Publishers say the Internet Archive's National Emergency Library constitutes 'willful...

Shawn Knight

Posts: 12,297   +120
Staff member

The Internet Archive back in March created the National Emergency Library, a controversial program that made more than 1.4 million eBooks available to borrowers without any wait times. The idea was to assist students through the remainder of the academic year and make it easier for ordinary citizens to access books during Covid-19 stay-at-home orders.

Publishers, however, categorized it as theft and have filed a lawsuit against the Internet Archive.

“There is nothing innovative or transformative about making complete copies of books to which you have no rights and giving them away for free,” said Maria A. Pallante, president of the Association of American Publishers.

The suit, filed in federal court in Manhattan on Monday, accused the Internet Archive of “willful mass copyright infringement.”

The Internet Archive’s founder and digital librarian, Brewster Kahle, told The New York Times that as a library, the archive acquires books and lends them, as libraries have always done. This move, he added, supports publishing, authors and readers. “Publishers suing libraries for lending books, in this case, protected digitized versions, and while schools and libraries are closed, is not in anyone’s interest,” Kahle added.

Where the Internet Archive runs into a snag is in the fact that it doesn’t operate like a traditional library. With lending restrictions lifted during the pandemic, a digital book can be in the hands of many readers simultaneously. With physical books at your local library, only one lender has access to a book at any given time.

According to this Internet Archive FAQ, users can check out up to 10 books at a time for a period of 14 days. If you are still reading your book when the loan is up, simply check the book out again.

Where do you stand on the matter? Should the Internet Archive be allowed to distribute books in this manner or will publishers prevail in court? Should an exception be made during Covid-19? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Masthead credit: Maglara

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Evernessince

Posts: 5,081   +5,316
So long as they can prove that they are operating like a library I think this should be allowed. Of course, current law doesn't agree with this position. Unlike physical books, you don't really own your digital products and you don't have the right to lend them to your friends. Current law is insanely tilted towards companies.
 

brucek

Posts: 388   +433
First Sale doctrine prevailed for a couple centuries plus until relatively recently, when lawyers started to categorize every transaction as a "license", and then to add clauses into the "agreement" that nullify whole sections of the judicial process.

Under First Sale, there's no doubt that someone who bought a book could resell that book, or lend it to another. If this Library paid for their copies, and is lending out only the max simultaneous number they paid for, they ought to be supported. But publishers will correctly claim that under current law the ebooks aren't sold.

We may have bigger fish to fry right now, but in the decades to come I predict this will eventually all get sorted. The pendulum has swung too far and it will eventually come back to center.
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 3,151   +2,056
I never understood the concept of only being allowed to lend 1 digital copy of a book at a time... the entire of point of it being digital is that you can have unlimited copies!!

As long as the DRM only allows you to keep the book for a limited amount of time, I don't see the problem.

Publishers have always been greedy - and have yet to adapt to the digital age.

Off-topic but... for every hardcover book sold, the "rights" to a digital copy should be included! It's very hard to justify $30 on a bunch of paper when the e-book sells for $10... since the e-book is basically free for publishers to distribute, why not include it?

There are still plenty of people who want the physical book on their shelf (me included) but would also enjoy the convenience of reading the book "on the go" without having to lug it around.
 

brucek

Posts: 388   +433
I never understood the concept of only being allowed to lend 1 digital copy of a book at a time... the entire of point of it being digital is that you can have unlimited copies!!
So under the balance you propose, authors could expect to sell exactly one copy of any book? If one library can serve the entire world's population, and it needs to buy only one copy, who else will ever buy one?

I am all for striking a fair & practical & value-maximizing balance but to me the result of this approach would be that fewer and fewer people could afford to be full-time authors, until there were hardly any left.
 

GreenNova343

Posts: 434   +324
I've used that site actually for some reading material. I was looking more in the non-fiction subjects, not necessarily fiction books or anything like that.

It's a tough question on this. To be fair, you really have only a couple of options for reading these books:
-- on their website in a side-scrolling bar that has such small text that a) you're going to have trouble reading it (IIRC, there's no option for making it full-screen), or b) you'll have to zoom in & then keep manipulating the scroll bars to read the pages;
-- download an encrypted PDF or ePUB-formatted version, both of which need a dedicated app/program to access (Adobe Digital Editions for the former). In either case, just like when downloading from your local library, you lose access to the contents once your loan expires.

It's not too different from libraries, to be honest. Not that it's a defense for it, either, but I must say that a lot of the content is fairly "old". You can tell from most of them that they're books that have been discarded already from actual public library systems. In some cases, we're talking about books that were published 20, 30, 40, or even 50 years ago. In their defense, if a particular book is available to purchase in physical form, they provide a link to it (for example, Brother Odd by Dean Koontz: https://archive.org/details/isbn_9780345533029/page/n5/mode/2up). That's actually something your local library doesn't provide.
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 3,151   +2,056
So under the balance you propose, authors could expect to sell exactly one copy of any book? If one library can serve the entire world's population, and it needs to buy only one copy, who else will ever buy one?

