Your Copyrighted Works Downloaded Without Your Permission

I had heard about the concept of an “Open Library” on the Internet several years ago. I thought my book, Hollywood and Catholic Women was protected because I had copyrighted it. According to an urgent post by the Authors Guild, the issue is back in the spotlight with troubling developments.

The post states: “Internet Archive has sought donations of hard-copy books from libraries and individuals for several years. While they recently made much of their project to to scan and make available books in the last 20 years of copyright, they have been remarkably quiet about a project that could bring enormous harm to the publishing industry and authors. They have recently posted a massive quantity of scanned books (including works still in copyright that are not in the last 20 years of their protected term) on their Open Library website: www.openlibrary.org. While they have been doing this for some time, there appears to be a sudden influx of in-copyright books made available, as well as the ability to download. Anyone can log-in, presumably from anywhere in the world, search for and click on a book to “check it out” for a period of two weeks.

So far, that mimics regular library lending in that only one person can check out a book at a time. Once checked out, the full text of the books can be easily downloaded; the site even provides download buttons. That means anyone in the world can check out and download your book(s), provided they do it one person at a time.” The Authors Guild undertook some spot checks, asking council members to check for their books. Each of those authors found one or more of their works available for downloading.

I entered Hollywood and Catholic Women into the database and sure enough, the first edition was listed.  Grateful that the 2nd Edition was not included; this breach of copyright is deeply concerning. First the first edition was published in 2002, well before the last 20 years of copyright. Second, Open Library and IA never asked my permission.  And third, I lost out on royalties.

Internet Archive tries to sugarcoat the issue by describing Open Library as follows:

“The Internet Archive’s Open Libraries project will bring four million books online, through purchase or digitization, while honoring the rights of creators and expanding their online reach. Working with U.S. libraries and organizations serving people with print disabilities, Open Libraries can build the online equivalent of a great, modern public library, providing millions of free digital books to billions of people.”

But, contrary to the statement that they are “honoring the rights of creators,” they are not respecting those creators’ copyrights. They do not limit Open Library to people with print disabilities and there is nothing legal about providing full text copies of copyrighted material for download on a public website without permission.

The Author’s Guild offers members a petition to sign which I have done. As much as IA would like authors and readers to believe they are delivering millions of free books, what they are really doing is ripping off the creators of these works, certainly not honoring them. This needs to stop and NOW.

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