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14 Apr 2023
The Internet Archive has for several years run a program they call Controlled Digital Lending (CDL.) The Archive takes physical paper books, scans them, puts the books in storage, and then lends out the scans, with each scan lent to only one person at a time. Their theory is that the scans are equivalent to the books, so what they're doing is the same as when a library lends physical books.Not surprisingly, book publishers don't like this since they have their own idea about how e-books work. In 2020 several publishers sued, and on March 24 the court ruled quite firmly in favor of the publishers and said there is no such thing as CDL. While there was a lot not to like about the plaintiffs, and there are certainly reasons to want CDL to exist in some form, this decision reminds us that wishful thinking is not a substitute for legal research. What we think the law should say, or wishes it said, is not what it actually says. It also reminds us yet again why copyright law is such a poor fit for digital materals.
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