We are excited to announce the release of our report, “Securing Digital Rights for Libraries: Towards an Affirmative Policy Agenda for a Better Internet,” and the culmination of a months-long process consulting with leading experts from libraries, civil society, and academia regarding libraries’ role in shaping the next iteration of the internet. The Internet Archive did this work in collaboration with the Movement for a Better Internet, so as to help model how this community can work together towards building an internet centered on public interest values.
You can download and read the free, openly-licensed report HERE.
The consultation focused on two core questions: How can libraries (1) sustain their traditional societal function and (2) build on their strengths to support a better information ecosystem in the 21st Century? Participants discussed a wide range of challenges, including consolidation in the publishing industry, mis/disinformation, and providing equitable access to information despite these obstacles. The conversation was anchored in libraries’ traditional support of public interest values—i.e. democracy, equity, diversity and inclusion, privacy, freedom of expression, and more.
The key takeaway from this consultation process is simple: The rights that libraries have always enjoyed offline must also be protected online. The report articulates a set of four digital rights for libraries, based on the core library functions of preserving and providing access to information, knowledge, and culture. Specifically, if libraries are to continue ensuring meaningful participation in society for everyone in the digital era, they must have the rights to:
- Collect digital materials, including those made available only via streaming and other restricted means, through purchase on the open market or any other legal means, no matter the underlying file format;
- Preserve those materials, and where necessary repair or reformat them, to ensure their long-term existence and availability;
- Lend digital materials, at least in the same “one person at a time” manner as is traditional with physical materials;
- Cooperate with other libraries, by sharing or transferring digital collections, so as to provide more equitable access for communities in remote and less well-funded areas.
The report is intended as a guide for meaningful policy discussions among librarians, public interest advocates, and lawmakers. We encourage you to read it and join us next Thursday, December 8th for a webinar discussion about the report with leaders from Internet Archive, Public Knowledge, Creative Commons, and the Association of Research Libraries. Come with your feedback, questions, and ideas for translating the conclusions of the report into actionable policy goals. We also encourage you to check out the Movement for a Better Internet, and join us there as we continue to work with different communities to build an internet that works better for everyone.