With June’s advent, the 2020 catastrophe has now wreaked havoc upon the literary world. When the Internet Archive announced that it was creating a National Emergency Library, temporarily suspending wait lists to borrow e-books amid the pandemic, a crowd of writers and publishers expressed outrage. Now, their complaint has made it to court; as of June 1st, they have officially sued the Archive for infringement.
image via archive.org
So what is the National Emergency Library? This new installment from the Internet Archive works to temporarily suspend wait lists to borrow e-books during the flood of online learning––and frankly, the swell in free time––for internet readers. Simply put, the National Emergency Library was a policy announced in March so that multiple people could read the same e-book at the same time without waiting for others to finish. Not exactly how real libraries work, is it? Now, the prosecution (publishers John Wiley & Sons, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, and Penguin Random House) have charged the Internet Archive for infringement.
“Its goal of creating digital copies of books and providing them to whomever wants to download them reflects a profound misunderstanding of the costs of creating books, a profound lack of respect for the many contributors involved in the publication process, and a profound disregard of the boundaries and balance of core copyright principles,” the publishers argued.
image via mediapost.com
In its defense, the Internet Archive has described the National Emergency Library as a public library, temporarily lending free digital copies of millions of books obtained through donations, purchases, or collaboration with other libraries. However, ‘infringement’ may be the final death on these sorts of circumventive online libraries which have been repeatedly called out by writers and publishers. The indictment stems from an older issue with the Archive’s “Open Library,” which has been under scrutiny for carrying out a very large and growing program of scanning entire books and posting them on the public internet.
image via lithub.com
Many factors, past and present, will be at play in this trial; factors which have recently come to a boil after a longstanding, tense simmer. Whether the Archive is fooling the public with a library front for piracy, or simply giving the public legal access to books during these historically trying times…only time will tell.