Author Archives: Lila Bailey

Internet Archive Submits Comments in Copyright Office Study of NFTs

Nouns are NFT avatars generated by the Nouns protocol, all released into the public domain; all Nouns are equally rare because the project enforces “no explicit rules for attribute scarcity.”

Last week, Internet Archive filed comments in response to the United States Copyright Office’s Non-Fungible Token Study. The study was launched by the Copyright Office, in partnership with the Patent and Trademark Office, in response to a letter from Senators Patrick Leahy and Thom Tillis. In their letter, the senators described their “interest in the continued development and use of emerging technologies [which] includes considering how best to secure intellectual property rights for emerging technologies and how to assess what impact these technologies might have on intellectual property rights.” They “urge[d]” the Copyright Office to “consult with the private sector” in undertaking the study, “drawing from the technological, creative, and academic sectors.”

While the Senators did not expressly invite the Office to consult with libraries or the public interest community, the Office opened the study to comments from the public at large. This was a welcome development. As digital rights group Public Knowledge has documented, participation by civil society and other public-interest-minded actors in Copyright Office matters can play an important role in ensuring the public interest is taken into account. With that role in mind, we were pleased to submit our comments in response to this latest study.

As mentioned in our comments, Internet Archive has been in active engagement with the Decentralized Web community for many years now, including convening and stewarding the development of DWeb Principles, sponsoring DWeb Camp, and participating in a variety of other projects and events. We recognize that NFTs have sparked debate within the DWeb community. Nevertheless, as policymakers are beginning to look at regulating decentralized technologies, we felt it important to weigh in with our perspective.

In particular, our comments encourage the Copyright Office to consider impacts on libraries—in particular the ways in which NFTs could help libraries develop long term, permanent digital collections. Our comments also encourage the Copyright Office to respect the choice of NFT artists who wish to release their underlying work under open licenses, as these build our common culture. You can read our full submission here.

Internet Archive Releases Report on Securing Digital Rights for Libraries

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.

The Best Things in Life Are Free: Two Ways to Celebrate Public Domain Day in 2023

The moon belongs to everyone, so says the 1927 hit musical composition, “The Best Things In Life Are Free.” We agree! In January of 2023, a treasure trove of new cultural works will become as free as the moon and the stars, and we at Internet Archive, Creative Commons and many other leaders from the open world plan to throw a party to celebrate!

Next year, works published in 1927 will join the myriad creative building blocks of our shared culture heritage. The public domain will grow richer with books from authors like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Marcel Proust, and Virginia Woolf, silent film classics like the controversial The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson and Fritz Lang’s dystopian Metropolis, and snappy musical compositions like You Scream, I Scream, We All Scream For Ice Cream.

You can welcome new public domain works and party with us two ways:

Join us for a virtual party on January 19, 2023 at 1pm Pacific/4pm Eastern time where we will celebrate our theme, The Best Things In Life Are Free, with a host of entertainers, historians, librarians, academics, activists and other leaders from the open world, including additional sponsoring organizations Library Futures, SPARC, Authors Alliance, Public Knowledge, and the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain. REGISTER FOR THE VIRTUAL EVENT HERE!

The Internet Archive will also host an in-person Film Remix Contest Screening Party on January 20, 2023 at 6pm at 300 Funston Ave in San Francisco. We will celebrate 1927 as founding year of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, while watching this year’s Public Domain Day Remix Contest winning entries, eating popcorn and ice cream. Come dressed in your best golden age of Hollywood inspired costume and walk the red carpet with the Internet Archive as we celebrate the entry of “talkies” into the public domain. REGISTER FOR THE IN-PERSON PARTY IN SAN FRANCISCO HERE!

Internet Archive Files Final Reply Brief in Lawsuit Defending Controlled Digital Lending

On Friday, October 7, the Internet Archive filed a reply brief against the four publishers that sued Internet Archive in June 2020: Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House. This is the final brief in support of our motion for summary judgment (our previous motions can be found here and here) where we have asked the Court to dismiss the lawsuit because our lending program is a fair use.

