Internet Archive Targets Book DRM Removal Tool With DMCA Takedown

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The Internet Archive has taken the rather unusual step of sending a DMCA notice to protect the copyrights of book publishers and authors. The non-profit organization asked GitHub to remove a tool that can strip DRM from books in its library. The protective move is likely motivated by the ongoing legal troubles between the Archive and book publishers.

internet archiveThe Internet Archive (IA) is a non-profit organization that aims to save the history of the Internet for generations to come.

The digital library is a staunch supporter of a free and open Internet and began meticulously archiving the web over a quarter century ago.

Today, IA has more than 800 billion pages in its archive and offers a broad collection of digital media, including books. Staying true to the centuries-old library concept, IA patrons can also borrow books that are scanned and digitized in-house, with technical restrictions that prevent copying. At least, that’s the idea.

The self-scanning service is different from the licensing deals other libraries enter into. Not all publishers are happy with this scheme and when IA lifted its ‘one-digital-copy-per-patron’ policy at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a massive lawsuit ensued.

Publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, John Wiley and Penguin Random House sued IA, equating the Open Library’s lending operation to copyright infringement. Earlier this year a New York Federal court concluded that the library is indeed liable for copyright infringement.

IA Sends DMCA Notice to Stop Book Piracy

The scale of the damages in that case are yet to be determined but in light of the legal battle, we noticed an interesting DMCA takedown notice this week through which IA tries to protect the publishers.

The Internet Archive sent a takedown request to GitHub, requesting the developer platform to remove a tool that circumvents industry-standard technical protection mechanisms for digital libraries. This “DeGouRou” software effectively allows patrons to save DRM-free copies of the books they borrow.


“This DMCA complaint is about a tool made available on github which purports to circumvent technical protections in violation of the copyright act section 1201,” the notice reads.

“I am reporting a Git which provides a tool specifically used to circumvent industry standard library TPMs which are used by Internet Archive, and other libraries, to permit patrons to borrow an encrypted book, read the encrypted book, and return an encrypted book.”

Not Authorized

Interestingly, an IA representative states that they are “not authorized by the copyright owners” to submit this takedown notice. Instead, IA is acting on its duty to prevent the unauthorized downloading of copyright-protected books.

degourou git

It’s quite unusual to see a party sending takedown notices without permission from the actual rightsholders. However, given the copyright liabilities IA faces, it makes sense that the organization is doing what it can to prevent more legal trouble.

Permission or not, GitHub honored the takedown request. It removed all the DeGourou repositories that were flagged and took the code offline.

DeGourou is ‘Archived’ Elsewhere

The publishers are likely pleased to see IA acting in their interests. However, as we often see on a free and open Internet, taking something completely offline isn’t always straightforward. After GitHub removed the code, it soon popped up elsewhere.

Apparently, some people are relentlessly trying to maintain an archive of the code in other places.

A Reddit thread that was initially posted five months ago linked to DeGourou’s GitHub page. After that was taken down it moved to Replit instead, but that instance was also targeted with a DMCA notice. DeGourou has now moved to GitLab, for as long as it lasts.

IA is clearly concerned about the potential copyright infringement implications of its library. The organization is currently finalizing a consent judgment with the publishers to establish the damages it owes in the earlier mentioned legal battle, while also leaving the door open for an appeal.


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