The nonprofit Internet Archive is appealing a judgment that threatens the future of all libraries. Big publishers are suing to cut off libraries’ ownership and control of digital books, opening new paths for censorship and surveillance. If this ruling is allowed to stand, it will result in:
— Increased censorship or even deletion of books, decided only by big publishing shareholders — Big Tech growing its overreach into library patron’s data, making people unsafe by monitizing intimate personal information on what they read or research — Even more predatory licensing fees from Big Media monopolies, who are gobbling up public and school library budgets — Reduced access to books for people from every community — Losing libraries as preservers of vast swaths of history and culture, because they will never be allowed to own and preserve digital books
More information is available at BattleForLibraries.com. The organizers of that website are holding a rally at the Internet Archive on Funston St in San Francisco on Saturday, April 8, 2023 at 11 am.
All are welcome. Bring signs (we’ll also have some to share!) and join us to stand up for the rights of libraries to own and preserve books—whether they’re digital or print.
We should all recognize — and celebrate—the importance of commercial publishing, for authors and creators everywhere. Commercial publishing creates the income that authors depend upon to have the freedom to create great new works. Without commercial publishing, much of the greatest that will be won’t be written.
But we must also recognize that culture needs more than commercial publishing. If the business model of commercial publishing controlled our access to our past, then much of who we were, and much of how we learned to be better, would simply disappear.
Think about the extraordinary platform that is Netflix. For a small price each month, subscribers have access to thousands of movies and television shows, far more than at any point in human history. The revenue subscribers provide in turn lets Netflix invest in new creative work. No one who knew television from the 1970s could believe that the quality of television has not improved dramatically over the last 50 years.
Yet Netflix’ archive is not endless. And each year, the site culls titles from its collection and removes them from its library. Netflix does this for many reasons — for example, the content could be licensed from third parties, and the term of that license has expired, or the site may see that demand for the title is meager, so bearing the costs of carrying it no longer makes sense. Regardless of the reason, the decision is an economic one for Netflix — Netflix makes available only those titles that it continues to make economic sense to make available. Such is the business model of a commercial publisher.
But culture needs a different business model. We need access to our past, not just the part of our past that continues to be commercially viable. We need libraries that assure we can see everything our parents or grandparents saw, so we can understand why they were as they were, and how they got better. Great libraries preserve access to as much as they physically can — not based on which titles continue to earn revenue. The past is just one more competitor for a commercial publisher; but for a library, the past is a gift that is to be nurtured and protected, regardless of its commercial value.
We are at a critical moment in the history of culture. The lawsuit that the Internet Archive faces will determine whether the business model of culture is the commercial model alone, or whether there will continue to be a place for libraries, and therefore, continue to be a practice of assuring as much access to our past as is possible. The particular fight in this lawsuit is important; the general fight is critical: Is the past that we have access to just the past that continues to pay? Or is the past we can have reliable access to the past that libraries strive to make available — not for profit, but for the love of culture and for the truth that that access to all of culture continues to assure.
Heather Joseph is the executive director of SPARC. She spoke at the press conference hosted by Internet Archive ahead of oral argument in Hachette v. Internet Archive.
Access to knowledge is a fundamental human right.
We depend on being able to freely share knowledge each and every day. It’s foundational to how we navigate the world – from how we learn to how we work, to how we share our culture and understand our collective history. It’s also the lifeblood of how we advance discovery, and attack the biggest challenges that we face as a society. From cancer breakthroughs to climate justice, we rely on being able to access, build on and benefit from the knowledge generated by those around us.
We take for granted that knowledge is just – there, and that ANYONE can get it when and if they need it. But the reality is that too often, this simply isn’t the case. Especially in the world of scientific research, knowledge is treated as a commodity, and often carries a price tag that makes it unaffordable to all but the wealthiest individuals and institutions.
