determined to read without paying already has many methods to do so, some of which involve piracy, and it is entirely unsupported that the Internet Archive’s library is enabling any piracy that would not have existed.

    The same effort spent DMCAing a library would, if it absolutely must be done, be better spent DMCAing actual piracy websites.

    I would consider any author who plans to act on this misinformed guidance to consider whether they think it would be fruitful to initiate legal threats against their local public library branch for stocking a copy of their books. My guess would be few authors do this, and those who do would be looked on as grinches, rather than entrepreneurs defending their business interests.

  2. Ross Presser

    I can’t help but wonder if I somehow contributed to SFWA noticing this. This is published on 2018-01-08. On 2018-01-07 I commented on James Davis Nicoll’s review that an out of print collection of Willy Ley’s columns was available for loan at the Open Library.

    I’m probably reading too much into the one day difference … SFWA was probably researching this for a week or two before I commented. But hmm…

  3. Jon

    OL scans are immense, and not very practical to use for that reason alone. OL epubs are littered with huge numbers of OCR errors, and not very readable for that reason alone.

  4. Suzie Trump

    Brewster Kahle owns the ‘Internet Archive’ via a Private Foundation. It is not a public owned organization. If Brewster really wants to make it a Public Library why does he not have an Independant Board of Directors like Wikipedia from every continent? Can Brewster make his will public so that we know who will be in control of ‘Internet Archive’ 50 years from now when we are long gone to heaven or hell. Internet Archive needs to be more transparent about itself.

  5. John Adkins

    This is entirely the wrong approach to be taking. The IA has long been responsive to takedown notices and would no doubt be willing to work closely with SFWA to make works available (or not) in a manner that is acceptable to the SFWA and its authors. Going straight to attack mode is both counterproductive and short sighted. The IA is and can be a great ally if they are engaged

  6. WriterSuzy

    @John Adkins It is never healthy for an Archive which copies data from all over the world to be owned by one man Brester Kahle via a Private Trust. Can you explain why Internet Archive does not have an independent Board of Directors like Wikipedia? Why does IA not make public all that it has deleted / censored?

    I remember reading Register’s Executive Editor Andrew Orlowski comment in November 2017 where he described Kahle blocking access to Journalists. This is what Andrew wrote : “We don’t see people trying to modify the records that we’ve stored,” Kahle told The Register. seems very happy to modify the record itself. How do I know? Back in 2003, when Carly Fiorina as CEO, HP requested the deletion of material it found embarrassing, and happily complied. I recall this made things difficult for us journalists to corroborate previous statements, and so hold the executives to account.” (Google this to see the context Andrew described how Brewster Kahle has absolute control as he pays everyone’s moneys in IA)

    Getting back to my point about IA needing to have independent experts on its Board of Directors.

    @Suzie Trump has a point about Brewster Kahle not making it clear who will own and run Internet Archive when he ‘retires’. Is it a family business that this should not be made clear?

  7. JohnSmith

    Dear SFWA members, Internet Archive is already making money by showing the history of your blogs and websites. If you type in the name of your blog or website in Internet Archives WayBack Machine, you will see the history of your blogs and websites as well as the following message asking for donation/money

    “PLEASE DONATE TODAY. Your generosity preserves knowledge for future generations”

    Internet Archive never misses a chance to make money from copyrighted content. 🙂 This is like you going to a bricks and mortar Washingdon DC public Library or New York public Library and the Librarian asks for a donation when you borrow a book and are about to walk to your car

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