The Supreme Court held today that copyright protection does not extend to the law – in this case, to the annotations in Georgia State’s annotated code. Justice Roberts explained that the animating principle behind this rule is that no one can own the law. “Every citizen is presumed to know the law,” and “it needs no argument to show . . . that all should have free access to its contents.”
This is a victory for our friends at Public.Resource.Org, the public domain, and the public at large. Free access to the law is core to the ability of our citizenry to fully participate in our democratic society. The Internet Archive has worked with Public Resource for 6 years to make the law fully searchable and downloadable to the public for free. We applaud this outcome and hope that more legal works will come to be available to the public in the coming days and weeks. We are glad this fight is over.
When I was about 20, I fell in love with the love of Vera and Roland, British youth that loved to chat and write about books, Oxford, and love. Roland would go to war. Vera would go to Oxford. They would meet a few times, kiss a few times, and get secretly engaged. He had leave at Christmas 1915. She waited by the phone. His sister called instead. Roland had been killed a few days earlier. Vera was never the same. She became a nurse, and she would write about Roland, her brother, and their two friends, along with her own experiences for the rest of her life. For a long time, she was the only woman recognized as writing about the Great War. I sought to find other women’s stories and compare them to the stories of men. And I did. But I also ran into copyright issues that drove me to law school, to study duration of copyright, and to wait. The wait took over 20 years, but the opening of the U.S. public domain will now be in its second year. Books from 1923 came into the public domain last year, and books from 1924 come into the public domain as of 2020.
Scholars, and especially biographers, have choices: get permission from the families of copyrighted works, rely on fair use, or use public domain works. When I started my dissertation, most of the works I was using as a World War scholar, looking at the war generation writing throughout the 20th century about their experiences (although I didn’t know it), were in the public domain. But before I filed my dissertation, the world had changed. In 1996, foreign works that had previously been in the public domain were suddenly restored by the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, including most of Vera Brittain’s works. In 1998, the Copyright Term Extension Act was passed, freezing the public domain for 20 years. I would be hooded in the Spring of 1998.
Now, as of 2019, the world is moving again. Works from 1923 were released into the public domain last year. That included Vera Brittain’s The Dark Tide (1923), published in England. And now, her second novel, Not without Honour (1924) comes into the public domain in 2020. The war generation books, generally published 1925-1932 will soon be flooding our public domain. And this matters tremendously.
While Internet Archive has many books that are available through their lending system—books that we have access to and read, and while Section 108(h) allows libraries to copy and disseminate non-commercially available books in the last twenty years of their term, this does not allow scholars the freedom to use the books without fear of threats, or use of more than a judge might think acceptable under fair use. This is particularly problematic for biographers, who tend to rely on some sources in ways that families may threaten with a lawsuit (think the Schloss case with the Joyce estate) or publishers that may feel uncomfortable relying on fair use.
In the last twenty years, fair use has developed into a robust tool. Maybe that was partly because the published public domain was frozen? And we’ve taken strides in Best Practices and other means to make fair use vibrant and usable. Much of the work that I was doing would clearly be covered under fair use today. The world is very different from when I was writing about Vera Brittain and her ghosts in the 1990s. I would probably not have gone to law school. But it is still important that works come into the public domain, and that’s the story we are here to tell.
And so, on the second anniversary of the opening of the public domain again, I am re-reading The Dark Tide and Not Without Honour, and looking forward to the books that should shortly come into the public domain in the future. I’m also very excited to sift through the Internet Archive collection for hidden gems – books written in 1923, 1924, and even anticipating the new additions in 2021 from 1925. Oh, the possibilities!
Here’s some of the works I’m particularly excited about, that are part of the war generation, Vera’s generation that I studied so long ago:
Agatha Christie’s The Man in the
Brown Suit (1924) and Poriot Investigates (1924) (she learned about
poisons while working as a nurse in the war, and her husband, Archie Christie
Winifred Holtby (Vera’s best
friend), The Crowded Street (1924),
A.A. Milne, When We Were Very
Young (1924) and we get the first appearance of Pooh in the poem “Teddy
Bear” (1924) (Milne was also in the Great War), and
The first novel of Ford Maddox
Ford’s Parade’s End series, titled Some Do Not, to name a few.
And it’s not just novels and poetry, its art. Käthe Kollwitz’s War series, 1923 also came into the public domain last year.
A Chasm: US versus the rest of the world
Because of our nutty U.S. system – for works first published before 1978, the term is 95 years from publication, many foreign works will be in the public domain for many years in the United States before they are out of copyright in their home country. Take, David Jones’ “The Garden Enclosed” (1924).
But the joy of the public domain in the U.S. is more than the great works; it is also the ephemera – the photographs in newspapers, postcards, films and so much more that have been locked up because they were restored as foreign works. All of these works are now coming into the public domain, and it is glorious. As of January 1, 2020, any work published anywhere in the world before 1925 is in the public domain in the United States.
