A consortium of major record labels including UMG, Sony, and Capitol have launched a copyright lawsuit against Internet Archive. The full complaint, which can be read here via Music Business Worldwide, targets the online library’s “Great 78 Project,” a digitized collection of 78-rpm records produced prior to 1972.
The suit, filed on August 11 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, contends that much of the music is still copyrighted. The plaintiffs call the Great 78 Project a “massive ongoing violation” of copyright; 2,749 tracks are listed as potentially being infringed upon, including songs like Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven,” and Frank Sinatra’s “I’ve Got the World on a String.”
The mandate of the Great 78 Project is described by Internet Archive as “the preservation, research, and discovery of 78rpm records.” The lawsuit describes this as a “smokescreen,” claiming that “Internet Archive unabashedly seeks to provide free and unlimited access to music for everyone, regardless of copyright.”
The defendants named in the lawsuit are the Internet Archive and its founder Brewster Kahle, audio archivist George Blood, and the Kahle/Austin Foundation. The plaintiffs, who also include Arista Music and the independent publisher Concord, are seeking statutory damages of up to $150,000 per infringed track.
It’s the latest lawsuit that poses a possibly existential threat to the long-running resource. In March, a judge ruled in favor of book publishers who filed a suit claiming that Internet Archive had violated copyright. Internet Archive has appealed the decision, and on Friday (August 11), Brewster Kahle issued a statement on the lawsuit.
“Libraries are under attack at unprecedented scale today, from book bans to defunding to overzealous lawsuits like the one brought against our library. These efforts are cutting off the public’s access to truth at a key time in our democracy. We must have strong libraries, which is why we are appealing this decision.”
The FADER has reached out to Internet Archive for more information.