This is never more evident than in times of crises. From the avian flu to the global COVID 19 pandemic, we’ve seen the same pattern play out over and over again. When a health crisis looms, one of the very first thing that happens is that scientists, the public and policymakers have to plead with publishers to lower their paywalls and make sure that those who desperately need access to knowledge can get it. Whether it’s access to develop treatments and cures, or to make sure students can continue to learn, knowledge shouldn’t be kept locked behind glass that can only be broken in the event of an emergency. It should be readily available to all.
Libraries play a critical role in making this happen. They are designed to empower everyone – regardless of who you are, where you live, or your economic or political status – to access and use knowledge. Whether you walk into a physical library like the New York Public Library, or log into a digital one like the Internet Archive, you don’t need a PhD or a billion-dollar bank account to access the knowledge they hold.
We depend on libraries to do the crucial things they have done for centuries. Libraries collect. They preserve. And libraries lend. They collect materials to ensure access to the broadest range of ideas and facts. They preserve these materials for the long haul, because access to knowledge should not be ephemeral. Stable, consistent, long-term access is how we promote continuity and ultimately understand truth. Lending – one copy of a physical or digital object to one person at time is the bedrock process that libraries use to ensure free, fair and equitable knowledge sharing.
Libraries like the Internet Archive exist to ensure the universal sharing of knowledge. Sharing knowledge is a fundamental human right. Nothing could be more important to protect than that.
Catherine Stihler is the chief executive officer of Creative Commons. Catherine spoke at the press conference hosted by Internet Archive ahead of oral argument in Hachette v. Internet Archive.
My name is Catherine Stihler, and I’m the CEO of Creative Commons.
As a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the sharing and reuse of creativity and knowledge, we strongly support the Internet Archive in its defense of Controlled Digital Lending. Free, equitable, and open access to all knowledge stimulates creativity, is essential for research and learning, and constitutes a bedrock principle of free and democratic societies.
The Internet Archive is leading the fight for establishing permanent access to historical collections that exist in digital format. With Controlled Digital Lending, libraries like the Internet Archive can lend one copy of digitized material from their collection to one borrower for a limited time, just like they would a physical book.
While publishers argue that CDL decreases their profits, studies show that in fact library digitization increases sales of physical editions by about 34% and increases the likelihood of any sale by 92%, particularly for less popular or out-of-print works. At Creative Commons, we believe copyright should encourage Controlled Digital Lending and ensure that legal mechanisms are in place to support this practice that benefits all.
This isn’t a position that we just came to on our own; instead, it came from working hand in hand with cultural and knowledge institutions across the world. Like Communia’s policy recommendations state: “libraries should be enabled to fulfill their mission in the digital environment.” As libraries modernize their services, we need to protect the legal frameworks that support their digital lending practices.
Permitting and protecting Controlled Digital Lending is a key way to help ensure copyright is fit for the modern age. Guided by our strong belief in better sharing, CC will continue to support the Internet Archive’s crucial efforts to ensure the public can access knowledge and culture on a global level.
John Chrastka is the executive director of EveryLibrary. John spoke at the press conference hosted by Internet Archive ahead of oral argument in Hachette v. Internet Archive.
My organization, the EveryLibrary Institute, is a public policy and tax policy research organization focusing on issues affecting the future of libraries in the United States and abroad.
Alongside our colleagues at ReadersFirst, we joined an Amicus brief written by the Library Futures Institute, to ask the court to uphold a library digital loaning practice known as Controlled Digital Lending – or “CDL”. CDL uses technology to enable a library to acquire, preserve, and provide access to digital versions books for library patrons.
Simply put, CDL is a different way of utilizing the centuries-old method by which libraries have loaned the books on their shelves for the public to read.
Controlled Digital Lending – as is commonly used in libraries like the Internet Archive – does not replace ebook licenses, and is a reasonable practice for the current moment. For more than a century, Copyright law has allowed libraries to legally lend books and other materials they own. This practice of library lending is essential in ensuring public access to information, particularly books – and has numerous social benefits. With the growth of digital delivery, libraries have adapted by lending materials using new technologies and formats.
However, this lawsuit seeks to outlaw digital library lending unless they dictate how, where, to whom, and at what price it occurs. This would significantly alter how libraries work and their relationships with their patrons and collections in the digital age.
