Last week, Knowledge Rights 21 released a strong call to action to ensure that libraries can continue serving their centuries old role in society of providing access to knowledge to the public. Knowledge Rights 21 is an Arcadia funded project advocating for copyright and open access reform across Europe.
In their Position Statement on eBooks and eLending, Knowledge Rights 21 explains that government action is urgently needed because the market for eBooks now operates outside of the current copyright law that permits libraries to acquire, lend and preserve physical books. Monopolistic behavior by commercial publishers including refusals to sell, embargoes, high prices, and restrictive licensing terms have frustrated libraries’ ability to undertake collection development, hurting those who rely on libraries for education, research, and cultural participation.
The Position Statement demands that “governments must wake up and act now before the rights of citizens to access information and learning through libraries are eroded any further.” The Statement proposes the following clarifications in EU law:
1.The right for libraries to acquire, preserve and make a digital reproduction of an analogue and / or an electronic book / audiobook that has been made available in the market under sale or licence; 2. No more copies than have been acquired under 1 above, shall be loaned to members of the public at any one time. Libraries should have the right to lend directly to users, as well as via other libraries as part of interlibrary loan; 3. Neither contracts nor technical protection measures shall be enforceable to prevent this; 4. Any loans made under this shall require the payment of [Public Lending Right] monies by public libraries in line with existing practice with paper and or audiobooks.
The Internet Archive agrees that action on this issue is important and necessary. We are defending these principles in US court, in the lawsuit brought by four of the world’s largest publishers over our controlled digital lending program. We look forward to working with Knowledge Rights 21 and the library community “to help libraries not only to survive, but also to flourish” as the EU Court of Justice said in its landmark case supporting eBook lending by libraries.
The short answer to this question from a report recently published by IFLA appears to be: not very well at all. The report documents a worldwide survey of 114 libraries, 83% of which said they had copyright-related challenges providing materials during pandemic-related facility closures. The report also provides direct quotes from a series of interviews of library professionals, discussing the challenges they faced and often how difficult digital access to necessary materials such as textbooks has been throughout the last two years. As one librarian from the United States explains:
“Times were tough. We were scrambling and worried about so many things – including the health and safety of our students, faculty and colleagues – and trying to spin up as much as possible in the way of service. There are certainly some vendors that wepersonally like the interactions with, but it felt to me like the publishers saw this as an opportunity just to make more money and not really an opportunity to build stronger connections with us and our library. They offered free things for a very limited period of time.“
The report is well worth reading in its 22-page entirety. You can find it here.
Could Ro Khanna be the first Asian American President of the United States?
California Congressman Ro Khanna is a political rising star, one that some Democrats see as the future of the Party. Known both for his progressive leadership and his ability to work across the aisle, Khanna – who represents Silicon Valley – is one of the most important figures setting tech policy in our nation today.
The Internet Archive invites you to come hear Khanna speak about his vision for the future. In Dignity in the Digital Age: Making Tech Work for All of Us, Khanna offers a vision for democratizing digital innovation to build economically vibrant and inclusive communities. Instead of being subject to tech’s reshaping of our economy, Khanna offers that we must channel those powerful forces toward creating a more healthy, equal, and democratic society.
On Tuesday, May 31st, 6pm PT/9pm ET, Representative Khanna will be interviewed by professor Larry Lessig, a digital access visionary and co-founder of Creative Commons and the Free Culture movement. Lessig himself ran for President in the Democratic primaries in 2016. The Internet Archive is honored to have these two great thinkers sharing our stage, for one night only! Please join us for this exciting political conversation either virtually or in-person at the Internet Archive, 300 Funston Ave, San Francisco.
A note about safety for our in-person audience: The Internet Archive is taking COVID precautions very seriously. We will be requiring proof of vaccination and masks indoors. There will be no food or beverages served (though there will be a water station). We are limiting seating in our huge, thousand seat Great Room to only 200 people. And of course we will have our large windows and doors open to ensure good airflow. We are working hard to make sure that this event is as safe as can be! Please reserve your seats ASAP.
I was fourteen years old when I watched the Egyptian revolution unfold before my eyes. One of the main things people protested against was the degree of censorship everyone was subjected to. Book bans in particular were popular for many decades leading up to the revolution. Interestingly, eleven years after the revolution, I am seeing the same arguments the Egyptian government made in Egypt for book bans made here in America by local school boards and politicians. My experience has taught me that, regardless of content, book banning is harmful because it weakens the democratic process and works against making societies cohesive.
