This week, the Internet Archive filed a DMCA request to GitHub to remove an anti-DRM tool that lets its patrons save a borrowed eBook from its library.

The NGO offers eBooks on rent to specific donors, which should be returned after they’re done reading. But a tool called DeGouRou can allegedly let patrons save these eBooks for free, which is against IA’s borrowing policy. While IA has a pro-internet freedom stance, processing a DMCA without actual copyright holders’ permission seemed unusual.

IA Protecting Copyright Holders

With over 800 billion archived pages and hundreds of millions of eBooks, Internet Archive is the largest e-library. Though it’s good to see an NGO keeping the digital records of our world, it often includes copyrighted material in this process. And this attracts lawsuits, which IA fights so often.

In this pursuit, the NGO was hit by a lawsuit earlier this year – where publishers like Hachette, HarperCollins, John Wiley, and Penguin Random House sued IA for its Open Library’s lending operation. IA has a “one-digital-copy-per-patron” policy until COVID-19, which offers one eBook for every patron.

But this policy was amended to let patrons take any number of eBooks they want – triggering an almost-free source of eBooks to everyone on the internet. Calling this an infringement of their copyrights, the publishing houses are in the suit to recover damages from IA.

While the exact amount is yet to be determined, IA made an exciting move to appease these publishers this week. The NGO has filed a DMCA request to GitHub to remove an anti-DRM tool called DeGouRou, which lets its patrons save the borrowed eBooks for free.

While it’s unusual to see the Internet Archive go against something pro-free-internet, it did the act without any persuasion from the copyright holders, making it more intriguing. An IA representative said they are “not authorized by the copyright owners” to submit this takedown notice.

Yet, GitHub honored this request and pulled down DeGourou repositories from its platform. But again, anything posted to the internet once stays on the internet – even though it’s removed from one place. And DeGouRou follows the same fate, with its copies surfacing in Replit (removed now) and GitLab (still available).