Originally published: January 5, 2011
Last updated: January 5, 2011 - 7:00pm
The Internet Archive's "Wayback Machine" is a set of snapshots of the Web over time. It's a wonderful way to delve into the past, but it's only possible thanks to rampant copying—and the potential copyright infringement that goes along with such copies. Thanks to US law, a successful copyright suit against the Wayback Machine could put the nonprofit Internet Archive on the hook for up to $150,000 per infringement. Multiply that $150,000 by the number of individual pages in the Archive and you quickly run into some serious damages.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation does the math:
"As of December 18, 2010, the Internet Archive had 600 preserved images of the website for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Were the RIAA to sue the Internet Archive for copyright infringement based on these preserved images and prevail, the Archive would face up to $89 million in statutory damages, even absent a finding of actual harm or any reprehensibility. And these 600 images of the RIAA website are but a small drop in the large lake of information that the Archive has collected, which includes over 150 billion web pages. Based on this figure, if all copyright owners of those webpages (or a certified class of them) were to sue and prevail, the Archive would face potential statutory damages of close to 2,000 times the United States’ national debt."
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