Ashton Applewhite is one of more than 1,000 authors who spoke out in opposition to the publishers’ lawsuit. Ashton spoke at the press conference hosted by Internet Archive ahead of oral argument in Hachette v. Internet Archive.
My name is Ashton Applewhite, and I’m recording this in New York City on March 16, 2023. For over 40 years I have supported myself and my family by writing books for Random House, Harper Collins, Macmillan and other major publishing houses.
These publishers have served me well, but I am completely opposed to their lawsuit against the Internet Archive.
It will have a chilling effect on the efforts of all libraries to adapt as print culture migrates online, and it will also devastate the Internet Archive, which, as we hurtle into this digital unknown, is the single most important repository of human knowledge. No other organization is preserving and providing online access at this scale.
The Wayback Machine alone has archived 800 billion pages, millions of books, tens of thousands of hours of TV and radio news. And on and on. Humanity’s collective history, digitized, thank Heavens!
The Internet Archive exists. We need to be able to say that 100 years from now.
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.
UPDATE (3/16/23): In researching this post, Internet Archive librarians discovered that this book came to the Internet Archive through our literacy partnership with Better World Books, originating from a library in the UK. This story further highlights the value of our partnership in preserving books & cultural heritage for generations to come.
Brad Bigelow first became fascinated with obscure authors while perusing the vast library stacks at the University of Washington when he was an undergraduate in the late ‘70s.
“I would take down books I didn’t know anything about, just out of curiosity. As I read these books, I quickly realized that the only difference between the writers who get remembered and the ones that get forgotten is luck. It’s not talent or merit,” said Bigelow, noting some just had bad timing, lacked connections or didn’t have enough sales. “There are many good writers who deserve to be remembered.”
In 2006, Bigelow started the website Neglected Books, reviewing lesser-known books in hopes of giving the authors belated exposure for their work and sparking broader interest. Sometimes it can be a challenge to find information about writers and get copies of their often out-of-print books, said Bigelow, of Missoula, Montana, who runs the website as a hobby.
The Internet Archive is his trusted resource, providing access to information anytime, anywhere, he said.
“It’s a world asset. It’s just phenomenal,” said Bigelow. He uses the Archives’ search tools to learn more about authors (through back issues of Publishers’ Weekly and The Bookman magazines, for example) and the digital collection to borrow rare books unavailable elsewhere.
It was on the Internet Archive that Bigelow recently found a copy of “Makeshift,” by Sarah Campion, a 1940 novel about a bright, young Jewish woman’s flight from Nazi Germany. Bigelow published a blog post about “Makeshift” on Neglected Books and then promoted the post on social media, highlighting the rarity of the work. “There are just 19 copies of this book in libraries worldwide. Even Campion’s son doesn’t have a copy. But fortunately, it’s available on the Internet Archive.” Bigelow tweeted about his discovery.
For independent scholars and individuals, access to key resources in the research process such as back issues of old magazines can be limited. Bigelow said he is grateful for the Internet Archive, which offers an alternative to those not affiliated with a college or university, and donates regularly since he relies on its resources for his writing.
On Neglected Books, Bigelow said he enjoys shedding new light on unknown authors. “I don’t think my thoughts are original enough to have anything new to say about Virginia Woolf, James Joyce or Shakespeare,” he said. However, unearthing little-known books that have been all but lost to history is satisfying.
Bigelow appreciates the Internet Archive for protecting cultural artifacts that have disappeared from physical library shelves and making them available to the public. “Information that is not passed on is useless,” he said.
It’s the classic librarian’s dilemma: Because no library has unlimited storage, every library has to carefully manage its physical collection, and that means removing books to make space for new ones. On one hand, it’s exciting to bring in fresh voices, new stories and modern research, but on the other, a library’s main goal is to preserve information over time. So how can librarians manage their physical collections with an eye towards preservation?
Since forming a global literacy partnership in 2019, Better World Books (BWB) and the Internet Archive have offered a unique pathway for libraries to ensure that the books they no longer need in their collections can be preserved and made accessible for generations to come.
The service that BWB provides is an important one for libraries. BWB collects used books from libraries, booksellers, colleges, and universities in six countries, which are then either resold online, donated or recycled. To date, Better World Books has donated over 35 million books worldwide, has raised close to $34 million for libraries and literacy, and has saved more than 450 million books from landfills. Through the partnership with the Internet Archive, BWB has donated more than one million books each year for preservation and digitization, totaling 4 million books to date.
