Public Knowledge Disappointed in Decision Restricting Ability of Libraries To Lend Books

New ruling jeopardizes the rights of all readers to acquire knowledge and further risks your rights to lend, repair, and resell what you own.

Judge John G. Koeltl of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York announced his decision in the case of Hachette v. Internet Archive, granting summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs. Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House.

Libraries have always worked in a very simple way: They buy books (or someone else buys the books and donates to the library), and then they lend them out. This is exactly what the Internet Archive does, with one addition: It makes library books more accessible to library patrons by allowing readers to access scanned copies online. Under this “Controlled Digital Lending” (CDL) system, only one patron can access a copy of a book at a time – just like with lending physical books. The Internet Archive argued that any additional copies made during this process should be “fair use” under copyright law.

The following can be attributed to John Bergmayer, Legal Director at Public Knowledge:

“This ruling is disappointing, and it should be overturned on appeal.

“Securing the future of libraries, and ensuring that consumers’ and readers’ rights are not forgotten in the digital age, is about more than just one court case. In area after area, companies, like the publishers who sued Internet Archive, are using the transition to digital media and technologies to take away long-established consumer rights to repair, lend, and resell the things they own.

“When the publishers sued the Internet Archive, they argued among other things that CDL interferes with the market for ebooks. But there is no real market for ebooks because publishers won’t sell ebooks to libraries at any price – instead, they license them, under highly restrictive terms, for limited times, at costs that are much higher than it costs to buy paper books.

“This is similar to how device manufacturers, media and software companies, and other industries are restricting consumers’ rights in various ways. For instance, right-to-repair advocates have long fought against manufacturers who make it difficult or impossible for consumers to repair their own devices, often forcing them to rely on expensive, authorized repair services, claiming they don’t own their devices or the software in them.

“Policymakers need to take action to ensure that libraries can continue to access the materials they need to serve the public, protect the rights of all readers to acquire knowledge, and address the ongoing erosion of consumer rights in the digital age.”

Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at or 405-249-9435.