I’d like to take a moment to remind the court about the context of the “Emergency Lending Library” and to ask it to consider the context under which the Internet Archive, as a library, was responding to need. From the launch of the Emergency Lending Library on March 24, 2020 to June 16, 2020, essentially every school district in the United States was closed to in-person learning. The Philadelphia school district was completely shut down with no substantial instruction happening. The school district of Washington, DC shifted part of their instructions to Television. According to Georgetown University’s analysis of MAP tests, Chicago Public School students lost the equivalent of 21 weeks of learning in the year following these shutdowns.
The “Emergency Lending Library” from the Internet Archive provided a unique, important, and necessary service to Americans in this context. It was an exemplar moment for libraries which mitigated the harm of these shutdowns for students and their families.
The plaintiffs’ narrow interpretation of the Copyright Act ignores the broader common law doctrine, policy objectives, and history of copyright. Both Congress and the Supreme Court have historically balanced the interests of copyright holders and owners.
The court should not rewrite more than a century of copyright law about libraries. Doing so will make it nearly impossible for libraries to fulfill their mission – especially in times of grave need and crisis – in the digital environment.
Laura Gibbs is an author and educator. She spoke at the press conference hosted by Internet Archive ahead of oral argument in Hachette v. Internet Archive.
My name is Laura Gibbs, and for many years I taught mythology and folklore courses at the University of Oklahoma. Since I retired two years ago, I’ve been doing bibliography work at the Internet Archive, looking for the best mythology and folklore books that readers can borrow from the Archive’s library with Controlled Digital Lending. Last year, I published A Reader’s Guide to African Folktales at the Internet Archive, which is an annotated bibliography of 200 books available at the Archive, beautiful books of folktales, myths, fables, legends, games, songs, riddles, and proverbs from all over the African continent. Some of the books come from African publishers and are hard to find in any library, but there they are: digitized and ready to read at the Internet Archive.
This year, I’ll be publishing a follow-up volume, A Reader’s Guide to African Diaspora Folktales, with another 200 books of folktales, this time from African American and Caribbean storytellers, books that teachers, students, scholars, parents, people anywhere in the world can read online at the Archive.
In the year 2023, we should NOT have to be limited just to the books available to us in our local libraries. We need a positive ruling in this case so that the Internet Archive can keep building their digital library AND so that other libraries can also make their resources available online, connecting more people with more books than ever before. The readers, writers, and researchers of the world need the Internet Archive, and we need Controlled Digital Lending.
Join Internet Archive’s founder BREWSTER KAHLE for a virtual book talk with author & professor of law JESSICA LITMAN.
In Digital Copyright (read now), law professor Jessica Litman questions whether copyright laws crafted by lawyers and their lobbyists really make sense for the vast majority of us. Should every interaction between ordinary consumers and copyright-protected works be restricted by law? Is it practical to enforce such laws, or expect consumers to obey them? What are the effects of such laws on the exchange of information in a free society?
PROFESSOR JESSICA LITMAN, the John F. Nickoll Professor of Law, is the author of Digital Copyright and the co-author, with Jane Ginsburg and Mary Lou Kevlin, of the casebook Trademarks and Unfair Competition Law: Cases and Materials.
BREWSTER KAHLE, founder and digital librarian of the Internet Archive, has been working to provide universal access to all knowledge for more than 25 years.
Book Talk: Digital Copyright April 20, 2023 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET Register now for the free, virtual discussion
Join CHRIS BOURG in conversation with author PETER BALDWIN about the history & promise of the open access movement.
“In Athena Unbound, Peter Baldwin offers an admirably pragmatic yet principled approach to the perennial problem of encouraging both the production and distribution of knowledge.” – Paul Romer, Nobel Laureate and University Professor, NYU
Open access (OA) could one day put the sum of human knowledge at our fingertips. But the goal of allowing everyone to read everything faces fierce resistance. In Athena Unbound, Peter Baldwin offers an up-to-date look at the ideals and history behind OA, and unpacks the controversies that arise when the dream of limitless information slams into entrenched interests in favor of the status quo. In addition to providing a clear analysis of the debates, Baldwin focuses on thorny issues such as copyright and ways to pay for “free” knowledge. He also provides a roadmap that would make OA economically viable and, as a result, advance one of humanity’s age-old ambitions.
