Help us tackle e-book piracy!

18 January 2019

Please sign our letter to Internet Archive’s Open Library demanding that they stop lending books unlawfully online.

The Society of Authors has written to Internet Archive’s Open Library, demanding that they immediately discontinue the practice of lending scanned copies of physical books on their site.

Open Library continues to unlawfully scan copies of physical books and make them available for loan as e-books. They do not ask permission to make these scans, nor do they pay any royalties to authors or publishers. These books are available for loan all over the world.

Internet Archive’s Open Library calls this practice Controlled Digital Lending, and wrongly claim that it is lawful in the US under the US doctrine of ‘fair use’. This article from the Authors Guild (our US sister organisation) explains more. This practice is definitely unlawful in the UK, where the fair use exception does not exist.

If widely adopted this form of ‘lending’ could destroy the e-book market and make it even harder for authors to make a living from their work.

How can you help?

  1. Please sign our letter asking Internet Archive and other organisations offering ‘Controlled Digital Lending to cease the practice of Controlled Digital Lending.
  2. If your books appear on Open Library, please let the Authors Guild know by filling out this form. If Open Library does not comply with the Authors Guild’s takedown notice, please let us know.

Text of letter

The Society of Authors is the UK’s trade union representing over 10,500 authors. We are writing to demand that you cease making available to UK users the unauthorised lending of scanned books on Internet Archive’s Open Library site.

We are aware that Open Library justifies the copying and distribution of these books in the USA on the basis of the “Position Statement on Controlled Digital Lending”, authored by a number of US legal scholars. The Statement argues that Controlled Digital Lending is legal under US fair use doctrine, an opinion that cannot be sustained following the recent decision in the ReDigi case. We therefore support the Authors’ Guild's open letter and urge you to stop unlawfully scanning and offering books for lending without authorisation.

In addition, whatever arguments you choose to put forward in the US, you must be aware that the US fair use doctrine does not apply in the UK where all scanning and lending must be authorised by the copyright owner. There is no legal basis for the practice of scanning books without permission or lending them in the UK. Despite this, users in the UK are currently able to borrow scanned copies of physical books from Open Library. That is a direct and actionable infringement of copyright.

The Internet Archive claims that Open Library is “honouring the rights of creators”. However the practice of Controlled Digital Lending does nothing of the sort. Authors are not asked for permission before their work appears on Open Library, and they do not receive any royalties. Authors’ earnings are in decline and many are struggling financially. A survey carried out by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) in 2018 found that an author in the UK earned an average of just £10,500 from their writing per annum. The form of ‘lending’ that takes place on Open Library has the potential to destroy the e-book market and make it even harder for authors to make a living from their work. It also competes with borrowings from bona fide UK libraries.

We are calling on you to cease this practice which infringes the copyright of writers and is unquestionably unlawful in the UK.

We look forward to hearing from you by 1 February confirming that you will immediately take measures to ensure that Open Library books are not made available for downloading in the UK. We also demand that you stop scanning books by UK authors without permission. If we do not receive assurances by that date we will have to consider legal action on behalf of our members to prevent this practice. If that becomes necessary we shall be seeking damages for copyright infringement and payment of all legal costs.


For further information please contact Tim Gallagher –


Andrew Dale (09/04/2019 09:25)
" Having assisted in the marketing of Jane Furnival's books, I echo the view by Andy Tribble above. I follow these crooks by a Google alert, and not a week goes by without receiving yet another offer to "lend" or sell me one of her books illegally. These people are unscrupulous and must be stopped."
Andy Tribble (08/04/2019 11:51)
" I am the husband of Jane Furnival, a hardworking writer who died in 2012. I am horrified to see that SEVEN of her books have been pirated by these crooks, and are now being distributed freely on the internet. She certainly did not agree to this, and I can't imagine her publishers did. Don't these people know the difference between buying a single copy of a book, and scanning it so that it can be copied endlessly? She left the family a small (very small) income through Public Lending Right, but clearly there's no point in getting the book from the library when they are being given away online. You can't do it with films or music, so I don't see why it's permissible for authors to be victimised in this way."
Alison McQueen (09/03/2019 08:48)
" Cheeky, cheeky bastards."
Mitzi Waltz (27/02/2019 07:21)
" Many of my books have been illegally uploaded to the Open Library without permission from me or my former publisher. I have received no royalties--although book royalties used to be an important income source for me."
Catherine Brown (21/02/2019 07:18)
" Using my work or any authors work without permission is theft under the Theft Act 1968.
1. Appropriates
3.Belonging to another
4.with the intention
Racheli Edelman (11/02/2019 09:53)
" The open library are copyright thieves. They are just like the bolshevics. They think that what belongs to authirs and copyright owners belongs to them.

There is no time to waste on open letters to them.

You should go to court.

Otherwise all authors and publishers around the world may lose their income in quite a short time as the technologies of copying, scanning and filming evolve.