“What we’ve seen is the lifecycle of books become more complete,” says Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle. Once books are received from BWB, the Internet Archive digitizes them for patrons with print disabilities, offering readers like Pastor Doug Wilson, who has declining vision, access to books in digital form that are otherwise inaccessible. Then a subset of those books are used for digital lending, interlibrary loan and machine learning.
Dustin Holland, president and chief executive officer of BWB, says the arrangement allows these books to live on and to be put to the best use possible.
“Our goal has always been to maximize the value of the book,” says Holland. “To have a partner to which BWB may donate books that originate from thousands of libraries across multiple countries is a huge win for us, for the Internet Archive, and for our libraries. At the end of the day, it’s also beneficial for humanity, because there will always be access to these books.”
Supporting Ukrainian students
In May of 2022, BWB partnered with the Internet Archive to help support Ukrainian students and scholars. Customers were invited to contribute $1 with each BWB purchase, raising $17,200 to support the sourcing and digitizing of materials to preserve Ukrainian culture and heritage. This included more than 900 books that will become connected citations on the Ukrainian language Wikipedia page, in addition to more than 17,000 titles that the Internet Archive has already connected through its existing relationship with the Wikipedia community.
Helping libraries manage their collections
Since its dedication in 1970, the Wolfgram Memorial Library on the campus of Widener University-Chester in Pennsylvania has actively built a collection of more than 180,000 volumes. Three years ago Roz Goldstein, head of technical services and automated systems, undertook a collection management project to review the library’s holdings and determine which books no longer fit the library’s collection priorities.
The library packed up the older, underutilized books in boxes provided by BWB, which also paid for the shipping. Over the past two years, the library has contributed about 13,000 books to BWB, covering a wide variety of subjects, mostly non-fiction. Goldstein says the library’s main priority was managing collection space, but knowing some will see a broader audience is an added benefit.
“I was thrilled to find out that 600 of our titles have been sent to the Internet Archive to be digitized,” says Goldstein, who has shared her experience with other library colleagues and encouraged them to partner with BWB.
At the SEO Service Center, a branch of the State Library of Ohio, Jay Miley works with 98 libraries as the customer service and library systems manager. In January, he started sifting through 120,000 volumes stored in a central library building to see what no longer fit their collection development priorities. About 20,000 books were moved to local branches due to demand within the system for physical access. Then Miley began to look into options for some lesser-used books — not wanting them to end up in landfill.
Miley discovered BWB was a popular option among other state libraries, and he began to pack up boxes. So far, Ohio has shipped about 12,000 items to BWB and another 38,000 are queued for processing. Recently, he learned that 1,200 of the books that came from his library have been digitized and made available through the Internet Archive. “I think it’s awesome,” he says. “I immediately told my team, my boss and the state librarian.”
A growing impact
Over the past three years, the relationship between Better World Books and the Internet Archive has only grown stronger. BWB has streamlined the logistics of getting materials to the Internet Archive, Holland says, and the impact continues to grow. “The biggest thing we need to do is to educate and shout from the rooftops—to tell more people what we’re doing and how valuable this is for society.”
If your library is interested in learning more about the services that Better World Books provides to libraries, please check out the BWB Services page.
I live in Davis, CA where I have excellent library resources. I am currently engaged in research for a book I’m writing, which contains a feminist deconstruction of the Biblical creation myth originally told in the third chapter of Genesis.
The research materials I am using for this project are often found in books; both new and old. I recently was recommended a book published in 2003; The Beginning of Wisdom by Leon R. Kass. Someone suggested this book might be useful for my research into the Biblical backstory of Eve and the Snake.
My local library does not have this particular book. I checked with Amazon and found that I could purchase a used copy and have it delivered to my home for about $9. The book contains 700 pages and since I already have many books in limited space, borrowing the book was clearly the best option: I didn’t know if the book was something I could even use, much less want to own.
I am a patron of the San Francisco Public Library and I checked their online catalog and found that they do own a copy of the book. The library’s website indicated and that the book ‘may be on the shelf’ in the main library, but I would have to drive to San Francisco to find out.
Before driving 70 miles to check the shelves, I thought to check the Internet Archive. It turns out that they own several copies of this particular book! I was able to borrow and begin reading it immediately, at no cost, without leaving my home. This saved me from having to drive 140 miles to borrow the book and another 140 miles to return it.
The real value for my research, however, came when I perused the book I had borrowed. It turns out that the particular information I was looking for in this book was marginally useful to my research, but the digitized copy of the book was searchable in its full text. On a whim, I searched for the word “moon” and I found that the book discussed, in unexpected depth, another important subject for my research: the origins of time. I was able to quickly and easily expand my research to access some useful information that I didn’t expect to find in this book. It is unlikely that I would have looked for this esoteric content in the physical book. The convenience and power of the full-text search capability provided by the digital form of the book worked like magic.