Baldwin addresses the arguments in terms of disseminating scientific research, the history of intellectual property and copyright, and the development of the university and research establishment. As he notes, the hard sciences have already created a funding model that increasingly provides open access, but at the cost of crowding out the humanities. Baldwin proposes a new system that would shift costs from consumers to producers and free scholarly knowledge from the paywalls and institutional barriers that keep it from much of the world.
Rich in detail and free of jargon, Athena Unbound is an essential primer on the state of the global open access movement.
About our speakers
PETER BALDWIN is Professor of History at UCLA, and Global Distinguished Professor at NYU. His recent books are Command and Persuade: Crime, Law, and the State across History (MIT Press); Fighting the First Wave: Why the Coronavirus Was Tackled So Differently across the Globe; and The Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle. He serves on the boards of the New York Public Library, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Wikimedia Endowment, the Central European University, the Danish Institute of Advanced Studies, and as chair of the Board of the Center for Jewish History. His journalistic writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, Newsweek, New Republic, Huffington Post, Der Spiegel, Berliner Zeitung, Publishers Weekly, American Interest, Chronicle of Higher Education, Prospect, American Interest, and Zocalo Public Square.
CHRIS BOURG is the Director of Libraries at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she also has oversight of the MIT Press. She is also the founding director of the Center for Research on Equitable and Open Scholarship (CREOS). Prior to assuming her role at MIT, Chris worked for 12 years in the Stanford University Libraries. Before Stanford, she spent 10 years as an active-duty U.S. Army officer, including three years on the faculty at the United States Military Academy at West Point. She received her BA from Duke University, her MA from the University of Maryland, and her MA and Ph.D. in sociology from Stanford.
Book Talk: Athena Unbound March 28 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET
The Internet has changed the past. Social media, Wikipedia, mobile networks, and the viral and visual nature of the Web have filled the public sphere with historical information and misinformation, changing what we know about our history. This is the first book to chronicle how and why it matters.
From Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to artificial intelligence, machine learning and algorithms, history has been widely communicated and fiercely contested across the social Web as battles over the 1619 Project, the Trump presidency, Confederate monuments and history textbooks have exploded into public view. How does history intersect with today’s most pressing debates? How does history contribute to online debates about misinformation, disinformation, journalism, tribalism, activism, democracy, politics and identity?
In the midst of growing political division around the world, this information is critical to an engaged citizenry. As we collectively grapple with the effects of technology and its capacity to destabilize our societies, scholars, educators and the general public should be aware of how the Web and social media shape what we know about ourselves – and crucially, about our past.
JASON STEINHAUER is a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center in the USA. He is the founder and host of History Club on Clubhouse with more than 100,000 followers, and was the Founding Director of the Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest at Villanova University, USA, from 2017 – 2020. A public historian with over twenty years of experience in major cultural and historical institutions in the US, Steinhauer is the Founder of the History Communication Institute and the creator of the field of History Communication, which examines how history gets communicated on the World Wide Web. He has written for CNN, TIME, The Washington Post, Poynter, Inside Higher Ed, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Foreign Policy Research Institute (where he is a Senior Fellow). He has also delivered lectures overseas on behalf of the US Department of State, created a history podcast for the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, and appeared on C-SPAN’s American History TV.
CLAIRE WOODCOCK is an independent journalist based in Colorado. Her work has appeared in Motherboard Vice, NPR, Literary Hub, Aspen Public Radio, Boulder Weekly and many other publications. Her current work focuses on the politics of information in libraries. Woodcock graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from the University of New York at Fredonia in 2015 and is currently an M.A. candidate in the Media & Public Engagement program at CU Boulder. Woodcock is also a Digital Ownership Fellow with NYU Law’s Engelberg Center on Innovation Policy and Law, researching the digital book marketplace.