Books and eBooks should be sold to libraries in order to cover the publisher's costs and enable them to go on publishing. When books are sold authors receive their royalties."
Gilles Gougeon (05/02/2019 02:27)
" Those kinds of pseudo-bookshops are essentially a new way to steal !"
Gilles Gougeon (05/02/2019 02:23)
" It's about time that we stop those thieves!"
Josette Labbé (05/02/2019 02:22)
" J'appuie cette démarche. Que de prédateurs sur cette planète!!!"
Philippa Scott (04/02/2019 04:06)
" My books are being downloaded, comments say How Wonderful to be able to download such beautiful, and beautifully illustrated books.
Once I managed to get Thames & Hudson to stop a download theft set up (based somewhere in Asia). But they set up again under a slightly different label.

I object strongly to this sort of blatant theft. I am a working writer with ever diminishing income."
Gilles Ruel (03/02/2019 02:34)
" J'appuie cette démarche."
Gilles Ruel (03/02/2019 02:32)
" J'appuie cette démarche.182346"
Clare Brumpton (02/02/2019 09:04)
" Protect authors income and teach people how to borrow legitimately in a way that doesn't destroy people's livelihoods."
Pascale Aubin-Rheaume (01/02/2019 07:57)
" Writers need to receive all that is due to them. No material should be used without their knowledge and permission."
Mathieu Villeneuve (01/02/2019 06:28)
" Chaque rouage du milieu littéraire compte, de l'auteur à la librairie. Pirater ou télécharger illégalement risque de détruire tout un écosystème."
Karen Lee Street (01/02/2019 04:27)
" Theft, plain and simple."
T. Lamartine (31/01/2019 10:23)
" Il est parfaitement injuste que les autrices et les auteurs ne perçoivent pas les droits qui leur sont dus. Le sens de la justice réclame que cette situation cesse."
Marie-Laurence Trépanier (31/01/2019 06:22)
" Respectons les droits des auteurs s'il vous plaît!"
Vincent Thibault (31/01/2019 05:02)
" I, a professional writer from Quebec, Canada, fully support this initiative."
Francine (30/01/2019 01:45)
" J'appuie cette décision"
Marie Clark (29/01/2019 11:48)
" Respect the writers."
Marie-Andrée Michaud (29/01/2019 11:40)
" justice and respect for writers"
Marie-Andrée Michaud (29/01/2019 11:39)
" justice for writers"
Manon Plouffe (29/01/2019 10:06)
" Please take off all my e-mail books.
Manon Plouffe"
Daniel Guénette (29/01/2019 09:29)
" J'appuie cette initiative."
Anne Thériault (29/01/2019 09:29)
" Respect the writers, please!"
Dominiqeu Gaucher (29/01/2019 08:03)
" Courage!"
Andée Quiviger (29/01/2019 07:45)
" Il est temps que toutes lois relatives aux droits d'auteur les protègent entièrement contre out abus de diffusion."
Anna Louise Fontaine (29/01/2019 07:11)
" Internet Archive’s Open Library doit immédiatement cesser de prêter des copies de livres. Ilss n'ont pas le droit de le faire car ils n'ont pas demandé la permission aux auteurs concernés, ce qui rend leur pratique illégale et prive les auteurs de justes revenus.
Nous dénonçons fermement cette pratique et demandons réparation pour les auteurs."
Stephanie Pelletier (29/01/2019 06:14)
" Le respect des droits d'auteur.rice.s c'est primordial pour la survie des livres et des auteur.rice.s"
Denis Morin (29/01/2019 06:07)
" Please stop this unfair use of literature."
Kay Powell (29/01/2019 05:57)
" Stealing, thieving, "borrowing": theft is theft!"
Marie-Jose Theriault (29/01/2019 04:47)
" Remove from this platform all ebooks that are not in the public domain. Such breaches of copyright could subject you to legal action."
Gilles Jobidon (29/01/2019 04:39)
" Sans commentaire..."
Max Rose (28/01/2019 08:59)
" @Time Warnes: non of your titles listed on the Open Library are available in eBook format, so I don't see why you think that this site "does not honour my rights as an author at all"??
It currently lists data about your books and link to WorldCat to help readers find physical copies."
Max Rose (28/01/2019 08:56)
" @Mary Hoffman: as with others in this comment thread, none of your books are available in eBook format on the Open Library. The site is actually helping people discover physical copies by linking, explicitly, to WorldCat to help readers find copies of your book. Please check the facts before getting outraged over a non-existent infringement!"
Max Rose (28/01/2019 08:49)
" @Helen Cannam / Caroline Martin. I just searched for both names and no results. Regardless of your position on the matter, fabricating accusations weakens your stance. Shame"
Stafford Cannam (24/01/2019 04:23)
" Breach of copyright is not on. Why do they do it?"
Mary Hoffman (24/01/2019 12:36)
" I have found over thirty of my books on this site, one in 22 editions! Please add my signature to the letter. It is monstrous at a time when so many authors are struggling to make a living to have our copyrights infringed in this way."
Mary Hoffman (24/01/2019 12:36)
" I have found over thirty of my books on this site, one in 22 editions! Please add my signature to the letter. It is monstrous at a time when so many authors are struggling to make a living to have our copyrights infringed in this way."
Mary Hoffman (24/01/2019 12:30)