One of the best features of the Internet Archive is that you can add a filter to any search of the publication year. So, as you search, check “1924”. It doesn’t matter whether the works were published here or in the US, whether they were renewed or had proper notice. They are now in the public domain in the U.S. for all to enjoy unfettered and without restriction.
So, I encourage you to go play on the Internet Archive site and around the world in search of new public domain treasures. Just remember, these works are in the public domain in the U.S. They may be (and likely are) still under copyright in other places around the world.
Elizabeth Townsend Gard holds a Ph.D in European History from UCLA, and is a Professor of Law at Tulane University, where she focuses on the intersection of law and culture, and in particular the role of law in creativity in copyright and trademark. Her work includes the invention of the Durationator, and the host of the popular research podcast, Just Wanna Quilt, exploring the art, craft and copyright of an industry. She is currently a Lepage Entrepreneur Faculty Fellow at the A.B. Freeman School of Business, and the Greenbaum Fellow at the Newcomb Institute, both at Tulane University. For more information on the Durationator and determining copyright can be found at www.durationator.com.
The Internet Archive is excited to announce that we will be celebrating Public Domain Day on January 30, 2020 in our nation’s capitol. We have an exciting line-up of local musicians and artists, as well as projects from around the country – Join Us! The event is free and open to the public.
On Tuesday, the Internet Archive joined Public Knowledge, the Wikimedia Foundation and the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic from Berkeley Law to brief the Congressional Internet Caucus on efforts to combat misinformation online. Misinformation is a complex issue but one of the root causes is a lack of easy, reliable ways for Internet users to distinguish good information from bad, or authoritative sources from propaganda. The panel highlighted our recent work to weave books into Wikipedia articles, giving users the ability to dig deeper and fact check assertions in just one click.
Announced today, Phillips Academy has received the Hero Award from the Internet Archive for its leadership in adopting controlled digital lending for school libraries. The Hero Award is presented annually to an organization that exhibits leadership in making its holdings available to digital learners all over the world, and when Phillips Academy was renovating its Oliver Wendell Holmes Library, librarian Michael Barker wanted to update more than the physical space. This was also an opportunity to bring the private preparatory high school up to speed digitally – and in the process, share its vast book collection with others.
Barker, Director of Academy Research, Information and Library Services, has embraced Controlled Digital Lending (CDL), where a library digitizes a book it owns and lends out one secured digital version to one user at a time. In this case, the Andover, Massachusetts school owns 80,000 books.
“With the closure of so many high school libraries, this allows us to share the collection we’ve built up over 100 years with all other high schools,” Barker said. “I can’t think of any better way the library could contribute its private resources for a public purpose.”
Phillips, which has roughly 1,100 students in grades 9-12, has been active in the Digital Public Library of America. It has already digitized about 4,000 of its titles published prior to 1923.
With all the books already boxed up for the renovation, the school’s decision to expand its CDL project was clear: “There would never be a better time than now,” Barker said. This summer it shipped most of the remaining volumes to be digitized by Internet Archive at its scanning facility in the Philippines.
Sharing the cost of scanning and shipping with Internet Archive was critical to the digitization process happening, said Barker. The books are expected back early in 2020 and will be placed back on library shelves over spring break.
Rather than most books being on display, the renovated Phillips library includes more open space for collaboration. It was last updated in 1987 and was not wired for a world that included the Internet. Renovations began in early 2018 and the newly updated facility opened to students this fall.
Originally designed like a “book fortress,” Barker said the center of the library now has room for students to study together while some books are on shelves around the periphery. Most books are now in the attic and basement where they can be called up to lending.
“One local benefit of CDL is that students don’t necessarily need to call the book from the attic. With a digital version there is no delay in getting the book,” Barker said.
As Barker awaits the return of the book collection from the Philippines, he is tracking the shipment (which went on two separate ships and was insured). In the meantime, Phillips is preparing to share the news of its vast collection becoming open to students everywhere. Barker is excited to offer the school’s resources openly and said it’s particularly timely as school library budgets are being cut, making it hard for libraries to fulfill their mission.
“The truth of the matter is that some schools don’t have libraries anymore,” Barker said. “If other schools like us got involved in CDL in the same way and shared their copies, many public schools would not have to worry about their students having access to collections in the same way they might be doing now. I encourage others to explore it and jump in. It seems like it can only get stronger the more libraries that join.”
NOTE: Come meet Mike Barker and learn more about Phillips Academy when he speaks at Internet Archive’s World Night Market, Wednesday 10/23 from 5-10 PM. Tickets available here.