BOOK TALK: History, Disrupted March 9 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET Register now for the free virtual discussion
“We’re celebrating works published in 1927 becoming open to all in the United States where we can legally share, post, and build upon them without permission or fee,” said Jennifer Jenkins of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School. “You’re free to reimagine the characters, the events, the settings, the imagery, and use them in your own stories, musical plays, and movies.”
Librarians and archivists are eager to preserve these cultural materials, the vast majority of which are out of circulation. Now that they’re in the public domain, anyone can preserve them and digitize them — making them more discoverable.
“The public domain is important because it enables access to cultural materials that might otherwise be lost to history,” Jenkins said.
The first full-length film featuring synchronized sound was produced in 1927: The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson.
Rob Byrne, a film restorer and president of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, explained at the event that previous films were not truly silent since every motion picture performance in the 1920s was accompanied by live musicians—from full orchestras in big cities to single piano players in small town theaters. The average American went to the movies more than three times every week, and international movies were accepted because there were no language barriers, Bryne added.
Unfortunately, more than 80% of all the films produced prior to 1930 have been lost.
Even fewer films featuring Black casts made for Black audiences survived, said Cara Cadoo, associate professor of history, cinema and media studies at Indiana University. “Race has always been a part of the story of the American cinema,” she said.
It was because she could easily view movies in the public domain that Cadoo said she was recently able to discover a clip from a lost Black film. Through some detective work, she identified footage from the 1917 film, “The Trooper of Troop K,” while studying another film from 2023. “This history is something that just in recent decades, people have taken seriously,” Cadoo said.
Brigitte Vezina, director of policy and open culture at Creative Commons, explained that libraries, museums and archives still face big challenges simply to fulfill their mission in the digital world. (See report Barriers to Open Culture.) Institutions are working in an outdated framework and copyright policy reform is needed, she said.
“We’ve been promoting open culture to build a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world,” said Vezina, citing its new call to action policy guide. “It’s based on this rich experience that our open culture program supports better sharing of cultural heritage globally.”
Along with works celebrated from 1927, SPARC’s Nick Shockey talked about another important milestone in expanding public access to knowledge. In August, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued new guidance that requires the federal government set the default to open for all publicly funded research in the United States.
“This will make over $80 billion each year in research produced with the support of U.S. taxpayer dollars immediately available to anyone online,” Shockey said. “The priority is part of a broader commitment to advancing equity in science and scholarship and recognizing the ways in which openness can be a powerful enabler of more equitable systems.”
“As we celebrate today, I hope the momentum that we generate can be channeled into ongoing advocacy to ensure that more and more of the knowledge that shapes our world is made available to everybody and to more fully realize the right of sharing knowledge,” Shockey said.
“Some things are born free,” said Internet founder Brewster Kahle. “Democracies around the world publish openly because they believe in education and they want it to be spread as widely as possible.”
Open does not always mean easily accessible, however. Kahle is working on Democracy’s Library, a project to gather government material from the U.S., Canada and around the world and preserve them in one place.
“This is the internet we’re dreaming of. Let’s go and make sure that it’s got all of the public domain materials publicly accessible – not just all those things that are from the classic era. Let’s go and celebrate the current public domain.”
Also presenting at the celebration was Rick Prelinger, an archivist, filmmaker, writer and educator. He began collecting ephemeral films (used for specific purposes such as advertising, educational and industrial films) in 1983. His collection of 60,000 films was acquired by the Library of Congress in 2002. He partnered with the Internet Archive to make a subset of the collection — now more than 8,500 films — available online for free viewing, downloading and reuse in the Prelinger Archive.
Throughout the program, students from the Snowden International School (Boston) and the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of The Arts (San Francisco) read poetry newly entered into the public domain from Caroling Dusk: an anthology of verse by Negro poets by Countee Cullen.
Jennie Rose Halperin, executive director of Library Futures, and Lila Bailey, senior policy counsel at the Internet Archive co-hosted the party.