In summary; I was able to avoid driving 280 miles to borrow and return the book, and the digitized copy I borrowed from the Internet Archive allowed me to easily find unexpected, and very useful, information for my research.
The Internet Archive is the most useful library. I honestly don’t think that the research I am doing would succeed without the resources provided by Internet Archive. The ability to access the library from my personal computer means that I can use the library at any time of day or night and without traveling. The Wayback Machine is invaluable for finding webpages that are no longer available anywhere else and I use it often. The digitized books I borrow from the Internet Archive have the ability to increase the size of the print; which is a real benefit for me as my visual acuity has declined with age. Also, the ability to quickly search the full text of the books I borrow from the Internet Archive is amazingly useful.
I am grateful to the folks at the Archive for creating and maintaining this truly awesome public resource. Please keep adding knowledge of all sorts.
If you’d like to share your story, please leave comments here.
This year’s Library Leaders Forum kicked off on October 12 with news of promising research, digitization projects and advocacy efforts designed to best shape the library of the future.
The virtual gathering also called on participants to take action in sharing resources and promoting a variety of public interest initiatives underway in the library community.
Watch session recording:
Chris Freeland, director of Open Libraries, moderated the first event of the 2022 forum with librarians, policy experts, publishers and authors. (A complete recording of the virtual session is available here) The second session will take place Oct. 19, live in San Francisco and via Zoom starting at 7 p.m. PT. (Registration is still open).
Libraries have a vital role to play in educating citizens, combating misinformation and preserving materials that the public can use to hold officials accountable. To help meet those challenges, Internet Archive Founder Brewster Kahle gave a preview of a new project: Democracy’s Library. The vision is to establish a free, open, online compendium of government research and publications from around the world.
“We have the big opportunity to help inform users of the internet and bring as good information to them as possible to help them understand their world,” said Kahle, who will launch the initiative next week and invited others to join in the effort. “We need your input and partnership.”
The virtual forum covered the latest on Controlled Digital Lending (CDL), the library practice that is growing in popularity in the wake of pandemic closures when physical collections were unavailable to the public. Freeland announced the 90th library recently joined the Open Libraries program, which embraces CDL as the digital equivalent of traditional library lending, allowing patrons to borrow one copy at a time of a title the library owns.
As librarians look for ways of safeguarding digital books, Readium LCP was highlighted as a promising, open source technology gaining popularity. Participants were encouraged in this same space to spread the word about the advocacy work of the nonprofit Library Futures, and recognize many authors who have recently offered public support for libraries, CDL and digital ownership of books.
Lila Bailey reported on an emerging coalition of nonprofits working on a policy agenda to build a better internet centered on public interest values. A forthcoming paper will outline four digital library rights that without which it would be impossible to function in the 21st century. They include the right to collect, preserve, lend and access material. This encouraging collaboration is the result of two convenings earlier this year, including one in Washington, D.C. in July.
CDL Community of Practice
A panel at the forum discussed projects within the CDL community of practice.
Nettie Lagace of the National Information Standards Organization gave an update on an initiative, funded by the Mellon Foundation, to create a consensus framework and recommendations on CDL. Working groups are focused now on considering digital objects, circulation and reserves, interlibrary loans and asset sharing. Public comments on the draft will be welcome in the coming months, with a final document likely released next summer.
Amanda Wakaruk a copyright and scholarly communications librarian at the University of Alberta, announced a new paper exploring the legal considerations of CDL for Canadian libraries. She is one of the co-authors on the research, along with others in the Canadian Federation of Library Associations. The preprint is available now and the final paper will be published soon in the journal, Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research.
Working with Project ReShare, the Boston Library Consortium is leveraging CDL as a mechanism for interlibrary loan. “BLC really believes that CDL is an extension of existing resource sharing practices, both in the legal sense–the same protections and opportunities afforded to interlibrary loan also apply to CDL,” said Charlie Bartow, executive director, “but, also in a services sense–that existing resource sharing systems and practices can be readily adapted to include CDL.”
Also, speaking in the session was Caltech’s Mike Hucka. He described efforts on his campus to provide students with learning materials when the pandemic hit by creating a simple model they named the Digital Borrowing System (DIBS).
In Canada, a large digitization project is underway at the University of Toronto, where 40,000 titles in the library’s government collection are being scanned and made available online for easier public access.
