What just happened? The Internet Archive has announced plans to shut down its National Emergency Library (NEL) a full two weeks ahead of schedule after being sued by a group of publishers last week.
The Internet Archive launched the NEL in late March in response to the emerging Covid-19 pandemic. The idea was to help better serve displaced learners as libraries, schools and colleges around the nation shut down to help contain the spread of the virus by suspending check-out waitlists on the more than 1.4 million books in its digital library.
Publishers, however, saw it differently.
Hachette Book Group, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins Publishers and John Wiley & Sons said the unlimited borrowing scheme amounted to willful mass copyright infringement.
The Internet Archive admitted that some academic publishers that initially expressed concern about the NEL ultimately decided to work with them to provide access to people cut off from traditional book sources during the pandemic. Their hope is that similar cooperation can take place with the aforementioned publishers and that they will “call off their costly assault.”
As it stands, the NEL will close on June 16 rather than on June 30 as originally scheduled. At that time, the Internet Archive will revert back to its traditional controlled digital lending program.
We are now all Internet-bound and flooded with misinformation and disinformation—to fight these we all need access to books more than ever. To get there we need collaboration between libraries, authors, booksellers, and publishers.
“Let’s build a digital system that works,” the Internet Archive concluded.
Masthead credit: Africa Studio