Warning about the Internet Archive & Open Library

13 December 2017

The Internet Archive is a San Francisco–based nonprofit digital library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more. It seeks donations of hard-copy books from libraries and individuals and then scans, digitises, and offers them for lending and downloading without paying royalties or PLR.

According to our sister organisation the Authors Guild of America, while they have been doing this for some time they have recently posted a large quantity of scanned books (including works still in copyright) on their Open Library website.

Anyone can log-in, from anywhere in the world, search for and click on a book to 'check it out' for a period of two weeks. Although the site 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.

We did some spot-checking. Each author who was checked found that one or more of their in-copyright books were available in the Open Library for download.

You may want to check whether your own books have been made available in this way. If your book is there:

  • Please notify us by emailing info@societyofauthors.org;
  • Contact your publisher and agent and ask them to send a takedown notice (usually through the Publishers Association Portal). If that doesn’t work, send a takedown notice yourself, emailing info@archive.org using the below sample text provided by the Authors Guild.

Note that the site administrators will reject takedown requests if they feel that there are errors in the data supplied to them so check notices carefully to make sure that the infringing URLs are accurate and that the removal requests are sent correctly as required by the site.

Sample takedown notice

Dear Internet Archive,

I am the author of the book(s) noted below. It has come to my attention that, without permission from either me or my publisher [insert name], you have scanned and are making my book(s) available for “loan” and also for download on your publicly available website, openlibrary.org; anyone in the world can create a login, check the book out and then download it in its entirety, which is a clear infringement of my copyright. Please remove my book(s) from the Open Library website and any other website owned or controlled by you.

My book(s) is/are entitled: [list all books on the site without permission]

They are located at the following URL’s on your site: [provide URL for each book]

My contact information is: [insert address, telephone number, and email address].

I attest under penalty of perjury, that I have a good faith belief that Internet Archive’s Open Library’s use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorised by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law; and further that the information in this notification is accurate, and that I am the copyright owner.

Electronic signature: [type name]