A federal judge has ruled against the Internet Archive in Hachette v. Internet Archive, a lawsuit brought against it by four book publishers, deciding that the website does not have the right to scan books and lend them out like a library.
Judge John G. Koeltl decided that the Internet Archive had done nothing more than create “derivative works,” and so would have needed authorization from the books’ copyright holders — the publishers — before lending them out through its National Emergency Library program.
As much as we all want the Internet Archive to be right – and morally, they are – copyright law, as outdated, dumb, and counterproductive as it is, was pretty clear in this case. Sadly.
I dislike the way society has been relying on totally arbitrary “fair use” rulings rather than fixing the law. The problem when the legislation doesn’t specifically spell things out is that the execution is inconsistent and sometimes even contradictory with other cases. Ideally we’re all supposed to be equal under the law, but in practice it’s often untrue. Who you are and who’s judging you matters a great deal, sometimes more than what legislators intended. And this gets exacerbated in unfair fair use cases.
Obviously the law needs to catch up to technology. IMHO one should be able to replicate a library online without additional licensing. However this has long been a no-no and this is exactly why netflix’s DVD catalog was so much more broad that it’s streaming catalog. The law permits them to rent out physical DVDs without a license, but it does not permit them to do the same thing via streaming platform, even if the end result is identical. Consequently content today has become highly fragmented & exclusive, which sucks for us consumers. Things didn’t have to be this way. These laws, that were initially created in the interest of public good, have become twisted and corrupted thanks to lobbying from mickey mouse and friends. And with them at the helm I don’t expect reprieval.