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; the site even provides download buttons to make it easy.

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;
  • Notify the Authors’ Guild of America now by filling out this form;
  • 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]



udontneed mypersonalinfo (06/07/2018 06:02)
" Well done open library for providing knowledge to all. It is well known that sharing films, books, music, etc (so called piracy) actually increase awareness and generates more income for artists than would otherwise be the case. The film A Man From Earth is one such example.

People either wouldn't have bought the product regardless, or they buy the product after downloading it and spread the word. Piracy harms noone, but the MPAA and other bodies will try to say otherwise when the loss of income is down to other factors."
rathernotsay (13/04/2018 02:13)
" Just for the record, my name is inspired by a book of similar name not because I am a thief, or do what the girl did but because it was an interesting read and format.

I am using Open Library to research about Jomo Kenyatta because of my 9th grade history class and it was getting hard to find sources until I stumbled on Open Library the book I'm reading was published in 1961 by George Delf, but is there a way to check, or a list, of authors that books are allowed by the authors/uncopyrighted?"
John Fletcher (17/12/2017 06:40)
" Of the books of mine listed, all (but one) earn me not a penny, being out-of-print, long remaindered, or selling very slowly, thus likely, before long, to be remaindered. So I'll be6 glad if some people do read them. As for copyright, that's rather academic. I am 80. If I live to 85 (unlikley), they will be covered by copyright until 2092. By then I will not only be long gone, but completely forgotten. By then, my grandchildren will be in their dotage and will have forgotten that grandad was an author..."

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