Internet Archive
Internet Archive

Internet Archive faces a lawsuit from Sony & other music

What To Know

  • On August 12, 2023, Sony Music Entertainment and several other major music labels filed a lawsuit against the Internet Archive in a federal court in New York, accusing it of copyright infringement and unfair competition.
  • The organization argues that it is providing a public service by preserving and enhancing the historical and cultural value of these records, and by allowing researchers, educators, students, and enthusiasts to access them.
  • On one hand, it could deter or limit the efforts of organizations like the Internet Archive to archive and share cultural works that are otherwise inaccessible or endangered.
  • In any case, the lawsuit raises important questions about how we balance the interests of creators, owners, users, and preservers of music and other forms of expression in the digital age.

The Internet Archive is a nonprofit organization that aims to preserve and provide access to digital copies of books, websites, software, and other cultural artifacts. Among its vast collection of over 60 million items, there is a section called the Great 78 Project, which contains over 250,000 digitized 78rpm records from the early 20th century.

These records, which feature genres such as jazz, blues, country, and classical music, are often rare and fragile, and the Internet Archive claims that it is saving them from decay and obscurity by making them available online for free. However, not everyone agrees with this noble mission.

On August 12, 2023, Sony Music Entertainment and several other major music labels filed a lawsuit against the Internet Archive in a federal court in New York, accusing it of copyright infringement and unfair competition. The plaintiffs allege that the Internet Archive has illegally reproduced and distributed thousands of their sound recordings without authorization or compensation.

The lawsuit seeks statutory damages of up to $150,000 per infringed work, as well as an injunction to stop the Internet Archive from continuing its digitization project. The plaintiffs also claim that the Internet Archive’s actions have harmed their ability to license and monetize their catalogues, and have deprived artists and songwriters of their rightful royalties.

The Internet Archive has not yet responded to the lawsuit, but it has previously defended its activities as fair use under the U.S. copyright law. The organization argues that it is providing a public service by preserving and enhancing the historical and cultural value of these records, and by allowing researchers, educators, students, and enthusiasts to access them.

The Internet Archive also asserts that it respects the rights of copyright holders and complies with the notice-and-takedown requests under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). However, the plaintiffs contend that the Internet Archive has ignored or rejected many of their takedown notices, and has continued to upload new records without permission.

This is not the first time that the Internet Archive has faced legal challenges over its digitization efforts. In June 2020, it was sued by four major publishers for creating a National Emergency Library during the COVID-19 pandemic, which offered unlimited access to over 1.3 million scanned books without restrictions. The case was settled in December 2020, with the Internet Archive agreeing to stop the program and pay an undisclosed amount to the publishers.

The outcome of the current lawsuit could have significant implications for the future of digital preservation and access. On one hand, it could deter or limit the efforts of organizations like the Internet Archive to archive and share cultural works that are otherwise inaccessible or endangered. On the other hand, it could also encourage or compel them to seek more collaboration and cooperation with rights holders and stakeholders to ensure that their activities are lawful and respectful.

In any case, the lawsuit raises important questions about how we balance the interests of creators, owners, users, and preservers of music and other forms of expression in the digital age. What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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