The Egyptian government extensively banned books during the latter half of the 20th century. Those in power argued for the need for more parental and educational control. They also made arguments focused on the effect certain books have on polarizing the public on race, politics, religion, or sex and the importance of maintaining social order and decorum. Books discussing political and religious themes were banned with the most frequency, including a novel by Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz. Thus, the product of book banning was the revolution—many years later. In essence, the revolution was an amalgamation of a seemingly unidentified people, split among social, religious, and political lines, coming together to reconcile the calamities of over half a century. Namely, the effects of being unable to discuss relevant and pertinent ideas and issues—a side effect of book bans.
As I am wrapping up my last semester in law school I see parallels of what happened in Egypt taking place in America: people split among political, social, and sometimes religious lines. They are divided over issues that have come up partly due to discrimination, police brutality, and more recently and intensely, book bans.
In Florida, a school removed 16 books pending review because they contained “obscene material,” including Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. In Washington, a school district removed Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird because of its depiction of race relations and use of racist language. And last month, a school board in Tennessee voted unanimously to ban Maus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust. The school board argued this book should not be taught in classrooms because it contains material that is inappropriate for students, specifically because “of its unnecessary use of profanity and nudity and its depiction of violence and suicide.” In other words, people and local governments are making the same arguments I heard growing up supporting book bans. Specifically, they stress the need for more parental control, the inappropriateness of discussing sexuality, and the dangers of debating race. The same harmful effects I saw in Egypt, I see here: book banning is weakening the democratic process and working against making society less tolerant and cohesive.
Perhaps it is necessary to remind ourselves why we read in the first place. We read to empower ourselves and others. We read to learn perspectives and perhaps to develop our own. We read to understand the power of ideas and the effect they had and continue to have on us as a society. We read to open mental doors and windows of tolerance. We read to challenge ourselves, to reach new heights and understanding. We could disagree with many books, sure, but that is precisely why we read: to critically think about issues and better ourselves and our society in the process. Stated differently, we read to maintain and strengthen the social threads that weave our communities tightly together.
Book-banning in today’s online world is largely a political act. Books may not be available in local libraries, but they remain available on the Internet and in online libraries like the Internet Archive’s, where you can borrow them for free. In a way, the Internet Archive plays a similar role to that of the Internet in pre-revolution Egypt: it is a space where people can read, listen, and watch uploaded works and items compiled in one place. But online libraries aren’t completely safe either. For example, the Goliath of the publishing world, Penguin Random House (PRH), used copyright law as an excuse to effectively ban Maus from the Internet Archive’s digital shelves. PRH made it clear that they wanted to assert total control over this banned book in order to maximize its own profits in the wake of the Tennessee School Board’s decision. This has the same impact on society as book banning.
When societies censor books, they threaten to lose their culture and, in time, their identity. By banning books, societies jeopardize their political and social institutions because books are the primary tool to spread and develop ideas. With the fight to ban books extending to the online world, the threat has become as clear as ever. You could argue that book banning is about many things—the illusion of parental control, the polarization of the public, or disagreement on topics like race, politics, or sex. However, the bottom line remains clear: book bans serve no one, and no society can overcome its issues by banning books.
Maryland’s modest Library eBook Fairness Law requires publishers that make digital products available to residents of Maryland to also make those same resources available to libraries on reasonable terms. Some publishers have not treated libraries reasonably in the past. Instead, they have arbitrarily raised prices, imposed draconian limits on how libraries can use digital materials, and in some cases, refused to license digital materials to libraries at all. Under these conditions, libraries have had difficulty providing access to essential resources and services for their communities at a time when they are most in need. This is the wrong that Maryland’s law seeks to right, and it is set to go into effect next month.
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) is a powerful Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group that has pushed for ever more power and market control for their billion-dollar publishing company members. In its lawsuit to block Maryland’s Library eBook Fairness Law, the AAP asserts that states are powerless to step in when its members abuse their market power in contractual relationships with libraries. This does not seem right in law or practice–states can and should defend their libraries from predatory practices.
