Record Labels Sue The Internet Archive Over Its ‘Great 78 Project’

Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and other record labels filed a suit against The Internet Archive on Friday for copyright infringement.

The labels are upset by the Archive’s “Great 78 Project” which allows visitors to stream digitized music from vintage records from artists including Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, and Ella Fitzgerald, Reuters reports.

According to the complaint, the labels claim “Internet Archive, Blood, and GBLP have willfully reproduced thousands of Plaintiffs’ protected sound recordings without authorization by copying physical records into digital files. Internet Archive then willfully uploaded, distributed, and digitally transmitted those illegally copied sound recordings millions of times from Internet Archive’s website.”

It goes on to say “Defendants attempt to defend their wholesale theft of generations of music under the guise of “preservation and research,” but this is a smokescreen: their activities far exceed those limited purposes. Internet Archive unabashedly seeks to provide free and unlimited access to music for everyone, regardless of copyright.”

The complaint specifically names 2.749 recordings that the labels claim the Archive has infringed on the copyright of. The labels are seeking damages as high as $412 million.

Somewhat comically, the line in the complaint about the Archive’s goal of providing free and unlimited access to music is actually the company’s mission statement: to “provide universal access to all knowledge.

The suit also isn’t the only lawsuit the group is facing. In March, a judge ruled in favor of a group of book publishers who sued the site for offering a digital-book lending program that violated their copyright.

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That suit encompassed 33,000 titles across four book publishers and the Archive argued that’s practices were protected under “fair use” laws. 

The Internet Archive has appealed that decision and has said the ruling “holds back access to information in the digital age, harming all readers, everywhere.”

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