I am all for striking a fair & practical & value-maximizing balance but to me the result of this approach would be that fewer and fewer people could afford to be full-time authors, until there were hardly any left.
No.... you clearly didn’t understand my post.... a LIBRARY should only need one copy of the digital version of a book - each hardcover sale should also include a digital version... get it now?

The vast majority of people who buy books would not be affected by the library limit....
 
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brucek

Posts: 388   +433
In the past, each individual library could serve a limited local population, due to needing to travel to it in person. In the digital world that is over - one library can serve a whole country (like the one in this article), and there's no reason it could not eventually serve the entire planet. So one library = one sale.

I'm fine with hard copies including digital versions, although e-books sales already vastly outnumber physical book sales, and that's a trend that seems like it will accelerate as the pre-digital generations age out of the population. The new model will need to be able to sustain authors even assuming near zero levels of physical book sales.
 
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ShagnWagn

Posts: 1,297   +1,081
So is this kind of like what the MPAA/RIAA is doing? $150,000+ per 'copy'? So the publishers believe the library effectively "owes" them more money than exists in the world?

Do the libraries not have to pay for each hard copy of a book? Why are they not paying for each digital copy of a book? Or at least ask for a license to offer it en mass? Kinda like streaming music.
 
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Squid Surprise

Posts: 3,151   +2,056
I'm not sure how many "sales" are made to libraries... but I'm thinking it's pretty negligible. As for a study on whether having a "well-stocked" library affects novel sales in a city - I haven't seen one, but I suspect that, much like piracy, there is no real effect on actual sales.

Therefore... whether or not a library lends out 1 digital copy at a time or 100 will have virtually no effect on an author's income.

If anyone has any evidence to the contrary, I'd love to see it.
 
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candle_86

Posts: 305   +220
I'm not sure how many "sales" are made to libraries... but I'm thinking it's pretty negligible. As for a study on whether having a "well-stocked" library affects novel sales in a city - I haven't seen one, but I suspect that, much like piracy, there is no real effect on actual sales.

Therefore... whether or not a library lends out 1 digital copy at a time or 100 will have virtually no effect on an author's income.

If anyone has any evidence to the contrary, I'd love to see it.
Very true, I remember a decade ago they found less than 1% who pirate music or movies would or have the means to purchase them. You can't loose a sale that doesn't exist.
 
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cliffordcooley

Posts: 12,333   +5,709
This should be treated with volume licensing. If the archive only has a volume license for ten copies, that is how many are available to loan.

And with all the libraries around the world. You should be able to find a book to borrow. That is if all the libraries were networked together for eloaning.
 

Evernessince

Posts: 5,081   +5,316
Library should pay for each copy simultaneously lent out. That way a library can choose how many they want to buy and if there's a big demand, maybe they can put a bit more $ towards that title. Creators need to get paid or there will be no creating.
This is great until you realize works are under copyright for 95 years (you read that number correctly). It should be 20 years. Creators are not having a problem getting paid, the real problem is the demise of public domain.

On the plus side you can finally download works from 1924 without worry!

"since copyright used to come in renewable terms of 28 years, and 85% of authors did not renew, 85% of the works from 1991 might be entering the public domain! Imagine what the great libraries of the world—or just internet hobbyists—could do: digitizing those holdings, making them available for education and research, for pleasure and for creative reuse. "

You know things are screwed when even the MPAA and RIAA are uninterested in extending copyright further

"in the United States, powerful copyright interests in the music (RIAA) and movie (MPAA) industries admitted they are uninterested in pushing for another copyright term extension. "

 
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Reehahs

Posts: 886   +564
This is great until you realize works are under copyright for 95 years (you read that number correctly). It should be 20 years. Creators are not having a problem getting paid, the real problem is the demise of public domain.

On the plus side you can finally download works from 1924 without worry!

"since copyright used to come in renewable terms of 28 years, and 85% of authors did not renew, 85% of the works from 1991 might be entering the public domain! Imagine what the great libraries of the world—or just internet hobbyists—could do: digitizing those holdings, making them available for education and research, for pleasure and for creative reuse. "

You know things are screwed when even the MPAA and RIAA are uninterested in extending copyright further

"in the United States, powerful copyright interests in the music (RIAA) and movie (MPAA) industries admitted they are uninterested in pushing for another copyright term extension. "

A day past a decade is too much in today's fast moving world.
 

scottdaniel

Posts: 8   +1
This seems like a great opportunity for book publishers to generate some good-will by reaching an amicable agreement instead of lawyering-up and shutting down the "National Emergency Library" through court-proceedings.

If that doesn't happen, then it seems like a good opportunity for people to boycott the big publishers if they disagree with them.

Personally, I try to borrow digital copies of books from my local library as much as possible and I understand the reason for having a wait-time while someone else is reading the book.