Public Knowledge Joins Amicus Brief Defending Controlled Digital Lending and Consumer Privacy

The brief contends that controlled digital lending furthers the goal of the copyright act by protecting reader privacy.

Today, Public Knowledge joined Center for Democracy and Technology and the Library Freedom Project in filing an amicus brief supporting Internet Archive in the case of Hachette v. Internet Archive. The brief, which was written by the Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, argues that controlled digital lending – or CDL – furthers the goal of the copyright act by protecting reader privacy.

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” 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. In 2020, the Association of American Publishers sued the Internet Archive seeking to halt the Internet Archive’s CDL program. This March, a district court found in favor of plaintiff publishers. The Internet Archive has appealed that judgment, defending the program as a fair use.

The following can be attributed to Meredith Rose, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“Surveillance chills research and access to information; this is why libraries are deeply invested in protecting the privacy of their patrons, and why numerous state laws shield library records from intrusion. CDL allows the library to keep e-book lending within their own ecosystem, subject to the same privacy-protecting laws and practices they apply to physical books. 

““Commercial e-book lending platforms, on the other hand, collect reader data – including from children – to share, sell, or otherwise monetize at its discretion. Forcing libraries to turn to publisher-sanctioned aggregators exposes reader data and erodes the privacy protections that are at the heart of library values.

“Copyright was explicitly designed for the public benefit. This benefit cannot be achieved by stripping readers of any expectation of privacy in what they read or research.”

You may view the amicus brief for more information.

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