Internet Archive Great 78 Project

The popular website Internet Archive has found itself on the wrong end of a lawsuit from labels including Universal Music and Sony Music.

The labels are suing the site for copyright infringement over its ‘Great 78 Project‘, which digitises old 78rpm records for preservation purposes, as well as collecting the physical versions.

The project now includes more than 400,000 recordings, with owners of these records encouraged to donate them to swell the collection further.

According to Reuters, the lawsuit cited 2,749 sound-recording copyrights that the labels allege are being infringed by the project, including tracks by Bing Crosby, Chuck Berry and Duke Ellington.

The lawsuit comes at a challenging time for the Internet Archive, as it has been fighting another legal battle against book publishers who sued it for copyright infringement over its digital lending-library feature.

In March, a US judge ruled in favour of the publishers, and on Friday they and the Internet Archive submitted a joint proposal to the court for a settlement.

It would involve an undisclosed payment and a permanent injunction against the site lending out unauthorised copies of the publishers’ books. However, also on Friday, the site reiterated that “our fight is far from over” and outlined its plans to appeal.

The very same day, labels filed their lawsuit against the Internet Archive, drawing an unimpressed response from Brewster Kahle, who runs the site.

“Now the Washington lawyers want to destroy a digital collection of scratchy 78 r.p.m. records, 70 to 120 years old, built by dedicated preservationists in 2006. Who benefits?” he told the New York Times.

Preservation may be the argument that the Internet Archive’s defence will rest upon, but in their filing the labels argued that the availability of these recordings on digital music services mean they “face no danger of being lost, forgotten, or destroyed”.

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