Tuesday, April 07, 2020

A real conundrum

by Rick Blechta

One of the two publishers with which I work, Orca Publishing, sent out their usual newsletter to authors yesterday and the lead off article was something rather disturbing.

It seems a website called Internet Archive makes books available online at no charge, operating as sort of a lending library has some of my books. Right now, because of the coronavirus situation, they’ve made their entire collection available all the time. Normally, only one person can be reading a book at a time. Now, it’s wide open.

The issue is that they have not obtained permission for using these books in this way, nor paid any money for them. I found five of my books in the collection. Looking more closely, I found the books have all been bulk-scanned from print copies. Some of the books appear to have been originally part of a library collection – which is disturbing in itself – while others might have been donated by individuals.

At this time, all libraries are closed in most of Canada, and probably in the US and elsewhere. I haven’t checked with the Toronto Library to see if one can “withdraw” books using the internet, but certainly smaller libraries would be unlike to be able to offer this feature. Libraries have to work out a payment schedule with publishers for the use of e-books that does offer some recompense, but Internet Archive has not done this.

Which brings me to the conundrum. Should I just look the other way at the moment in order to help out people who cannot get fresh reading material, or should I contact Internet Archive right now, establish my right as the author of these works – and holder of the copyright – and demand they be removed or paid for in some way? (I know what the answer to that last part will be!)

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this overnight and cannot decide what to do.

Help me out, folks! Any thoughts?


Susan D said...

Yeah, I think I know what you mean, Rick.

Anonymous said...

I would advise you contact them and ask them who they paid to obtain these books, and inform them that what they are doing is not very Ethical.

Susan D said...

Okay, sorry Rick. My previous comment was for a BLANK POST. I actually thought your conumdrum was, "I just can't seem to write anything just now." :^0

So, about Internet Archive. How is this different, really, from a pirate website, as regards copyright?

Meanwhile, libraries (well TPL, and I assume others) still have their regular offerings of ebooks and audiobooks on line. Movies via Hoopla and Kanopy.

blogcutter said...

Rick, speaking as a retired librarian and an avid reader of crime fiction, I can certainly understand your point of view although I haven't entirely formulated where I personally stand on this issue. What I've been doing since this pandemic took hold is ordering local authors' books online from local booksellers (Essie Lang's and Brenda Chapman's latest from Books on Beechwood and Perfect Books in Ottawa) as well as placing an order with Sleuth of Baker Street in Toronto. I'd also be open to making a donation to something like the Canadian Writers' Emergency Fund to support authors impacted by the current situation. Do you have any other suggestions?

Andi said...

Good Afternoon Rick!

Looking from an outsiders point of view (someone who little or no knowledge of the intricacies of copyright law), I would most certainly establish that you are the copyright owner of these works. Likely, this should be done both with an email and with registered letter. I would establish in all cases who I was communicating with. Advise them that you have not been paid for these works. You may indeed let them know that you expect payment.

Now, if you wish at some later date to pursue this you can. You may decide not to pursue it. I think that's it's probably important that you state clearly your ownership.

Good Luck!


Anonymous said...

I bet if they’d ask permission, you’d have said yes.

They didn’t ask - that’s a hard no.

Rick Blechta said...

Thank you all for weighing in on this. Anonymous certainly does have it correct. If I'd been asked, I would have said yes.

But everyone who shared their thoughts said only one thing: make them take my work down.

I have it underway and I'm hoping Internet Archive will do as I ask.

I'll keep everyone informed -- promise!

Eileen Goudge said...

I got the same notice from my agent. I followed up on it per her advice, emailing Internet Archive and requesting they remove my titles that were listed on their site, providing the URL for each of the titles. I received notice from them subsequently that the titles had been removed. Who knows if it's permanent? Only time will tell. But these people are crooks who are using the current crisis in an attempt to legitimize the pirating they'd been doing for years.

Tanya said...

This is the link to a recent PW article about the situation. You are right to defend your copyright.