Press conference statement: Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive

Brewster Kahle is the founder and digital librarian of the Internet Archive. Brewster spoke at the press conference hosted by Internet Archive ahead of oral argument in Hachette v. Internet Archive.


The Internet is failing us. The Internet Archive has tried, along with hundreds of other libraries, to do something about it. 

A ruling in this case ironically can help all libraries, or it can hurt.  

The Internet Archive is a library I founded 26 years ago. This library has brought hundreds of years of books to the wikipedia generation, and now 4 massive publishers are suing to stop us.

As the world now looks to their screens for answers, what they find is often not good.  People are struggling to figure out what is true and it is getting harder.  

Digital learners need access to a library of books, a library at least as deep as the libraries we older people had the privilege to grow up with.  

The Internet Archive has worked with hundreds of libraries for decades to provide such a library of books.  A library where each of those books can be read by one reader at a time.  This is what libraries have always done. 

We also work with libraries that are under threat.  We work with many libraries that have closed their doors completely– libraries with unique collections: Claremont School of Theology, Marygrove College of Detroit, cooking school of Johnson & Wales Denver, Concordia College of Bronxville NY, Drug Policy Alliance’s library of NYC, the Evangelical Seminary of Pennsylvania. I have looked these librarians in the eye and told them that we are there for them. 

They entrust their books to us, as a peer library, to carry forward their mission. Most of the books are not available from the publishers in digital form, and never will be.  And as we have seen, students, researchers and the print-disabled continue to use these books for quotations and fact checking.    And I think we can all agree we need to be able to do fact checking.

Here’s what’s at stake in this case: hundreds of libraries contributed millions of books to the Internet Archive for preservation in addition to those books we have purchased. Thousands of donors provided the funds to digitize them.   

The publishers are now demanding that those millions of digitized books, not only be made inaccessible, but be destroyed.

This is horrendous.   Let me say it again– the publishers are demanding that millions of digitized books be destroyed.

And if they succeed in destroying our books or even making many of them inaccessible, there will be a chilling effect on the hundreds of other libraries that lend digitized books as we do.

This could be the burning of the Library of Alexandria moment– millions of books from our community’s libraries – gone.   

The dream of the Internet was to democratize access to knowledge, but if the big publishers have their way, excessive corporate control will be the nightmare of the Internet.

That is what is at stake.   Will libraries even own and preserve collections that are digital?  Will libraries serve our patrons with books as we have done for millennia?   

A positive ruling that affirms every library’s right to lend the books they own, would build a better Internet and a better society.

Thank you.

8 thoughts on “Press conference statement: Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive

  1. Colin Goldberg

    This is history repeating itself, with the burning and destruction of books as demonstrated by Nazi Germany in the 1930’s with eventual loss of innocent and law abiding and decent lives in a most brutal manner.

    Please name and shame those four greedy publishers, so that those of us can avoid buying their books, also there is a thing called shareholder activism, whereby stocks and shares can be purchased from such companies and effect change from within and prevent such law suits from ever happening again in the future.
    There are plenty people out there that will still purchase books, CD’s and DVD’s even Vinyl Records and there are even people looking for audio cassette tapes, despite the digital age we are living in. A lot of people both young and old prefer the physical media and books to that of digital. It is for which publishers, bookshops and other outlets to market and advertise and make available and relevant to their respective target markets, so as to sell their products.

    It is because of that I have purchased books and even on a Kindle.
    It is hoped that the four greedy publishers will lose their case and that it will be dismissed by the courts with costs against those four publishers.

    The alternative is to establish a fully fledged high quality digital library, free for all to use in another country outside of the USA and other countries that operate on greed and profits, so that knowledge and education can be made available to all on this planet.

  2. arvind gupts

    Yes we need to shame the greed of publishers. I am from the Third World and owe much of my education to archive.of
    Thanks to Brewester Kahle and his team. May the judgement be progressive that helps ordinary world citizens and not the profit of a few publishers.

  3. Jr

    The person above is right this is all there is to say about it and we’ll probably happen is internet archival close but some other things like this have and you’ll have to open up in another country where they can get by with it cuz I’m like the West they don’t care are you not trying to grab all the money they can


    Dünya üzerinde yaşayan bütün insanlar Internet Archive’ne dava açsa bile, geçmişte yaşayan insanlar dahi dava açsa… Doğacak insanlar dahi açsa… Başka bir galakside yaşayanlar ya da sonsuz uzay… INTERNET ARCHIVE MANTIKSAL OLARAK DOĞRUDUR. KARAR YA MANTIK YA DA DELİLİK OLACAK.

  5. JIm C.

    I’m wondering if the ultimate solution will be some kind of licensing model like what ASCAP and BMI do — where small amounts from each user are distributed in a complex way to a variety of content producers. Perhaps even a paid subscription model for those of us who still want access to out-of-print books.

    I say this not because I like the idea, but because I would hate to see the IA have to go back to its old public-domain use only. I fear that this will soon be happening.

    Because most of the IA’s books in the Lending Library are long out of print, and have no realistic future with the publishers (they will never again be made available commercially), would this be a possible alternative in the long run?

    I would think it’s better than nothing. I like being able to view scans of old still-copyrighted materials. I’m also curious how the IA’s system of just viewing their scans on a web viewer is in any way like an “ebook.” The judge seemed to fixate that it was, but ebooks are temporarily downloadable to a device.

    That’s not how the Lending Library works, and I think that makes a difference. They’re not really “ebooks” as we know and use them.

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