The Internet Archive is defending a lawsuit against four of the world’s largest publishing companies–all members of the AAP–over the most fundamental service that libraries provide, lending books. It is beyond disheartening that the AAP has chosen to go on this attack on libraries during a global pandemic, when schools, teachers, and students are most in need of digital resources. We urge the court to stand with libraries and dismiss the AAP’s lawsuit against the State of Maryland.
The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit library for the digital age, with a mission to support universal access to all knowledge. Libraries serve communities by providing necessary educational and career materials and other civic services. We appreciate states like Maryland that are working to update laws so that libraries can serve their essential societal function in the digital age.
On January 20, 2022, the Internet Archive, Creative Commons and many other leaders from the Open world will honor the treasure trove of works published in 1926 that will enter the public domain next year. The public domain will grow richer with canonical works from authors like Hemingway, Faulkner and Dorothy Parker, silent film classics like Nanook of the North, and beloved children’s stories about Winnie-the Pooh and the Hundred Acre woods, becoming freely available to all.
Due to the recently enacted Music Modernization Act in the U.S., approximately 400,000 sound recordings from the pre-1923 era will join the public domain for the first time in our history. That’s why this year our theme is a Celebration of Sound.
Join us for a virtual party on January 20, 2022 at 1pm Pacific/4pm Eastern time with a keynote from Senator Ron Wyden, champion of the Music Modernization Act and a host of musical acts, dancers, historians, librarians, academics, activists and other leaders from the Open world! This event will explore the rich historical context of recorded sound from its earliest days, including early jazz and blues, classical, and spoken word recordings reflecting important political and social issues of the era.
Additional sponsoring organizations include: Library Futures, SPARC, Authors Alliance, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, Public Knowledge, ARSC, the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain, and the Music Library Association.
UPDATED JANUARY 10, 2022: We are pausing plans for in-person celebrations. Please celebrate with us online through the virtual event.
The Internet Archive will also host an in-person Dance Party on Thursday, January 20, 2022 at 6pm at 300 Funston Ave in San Francisco. There you can mingle with like-minded public-domain enthusiasts while sipping a Gin Rickey, a Hanky Panky or a Singapore Sling. Dine on shrimp cocktail, cucumber sandwiches or waldorf salad. There will be dance instructors to help you learn the 1920’s dance sensation – the Charleston. Period costumes encouraged. Let’s kick up our heels for the Public Domain!
You can register for the live, in-person event in San Francisco here.
The Internet Archive Canada will host an in-person event at their new HQ in Vancouver, BC, in the historic Permanent building at 330 West Pender Street on Saturday, January 22, 2022.
As well as celebrating The Public Domain, this evening of live music and 1920s inspired h’or d’oeuvres also acts as the official launch party of IAC’s new headquarters.
You can register for the live, in-person event in Vancouver here.
Last week the public interest Internet community lost one of its most passionate advocates, and I lost a friend. On July 7th, I learned that Sherwin Siy, Policy Counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation and my classmate at Berkeley Law School, had suddenly passed away at the age of 40.
Sherwin and I began our public interest tech careers together when we were students at the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic. We were partners on a project helping the Internet Archive understand the legal landscape for archiving and making available television news. From that project and through the rest of my career, I learned so much from working with him, not just about substantive law and policy, but about collaboration and collegiality. He was thoughtful, patient, and kind. He was funny, and so very smart. He will be deeply missed.
You can find remembrances from other colleagues of his from EFF (here) and Public Knowledge (here).
The Library of Congress announced that Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian and founder of the Internet Archive, has been named to the Copyright Public Modernization Committee (CPMC), with a mission to help modernize the technology-related aspects of the U.S. Copyright Office. More specifically the CPMC will support “the development of the new Enterprise Copyright System (ECS), which includes the Office’s registration, recordation, public records, and licensing IT applications, and will be encouraged to help spread awareness of the Library’s development efforts more broadly.”
The thirteen member panel is composed of leaders from the library and university worlds along with representatives from trade organizations representing the recording and publishing industries, and corporate giants Amazon and Warner Media. Kahle, who holds a BS in Computer Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, brings decades of experience in digital library issues, and is an inaugural member of the Internet Hall of Fame. “I am excited to collaborate to help modernize the U.S. Copyright Office. Let’s see how far we can get,” says Kahle.