The lawsuit was filed against Internet Archive in 2020 because of “anger among publishers” about digital lending by libraries. The publishers are urging the court to declare that “controlled digital lending is not a defense to copyright infringement” and is unlawful under United States law. They allege that controlled digital lending deprives them of the opportunity to obtain millions of dollars in additional “revenues from both public and academic libraries” through expensive ebook licensing schemes. Unwilling to confront library lending on its own terms–as an obviously not-for-profit exercise in expanding access to information–they claim that our lending is “commercial” and “does not serve the type of ‘educational purpose’ recognized under the Copyright Act.”

As the reply brief explains, the Internet Archive is indisputably a non-profit organization whose free lending program–like all library lending–serves a noncommercial, educational mission: to expand access to knowledge. And there is no evidence that controlled digital lending harmed their sales or profits at all–as the brief argues, “rather than making use of their unfettered access to more than a decade of empirical data, [the publishers] simply assert that market harm is ‘self-evident.’” Indeed:
All that CDL does, and all it can ever do, is offer a limited, digital alternative to physically handing a book to a patron. Libraries deciding how to meet their patrons’ needs for digital access to books are not making a choice between paying ebook licensing fees or getting books for free. Libraries pay publishers under either approach—but digital lending lets libraries make their own decisions about which books to circulate physically, and which to circulate digitally instead. That choice means that librarians can continue to maintain permanent collections of books, to preserve those books in their original form for future generations, and to lend them to patrons one at a time, as they have always done.

Read our full brief here.

Building a Better Internet: Internet Archive Convenes DC Workshop

Photo of workshop participants, by Caralee Adams

Thought leaders from libraries, academia, and civil society gathered at Georgetown Law Center in Washington, D.C., on June 23 to discuss how to best advance policies that improve the ease, affordability and equity in how people access knowledge in the digital age.

Convened by the Internet Archive, this workshop was designed as a continuation of a conversation that the public interest community, including Internet Archive, Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, Library Futures, and the Wikimedia Foundation, started last summer around building a better internet centered on public interest values.

While U.S. lawmakers’ focus on internet policy has largely been directed at reigning in the “Big Tech” commercial platforms, this workshop took a different approach. Rather than centering the challenges with today’s for-profit, commercial platforms, the workshop centered the barriers libraries face and potential opportunities for them to help solve challenges with our digital information ecosystem.

Our hope as organizers was that we could map the terrain, find common ground, and identify areas for further discussion. And even in a short amount of time, we were able to do that in spades. Here are a few of our key learnings, and what’s next.

Key Opportunities

Participants recognized that libraries could fill an important gap in the current online environment, as they have done for hundreds of years offline–indeed, providing free access to high quality, trusted information is libraries’ primary mission. As our information ecosystem becomes increasingly digital, the world often looks to libraries to do even more. For instance, scholar Joan Donovan has suggested that platform companies hire 10,000 librarians to help curate their services and support access to quality information. Others have suggested libraries could be doing fact checking, building and hosting social media networks, and more. One important way to combat misinformation is with better information provided by libraries; however, this is not without its challenges.

Key Barriers

Participants identified two significant barriers for full library participation in the digital information ecosystem as media consolidation and copyright overreach by powerful publishers. The group discussed a wide range of possible solutions to these challenges including antitrust scrutiny, contract preemption, supporting a robust public domain, controlled digital lending, and digital ownership.

The group was motivated by a desire to serve the public over commercial interests, and expressed their commitment to making sure equity was woven through all proposals in a thoughtful and authentic manner. Libraries support access to information and creative empowerment for all. We understand that a better internet must work for everyone, including underserved and vulnerable populations.

As the organizers of this event, we are very grateful to all the participants for contributing their time and expertise to this effort. Up next, we will hold virtual workshops to include additional members of the community in these discussions followed by the publication of a longer report with our findings and policy recommendations. Stay tuned for future updates as this effort moves forward.

Knowledge Rights 21 Calls for Action on Library Rights

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.

Recent Report from IFLA: How well did copyright laws serve libraries during COVID-19?

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 we personally 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.

Congressman Ro Khanna in conversation with Larry Lessig

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.

Guest Blog: An Egyptian Perspective on American Book Banning

Guest post by Hassan Said.

Hassan Said is a third-year law student at Santa Clara University School of Law. Born and raised in Cairo, Egypt, Hassan is currently interning at the Internet Archive for the spring semester.

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.

The Internet Archive Supports Maryland’s Library eBook Fairness Law

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.