Multi-day DDoS storm batters Internet Archive

Think this is bad? See what Big Media wants to do to us, warns founder

Updated The Internet Archive has been under a distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attack since Sunday, and is trying to keep services going.

While the San Francisco institution has assured users that its collections and web archives are safe — that's the good news — it warns service remains spotty for the online library and its Wayback Machine.

Since the flood of phony network traffic began, attackers have launched "tens of thousands of fake information requests per second," according to Chris Freeland, director of library services at Archive.

The Internet Archive in San Francisco

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Whoever is doing the DDoSing remains unknown, Freeland added, and investigations are continuing.

And while the traffic tsunami has been "sustained, impactful, targeted, adaptive, and importantly, mean," it's not the biggest threat to the site, according to Brewster Kahle, founder and digital librarian of the Archive.

Specifically, he's talking about David-versus-Goliath-style lawsuits seeking to shut down the nonprofit internet library.

Kahle founded the nonprofit service – which provides free access to tons of digitized materials, from software and music to scans of print books — in 1996. It also hosts the Wayback Machine, which archives huge numbers of web pages, and is especially useful when pages mysteriously vanish or change significantly without any indication that editing has gone on. 

The Internet Archive is right now fighting legal battles against major US book publishing companies and record labels, which have charged the site with copyright infringement and are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

"If our patrons around the globe think this latest situation is upsetting, then they should be very worried about what the publishing and recording industries have in mind," Kahle said, according to Freeland's blog. 

Last August, UMG Recordings, Capitol Records, Concord Bicycle Assets, CMGI Recorded Music Assets, Sony Music, and Arista Music filed a lawsuit against the nonprofit. 

This followed an earlier 2020 lawsuit filed by dead-tree publishers including the Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons and Penguin Random House. In March 2023, a federal judge rejected the Internet Archive's claim that it has a fair use right to lend digital copies of each printed book that it has purchased.

This decision opens the digital archive up to potentially paying huge damages to the publishers and almost certainly shuttering the hard-up non-profit.

Last month, the Internet Archive took what is described as a "decisive final step" in the publishers' lawsuit  and submitted its final appellate reply brief. 

Kahle described the lawsuits as an attempt "to destroy this library entirely and hobble all libraries everywhere."

"But just as we're resisting the DDoS attack, we appreciate all the support in pushing back on this unjust litigation against our library and others," he added. ®

Updated to add

An anonymous gang calling itself SN_Blackmeta, which seems to be against US and Israeli interests and writes in English, Russian, and Arabic, has claimed responsibility for the DDoS attacks for reasons unknown. We'll take it with a grain of salt, and have put it to the Internet Archive for comment.

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