Brewster Kahle and the Internet Archive are learning a little about copyright, the legal system, and the power of logical conclusions based on evidence as four publishers have succeeded in a summary judgment that finds the Internet Archive was not engaged in fair use by scanning and posting entire books in a “library,” and was in fact infringing on valid copyrights.
It’s not the first time Kahle’s inherent techno-utopianism has led to outcomes he didn’t anticipate.
Started in 2012, a credit union Kahle founded (and funded with $1 million) was persistently investigated by regulators for purportedly using its funds to help bail out Bitcoin operators who had fallen on hard times. Kahle and his partner ultimately decided to shut the credit union down in 2015, as they were spending more time dealing with regulators than running things.
Ostensibly started to help low- and middle-income individuals around New Brunswick, NJ, trouble started for the Internet Archive Federal Credit Union (IAFCU) when it was found to be extending loans to a half-dozen Bitcoin startups. These activities — which ran straight into the teeth of some of the earliest cryptocurrency scandals (Mt. Gox, for example) and Homeland Security concerns about how terrorist networks were being funded — raised alarms about IAFCU for regulators who were otherwise attempting to support exactly the kind of credit union Kahle said he wanted to run.
It’s an example of how something that would have likely worked locally and modestly was brought to a halt because Kahle went too big and too far, using his banking platform to dabble in cryptocurrencies.
While the Bitcoin involvement was the precipitating factor in regulators clamping down, Kahle remained a vocal supporter of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies for a decade, and made a call on September 7, 2022, for people to donate Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to the Internet Archive. How he feels now is unclear.
Last week, the Internet Archive’s assertions that it is just a simple little lending library were struck down via a summary judgment, which also affects another of Kahle’s library initiatives, the Open Library of Richmond.
Operating under the theory that its digital lending behaviors represented fair use, the Internet Archive was hosting digitized copies of 3.6 million copyrighted books — ~33,000 of which were from the litigant publishers — without the permission of the copyright holders or their agents.