The nation’s K-12 school libraries are hurting. Although the student population is rising in many districts, the number of librarians and media specialists dropped by nearly 20 percent from 2000 to 2015. Budgets are being reduced and some schools are no longer able to afford their school librarians, or are simply closing their libraries altogether. The cuts are particularly deep in underserved communities.
Controlled Digital Lending (CDL), the digital equivalent of traditional library lending, holds the promise of broadening access to knowledge for public school libraries, according to Lisa Petrides, PhD, founder of the non-profit Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education. ISKME’s focus is to provide research, tools, and training to help democratize access to education through the practice of continuous learning and collaboration. Research has shown that well-resourced libraries matter, she noted.
“When students don’t have access to school libraries, it impacts learning outcomes. It’s a dire situation in many districts across the country,” said Petrides. “Libraries and the librarians that serve them are intricately connected to pedagogy and curriculum, and are necessary to reinforce the basic tenets of learning, including problem-solving, curiosity, and exposure to new ways of thinking. The school library has been and continues to be a critical link for teaching and learning in our K-12 schools.”
In partnership with Internet Archive, Petrides has amassed a team of librarian partners to create the Universal School Library, a collection of digitized books that can serve as a lending library for those without access to a physical school library. A small grant is funding teams of school librarians working to curate 15,000 book titles. It’s a labor-intensive process selecting fiction and non-fiction titles for the core collection, while ensuring diverse viewpoints and voices are represented and included. A beta version of the Universal School Library is now online at https://archive.org/details/uslprototype, and using CDL, the project team will work with states, districts, and schools to fill in where there are gaps. When the Universal School Library is officially launched in 2020, it will encompass all genres and reading levels, and across cultural, college, and career literacy.
“This has the potential to make a high-quality curated collection available for any student,” Petrides said. “It really is a democratization issue. CDL can be transformative for equal access to education in this country.”
NOTE: Come meet Lisa Petrides and learn more about the Universal School Library when she speaks at Internet Archive’s World Night Market, Wednesday 10/23 from 5-10 PM. Tickets available here.
In southern Maryland, St. Mary’s County is 54 miles long and there are only three libraries.
“We have people living at one end who might be 25 miles away from a branch,” said Michael Blackwell, Director of the St. Mary’s County Library that operates in the small communities of Leonardtown, Charlotte Hall and Lexington Park.
Yet, many of its rural and suburban residents do have cell phones and tablets. “People in this area are hungry for digital content. In surveys, they say there is not enough. Library digital use is growing, unlike library print use, which is very flat,” said Blackwell. “How to keep up with demand is a real challenge for us.”
That’s why Blackwell sees great promise in expanding the county’s digital offerings through Controlled Digital Lending, the digital equivalent of traditional library lending. CDL opens up access to rural patrons who may not otherwise be able to use the library because of transportation or other barriers. There are children whose parents work three jobs who need books for homework. There are shift workers who work during library hours. There are those for whom a physical trip to the library is simply not possible.
“I’m interested in CDL because a library the size of mine doesn’t have a lot of money,” Blackwell said. “By simply changing the format, we are getting the most out of the books we’ve already paid for. We are not trying to pick John Grisham’s pocket.”
Blackwell also notes that there are many works – including Pulitzer Prize winning books – that publishers do not make available to libraries in digital form. This is an issue that is beyond rural access, it’s about no one having access at all to books that publishers choose not to provide digitally. For example, James Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific,” is not available to libraries in e-book form through the major vendors. It is of interest as a story but also for revealing attitudes about human relations at the time of World War II. If a library wanted to circulate in e-book form, CDL would be the only option. It is, of course, the source for the musical, “South Pacific.”
Now, the St. Mary’s library has about 300,000 titles, including about 30,000 digital holdings. The library’s budget is about $3.8 million a year and the small funding increases usually go to salaries and health insurance, not leaving much for new acquisitions.
With high interest in digital content, CDL is being embraced in rural Maryland.
“We are working with the Internet Archive on a pilot to launch CDL titles through the Library Simplified, or ‘SimplyE,’ app,” added Blackwell. “A state grant is allowing us to deploy the app. Our patrons will be able to get all our e-book content, CDL and vendor-licensed, in one place. We’ll add quality content we can’t get in any other way at no cost other than storing our relevant print copies, ultimately expanding our offerings by thousands of titles. Our book hungry patrons will be much more likely to find a great title they want while they wait for the best sellers we can license.”
Technology is enabling libraries in Canada to promote diversity, safeguard historic documents, and expand access — all while helping to save the planet.
The Hamilton Public Library in the Canadian province of Ontario has nearly two dozen branches. Providing digital content to users in geographically remote areas is one of many reasons that the library has recently embraced Controlled Digital Lending, the digital equivalent of traditional library lending.
“It’s such an environmentally friendly, cost effective way of making titles available,” said Paul Takala, CEO/Chief Librarian of the library. “If we digitize it, somebody doesn’t have to go to the library to get it and we don’t have to ship books around. It just makes a lot of sense.”