" I have found over thirty of my books on this site, one in 22 editions! Please add my signature to the letter. It is monstrous at a time when so many authors are struggling to make a living to have our copyrights infringed in this way."
Nayesh (24/01/2019 08:51)
" This is a tpugh profession for many to barely scrape a living. Only a few percentage are able to make a living and a career from writing. Many do not have agents or lawyers to protect their work. This e-lending idea is another form of exploitation. Make it fair have cobtracts and pay royalties to authors' work that is madr available in this format."
Lucy Allen (23/01/2019 09:47)
" It’s people’s livelihoods being screwed over!!!!"
Rachel Ward (23/01/2019 09:20)
" stop copyright theft"
Adrian Horn (23/01/2019 05:35)
" Such a shame, after working for years on a book, to have any chance of making a return on it taken away."
Michael Zatouroff (23/01/2019 10:35)
" This is theft ..."
Rebecca Reynolds (23/01/2019 08:53)
" Authors deserve to be recompensed properly for use of their work."
Bethan Roberts (22/01/2019 04:18)
" This is theft, and it must stop."
Ian McCulloch (22/01/2019 03:50)
" This must stop."
Tim Pryor (22/01/2019 03:18)
" People cannot be allowed to continue to take works that do not belong to them and make them available with no consideration to the authors who spend their valuable time creating works for the enjoyment of others. Writing is a career, profession and passion for authors and they should have the right to be paid a fair wage for their work. It is no different than any other employment and authors works should not be exploited in this manner. If it is allowed to continue then creativity will be at risk as no-one will be able to afford to create."
Tim warnes (22/01/2019 12:25)
" Scanning my books does not honour my rights as an author at all. It infringes my copyright (by unlawful reproduction) and intellectual property rights."
Wendy H. Bell (22/01/2019 12:20)
" Just stop it and allow authors to earn a living."
Kathleen Ellis (22/01/2019 09:04)
" Stop stealing work you do not own. It's hard enough to make a living out of writing as it is. Before long there will be no authors left because no-one will be able to afford to write."
David Beckler (22/01/2019 08:12)
" It's hard enough to earn a living as a writer without losing work like this."
Ann Lloyd (21/01/2019 10:27)
" The purpose of libraries is to make books/reading accessible to as many people as possible;e, but not to the detriment of the people creating the books."
gk jones (21/01/2019 08:04)
" stop lending books now."
Anthony Saunders (21/01/2019 03:11)
" This is theft. It's breaking into my home and stealing from me."
Karen Krizanovich (21/01/2019 02:24)
" I not support this unlawful misuse of copyrighted material"
Patsy Trench (21/01/2019 01:26)
" Outrageous of Internet Archive and of any readers who use this service."
Rachael Bellis (21/01/2019 12:03)
" In what other profession would you expect people to work without being paid?"
Angus M Marshall (21/01/2019 10:19)
" If you don't reward creators, they stop creating. Copyright protects them. Stop violating creator's rights."
Anna Gurevitch (21/01/2019 10:13)
" Writers and libraries are among the most important resources in modern society, they should be acknowledged and enabled to thrive with remuneration rates worthy of human dignity."
Madalyn Morgan (21/01/2019 09:30)
" Thank you, again, Society of Authors. This is an outrageous breach of copyright. It is theft!"
Helen McCarthy (21/01/2019 08:29)
" As a writer and a reader I love libraries. They have always been, for me, gateways to other worlds. Also as an author, I detest the fact that work I and others spent years of our lives creating is stolen and shared without our consent. Borrow from a public library and you can help to support us; read on an unlicensed online site and you are taking income from writers and giving it to whoever collects the advertising clickfees. Please, support creators, not those who use their work without consent or payment."
Susan Hodgkinson (21/01/2019 07:39)
" x"
Christine Wood (20/01/2019 08:54)
" As a writer, life long user of libraries, and supporter of authors of all levels, this needs to stop. All creative industries deserve fair payment for their work like any other."
Hilary McKay (20/01/2019 07:43)
" I am so tired of being cheated this way."
Mary English (20/01/2019 06:53)
" Four of my series of twelve have been listed but as yet not copied ... scary to think Archive can benefit from my books and I , the author, cannot 😢"
Liz Flanagan (20/01/2019 05:12)
" As a lifelong library user, I support libraries and will always do so. Receiving PLR as a result of library loans is always a welcome boost to authors’ low earnings. However, I not support this unlawful misuse of copyrighted material."
John Strode (20/01/2019 04:53)
" Stop screwing over writers as usual."
Helen Cannam (also writing as Caroline Martin) (19/01/2019 04:12)
" Six of my books are listed on this site, four under Helen Cannam and two under Caroline Martin. As my only income (apart from PLR) comes from my ebooks, this is a serious breach of copyright as far as I'm concerned."

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