The first meeting of the CPMC is on July 22, 2021 from 1-4 PM eastern time and is open to the public, by registration only. Register of Copyrights Shira Perlmutter and Library of Congress chief information officer Bud Barton will provide opening remarks, and Library subject-matter experts will provide an update on the development of ECS and other modernization efforts. Attendees will have an opportunity to hear directly from CPMC members and participate in a live Q&A. The meeting will be recorded and made available for viewing after the event.
Last week, the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) voiced its strong support for the longstanding and widespread library practice of Controlled Digital Lending (CDL). In doing so, they join a host of libraries and library associations in asserting the right of libraries to own, digitize and lend materials online.
IFLA is the leading international body representing the interests of library and information services and their users. It is the global voice of the library and information profession. The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the need to be able to provide digital access to library collections and CDL provides an effective, lawful tool for doing so. IFLA writes that CDL helps “to fulfill the mission of libraries to support research, education and cultural participation within the limits of existing copyright laws.”
IFLA’s Statement on Controlled Digital Lending, which was approved by IFLA’s Governing Board in May 2021, builds on the U.S.-oriented Position Statement on Controlled Digital Lending, which has been endorsed by 55 institutions and 120 individual copyright experts and librarians, bringing the discussion into the international context. IFLA’s Statement makes a powerful economic and legal case for supporting CDL in all countries around the world.
According to the Statement:
“Licensed eBooks have opened the door to a radical undermining of the traditional public interest functions and freedoms of libraries. These still exist for paper books, but with the advent of licensed eBooks, libraries are no longer free to decide when or what to purchase, with some publishers even refusing to sell to libraries. Controlled digital lending provides an alternative to a licensing approach, and so a means of redressing the balance.”
The Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program is powered by CDL and we welcome the continued and growing support of other libraries. As many libraries remain closed across the globe, millions of digitized books are still available for free to be borrowed by learn-at-home students and readers everywhere.
Today the Supreme Court resolved a decade of copyright litigation by supporting interoperability and openness, ruling that reimplementing an API by copying its declarations is legal fair use, even (or perhaps especially) when you’re building a competitive service. This was a case of two massive companies – Oracle and Google – fighting over Java, Android, and billions of dollars. But it was also about the quintessential user’s right and one of crucial importance to libraries: fair use. And after last year’s Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org decision, it has become the latest in a long line of Supreme Court decisions broadly supportive of fair use.
In a 6-2 decision, the Supreme Court held that Google’s copying of many declarations associated with the Java SE API (including only those lines of code that were needed to allow programmers to put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program with their own implementing code) was a fair use of that material as a matter of law. That means that this ruling applies to all APIs, not just the one at issue here.
“This decision is a win for the Open Web. In our digital world, businesses, nonprofits, libraries and individual developers use APIs everyday,” says Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive’s founder and Internet Hall of Famer. “We have seen copyright used as a tool to create enclosures and walled gardens. But the Court was clear: copyright cannot be used to harm the public interest.”
Importantly, the Court held that reimplementing the Java API was fair use even though Google copied the material intentionally. That fact actually supported a finding of fair use. That’s because Google’s purpose was “to allow programmers to work in a different computing environment without discarding a portion of a familiar programming language.” Put another way, Google’s actions were in support of interoperability. And fair use protects it.
In contrast, Oracle sought to profit from the developers’ familiarity by locking them into its own environment and forcing Google to pay for a license–what the Court described as a “tax”–in order to access it. The Court held this kind of “tax”, in derogation of interoperability, did not further the goals of copyright. That was because, it explained, copyright seeks to incentivize the creation of new works. Incentivizing the creation of new works was deemed more important than allowing for the monopolization of aspects of the old. That was particularly true here, where Google copied these lines of code not because of their “creativity or beauty but because they would allow programmers to bring their skills to a new smartphone computing environment.” Enforcing copyright in these circumstances “risks causing creativity-related harms to the public,” frustrating the goals of copyright.
While many hoped that the Court would rule directly on the question of software copyrightability, which may have more squarely helped small projects take on goliaths, this ruling remains a very good thing. It is a win for interoperability, a win for fair use, and a win for the open principles that form the foundation of so much of the internet today.
“We have to wonder whether a system that took ten years and tens of million dollars worth of litigation to reach this outcome reflects a copyright system that is as fair as we need it to be,” says Brewster Kahle. “Today, thank goodness the fair use system was reaffirmed. This decision will have broad, positive benefits for openness, innovation and competition.”