The library also has rare and fragile Canadiana content that is not available anywhere else or able to be physically loaned out. This includes history of the local area, land documents, first-hand accounts of settlers, a large collection of photographs and a unique collection of works published in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
“Now we have the technology to share so many stories from so many voices through this platform to anybody 24/7, ” said Lisa Weaver, Director of Collections & Program Development at the library. “The preservation of books that CDL allows us to do and access that CDL allows us to provide is invaluable.”
When Hamilton joined Open Libraries, it was able to identify 53,000 books in its physical holdings that Internet Archive had already digitized. Those books were added to Open Libraries to increase lending counts for those titles. For example, the library digitized three titles that cover unique pieces of Canadian history: “The Trail of the Black Helmut” by G. Elmore Reamon (1957), “The Art of Northwest Coast Indians” by Robert Bruce Inverarity (1950) and “The Clockmaker” by Thomas Haliburton (1958), the first internationally best-selling author of fiction from what is now Canada. With the assistance of Internet Archive, Hamilton will later this year accelerate its scanning of older titles and some of its unique Canadiana collection to share beyond the library walls.
Researchers and genealogists have been particularly interested in discovering the digitized material. The new format allows users to access resources when they wish, during their commute, wherever they are, or even when the library is not physically open. The program also helps students who want to read classics that are not in copyright and now widely available.
“CDL helps us provide access to the broadest number of resources to the broadest number of Canadians,” Weaver said. “Having books in digital format also supports customers with print disabilities access the content.”
As more libraries partner with Internet Archive to make their collections available via CDL, more will be giving back and adding to the shared collection. “Part of the mission of public libraries is to educate residents about the history and richness of their communities,” said Takala. “It’s about making more items available to our customers. The benefits are clear.”
As the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and the University Librarian, Emeritus at Harvard University, Darnton has long been a champion of broadening access to information. He also sees the value of making materials more widely available when it comes to his own research outputs.
Darnton has made two of his books, which are both still in print, freely available online: Mesmerism and the End of the Enlightenment in France (Harvard University Press, l968) and The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopédie, l775-l800 (Harvard University Press, l979). Several other of his titles are available to borrow electronically through the Internet Archive’s Open Library.
Eventually, Darnton said he’d like all his titles to be digitized. “I feel it’s in my best interest to reach as large a public audience as I possibly can,” said Darnton. He believes the exposure online helps with the marketing of his books. Indeed, there was an increase in sales of the Mesmerism book once it was digitized.
Many academics don’t rely on books for income and it’s rare that royalties continue after a few years. “What authors want when that ceases is to reach readers. This is the best way to do it,” Darnton said. “CDL is a good system and a way to really improve people’s access to literature without harming anyone.”
In higher education, resources from one campus library to another can vary widely. Even at Harvard, Darnton said it’s not possible to make all books available — let alone small libraries with limited budgets. Libraries can benefit from interlibrary loans and digital lending can provide even greater relief from isolation for institutions without the means of expanding their collections.
“CDL can make an enormous difference, even for such privileged environments as Harvard,” Darnton said. “There is momentum behind CDL. It is not just the way to go, but the way things are going.”
Being able to lend an array of materials is fundamental to what public libraries do and Controlled Digital Lending–the digital equivalent of traditional library lending– is another tool for libraries to fulfill that mission, according to John Chrastka, executive director of EveryLibrary, a national organization dedicated to building voter support for libraries.
“There are numerous marooned assets within library collections. From 1924 to early the 2000s, there is content that is relevant to certain lines of inquiries or communities, yet it is trapped on paper,” said Chrastka, an early endorser of CDL. “Liberating it into an environment where it could be shared to one user at a time allows those marooned assets to be put back to work. So much public money has been spent over the years acquiring material that is now essentially isolated and cut off from actual use.”
“CDL is a way to ensure that books purchased with public dollars are used in the way they were intended to further education, enjoyment and entertainment,” said Chrastka. Technology has advanced in a way that can practically expand access and renew productivity of older titles to better serve the public. It moves the issue of access beyond location.
EveryLibrary is promoting the value of CDL on many fronts, including how it can open up materials to special populations. For example, there is a collection of oral histories from early Czech immigrants to the United States in a suburban Chicago library. It used to be that many descendants lived nearby and could walk to the library to look up those materials, but they have since moved. While the materials are physically stuck in Illinois, families and scholars elsewhere may be interested if only they had digital access, noted Chrastka.
CDL can also unlock commercial historical documents from the 1920s to the dawn of the computer age. Hidden in the information announcements of businesses may be solutions to problems of today – products that could be useful in future research and development for new companies.
Added Chrastka: “[CDL] is not something that is aspirational. This is about access. It is a core competency of libraries they should be exercising.”