Freeland concluded the event with a final call to action: To join the #OwnBooks campaign. People are encouraged to take a photo of themselves holding a book they own that has special meaning, perhaps something that has influenced their career path or has sentimental value. As the Internet Archive fights for the right for libraries to own books, this is a chance to bring attention to the issue and build public support.
On Friday, September 2, we filed a brief in opposition to the four publishers that sued Internet Archive in June 2020: Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House. This is the second of three briefs from us that will help the Court decide the case.
As many of you know, these four publishers sued the Internet Archive to try to shut down our digital lending program. The lawsuit has been ongoing for over two years now. In addition to the papers that have gone in so far, there will be one more opportunity, later this fall, for the parties to file arguments with the court. These will be the “reply” briefs. At that point, the filing of papers tends to cease. The Court will then decide whether or not it wants to hear from the parties in person–through “oral argument.” After that, the Court will make a decision on this set of briefs. That could resolve the case in its entirety, or it could lead to a trial and/or appeal. In the end, the lawsuit could take some years to resolve.
Our opposition brief responds to the arguments raised in the publisher’s motion for summary judgment. There, some of the world’s largest and most-profitable publishers complained that sometimes “Americans who read an ebook use free library copies, rather than purchasing a commercial ebook.” They believe that copyright law gives them the right to control how libraries lend the books they own, and demand that libraries implement the restrictive terms and conditions that publishers prefer.
Our opposition brief explains that “[p]ublishers do not have a right to limit libraries only to inefficient lending methods, in hopes that those inefficiencies will lead frustrated library patrons to buy their own copies.” The record in this case shows that publishers have suffered no economic harm as a result of our controlled digital lending–indeed, publishers have earned record profits in recent years. “[D]igital lending of physical books costs rightsholders no more or less than, for example, lending books via a bookmobile or interlibrary loan. In each case, the books the library lends are bought and paid for, ensuring that rightsholders receive all of the financial benefits to which they are entitled.”
The future of library lending is at stake in this lawsuit. We will keep fighting to prove that copyright does not stand in the way of a library’s right to do what libraries have always done: lend the books it owns to one patron at a time.
The Internet Archive has asked a federal judge to rule in our favor and end a radical lawsuit, filed by four major publishing companies, that aims to criminalize library lending.
The motion for summary judgment, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Durie Tangri LLP,explains that our Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) program is a lawful fair use that preserves traditional library lending in the digital world.
The brief explains how the Internet Archive is advancing the purposes of copyright law by furthering public access to knowledge and facilitating the creation of new creative and scholarly works. The Internet Archive’s digital lending hasn’t cost the publishers one penny in revenues; in fact, concrete evidence shows that the Archive’s digital lending does not and will not harm the market for books.
Earlier today, we hosted a press conference with stakeholders in the lawsuit and the librarians and creators who will be affected by its outcome, including:
“Should we stop libraries from owning and lending books? No,” said Brewster Kahle, the Internet Archive’s founder and digital librarian. “We need libraries to be independent and strong, now more than ever, in a time of misinformation and challenges to democracy. That’s why we are defending the rights of libraries to serve our patrons where they are, online.”
Through CDL, the Internet Archive and other libraries make and lend out digital scans of print books in our collections, subject to strict technical controls. Each book loaned via CDL has already been bought and paid for, so authors and publishers have already been fully compensated for those books. Nonetheless, publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House sued the Archive in 2020, claiming incorrectly that CDL violates their copyrights.
“The publishers are not seeking protection from harm to their existing rights. They are seeking a new right foreign to American copyright law: the right to control how libraries may lend the books they own,” said EFF Legal Director Corynne McSherry. “They should not succeed. The Internet Archive and the hundreds of libraries and archives that support it are not pirates or thieves. They are librarians, striving to serve their patrons online just as they have done for centuries in the brick-and-mortar world. Copyright law does not stand in the way of a library’s right to lend its books to its patrons, one at a time.”
Authors and librarians speak out in support of the Internet Archive
“In the all-consuming tide of entropy, the Internet Archive brings some measure of order and permanence to knowledge,” said author Tom Scocca. “Out past the normal circulating lifespan of a piece of writing—or past the lifespan of entire publications—the Archive preserves and maintains it.”
“The library’s practice of controlled digital lending was a lifeline at the start of the pandemic and has become an essential service and a public good since,” said Benjamin Saracco, a research and digital services faculty librarian at an academic medical and hospital library in New Jersey. “If the publishers are successful in their pursuit to shut down the Internet Archive’s lending library and stop all libraries from practicing controlled digital lending, libraries of all varieties and the communities they serve will suffer.”
On July 8, 2022, Corynne McSherry, legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, spoke at a press conference about the copyright lawsuit brought against the Internet Archive by four commercial publishers. These are her remarks:
The Internet Archive, headquartered in San Francisco, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit library dedicated to preserving and sharing knowledge. Through Controlled Digital Lending (“CDL”), the Internet Archive and other nonprofit libraries make and lend out digital scans of print books in their collections, subject to strict technical controls. Each book loaned via CDL has already been bought and paid for, so authors and publishers have already been fully compensated for those books.
Publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House sued the Archive in 2020, claiming that CDL violates their copyrights, costs them millions of dollars, and threatens their businesses. They are wrong: Libraries have paid publishers billions of dollars for the books in their print collections, and are investing enormous resources in digitization in order to preserve those texts. CDL merely helps libraries take the next step by ensuring the public can make full use of books that libraries already have bought and paid for. CDL is fundamentally the same as traditional library lending and poses no harm to authors or the publishing industry.
Yesterday, we filed a brief asking a federal judge to put a stop to these publishers’ efforts to limit access to library books. Our motion for summary judgment, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, explains that the Archive’s CDL program is not copyright infringement but a lawful fair use that preserves traditional library lending in the digital world. Among other things, we explain how the Archive is advancing the purposes of copyright law by furthering public access to knowledge and facilitating the creation of new creative and scholarly works. And Internet Archive’s digital lending hasn’t cost the publishers one penny in revenues. In fact, the concrete evidence shows that the Archive’s digital lending does not and will not harm the market for books.
The publishers are not seeking protection from harm to their existing rights,. They are seeking a new right foreign to American copyright law: the right to control how libraries may lend the books they own.
They should not succeed. The Internet Archive and the hundreds of libraries and archives that support it are not pirates or thieves. They are librarians, striving to serve their patrons online just as they have done for centuries in the brick-and-mortar world. Copyright law does not stand in the way of a library’s right to lend its books to its patrons, one at a time.
Briefing on these issues will continue over the next few months, and we hope to have a decision from the court sometime next year.
On July 8, 2022, author and editor Tom Scocca spoke at a press conference about the copyright lawsuit brought against the Internet Archive by four commercial publishers. Tom is an editor at The Brick House, the proprietor of Indignity, and the former politics editor at Slate. He is the author of Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future. These are his remarks:
To be a writer in the 21st century is to be caught between two conflicting concerns: the fear that one’s work will be stolen, and the fear that one’s work will be lost. These are the individual and personal expressions of the larger facts of our living amid an unprecedented availability of information, and of the unprecedented unavailability of that same information. Our knowledge and our work are caught up in rapid, unpredictable cycles of creation, dissemination, and destruction; just as I was sitting down to write these thoughts, I discovered a year’s worth of my own writing had been suddenly blocked from being read on the internet by an expired certificate.
But I could still find it on the Internet Archive. In the all-consuming tide of entropy, the Internet Archive brings some measure of order and permanence to knowledge. Out past the normal circulating lifespan of a piece of writing—or past the lifespan of entire publications—the Archive preserves and maintains it. It’s surprisingly hard, logistically and conceptually, to remember what 2008 was like, let alone 1998, but miraculously, the evidence still exists. If it’s not quite like achieving immortality, it’s at least like no longer being buried in an unmarked mass grave.
This is the work that libraries have always done. Deep in the stacks, you can physically take a book off a shelf that no one else has checked out in 20 years. You could semi-physically, or semi-virtually, flip through a long-gone newspaper with a spin of a microfiche reel. One of my greatest thrills, when I became an author, was hearing from someone that their ordinary public library in some ordinary city had a copy of my book—a thrill quite different from the regular good news of knowing that some person had spent money to put a copy on their home bookshelf. In the library, my book could be read by anyone.
I was happy, then, to participate in the Open Library project, by putting my own work into an anthology to be published for digital lending. I understand—at a deep level, the level on which I wonder how I will pay the mortgage and what I will eat in my old age—how alarming the Open Library can sound to a writer. I feel that alarm: the sense that our already precariously remunerated work might be distributed for no money at all, that the greedy and impersonal culture of torrenting and piracy might be coming for us, too.
But practically, the idea is the idea of the library book. A single copy—bought and paid for—shared with one person at a time, and then returned to the shelf. The distribution may be virtual and seemingly unreal, but it behaves like a solid item. It behaves more like a solid item, in fact, than many provisionally available movies or texts on the consumer market, which act as your personal property for only as long as the underlying licensing agreement between the rights-holder and the seller lasts. That sort of dissolving culture isn’t a renewable revenue source, it’s a path to scarcity and amnesia.