Tag Archives: controlled digital lending

From Brewster Kahle—I Set Out to Build the Next Library of Alexandria. Now I Wonder: Will There Be Libraries in 25 Years?

Editorial note: This op-ed first ran in Time Magazine in 2021. We are reposting it here with permission as we head into oral argument for our appeal in the publishers’ lawsuit against our library, scheduled for next Friday, June 28, 2024.

When I started the Internet Archive 25 years ago, I focused our non-profit library on digital collections: preserving web pages, archiving television news, and digitizing books. The Internet Archive was seen as innovative and unusual. Now all libraries are increasingly electronic, and necessarily so. To fight disinformation, to serve readers during the pandemic, and to be relevant to 21st-century learners, libraries must become digital.

But just as the Web increased people’s access to information exponentially, an opposite trend has evolved. Global media corporations—emboldened by the expansive copyright laws they helped craft and the emerging technology that reaches right into our reading devices—are exerting absolute control over digital information. These two conflicting forces—towards unfettered availability and completely walled access to information—have defined the last 25 years of the Internet. How we handle this ongoing clash will define our civic discourse in the next 25 years. If we fail to forge the right path, publishers’ business models could eliminate one of the great tools for democratizing society: our independent libraries.

These are not small mom-and-pop publishers: a handful of publishers dominate all books sales and distribution including trade books, ebooks, and text books. Right now, these corporate publishers are squeezing libraries in ways that may render it impossible for any library to own digital texts in five years, let alone 25. Soon, librarians will be reduced to customer service reps for a Netflix-like rental catalog of bestsellers. If that comes to pass, you might as well replace your library card with a credit card. That’s what these billion-dollar-publishers are pushing.

The libraries I grew up with would buy books, preserve them, and lend them for free to their patrons. If my library did not have a particular book, then it would borrow a copy from another library for me. In the shift from print to digital, many commercial publishers are declaring each of these activities illegal: they refuse libraries the right to buy ebooks, preserve ebooks, or lend ebooks. They demand that libraries license ebooks for a limited time or for limited uses at exorbitant prices, and some publishers refuse to license audiobooks or ebooks to libraries at all, making those digital works unavailable to hundreds of millions of library patrons.

Although we’re best known for the Wayback Machine, a historical archive of the World Wide Web, the Internet Archive also buys ebooks from the few independent publishers that will sell, really sell, ebooks to us. With these ebooks, we lend them to one reader at a time, protected with the same technologies that publishers use to protect their ebooks. The Internet Archive also digitizes print books that were purchased or donated. Similarly, we lend them to one reader at a time, following a practice employed by hundreds of libraries over the last decade called “controlled digital lending.”

Last year,* four of the biggest commercial publishers in the world sued the Internet Archive to stop this longstanding library practice of controlled lending of scanned books. The publishers filed their lawsuit early in the pandemic, when public and school libraries were closed. In March 2020, more than one hundred shuttered libraries signed a statement of support asking that the Internet Archive do something to meet the extraordinary circumstances of the moment. We responded as any library would: making our digitized books available, without waitlists, to help teachers, parents, and students stranded without books. This emergency measure ended two weeks before the intended 14-week period.

The lawsuit demands that the Internet Archive destroy 1.4 million digitized books, books we legally acquired and scanned in cooperation with dozens of library partners. If the publishers win this lawsuit, then every instance of online reading would require the permission and license of a publisher. It would give publishers unprecedented control over what we can read and when, as well as troves of data about our reading habits.

Publishers’ bullying tactics have stirred lawmakers in Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to draft laws requiring that publishers treat libraries fairly. Maryland’s legislature passed the law unanimously. In those states, if an ebook is licensed to consumers, publishers will be required by law to license it to libraries on reasonable terms. But lobbyists for the publishing industry claim even these laws are unconstitutional. This is a dangerous state of affairs. Libraries should be free to buy, preserve, and lend all books regardless of the format.

Suing libraries is not a new tactic for these billion-dollar corporations and their surrogates: Georgia State University’s law library battled a copyright lawsuit for 12 years; HathiTrust Digital Library battled the Author’s Guild for five years. In each case, the library organization won, but it took millions of dollars that libraries can ill-afford.

Libraries spend billions of dollars on publishers’ products, supporting authors, illustrators, and designers. If libraries become mere customer service departments for publisher’s pre-packaged product lines, the role that librarians play in highlighting marginalized voices, providing information to the disadvantaged, and preserving cultural memory independent of those in power will be lost.

As we shift from print to digital, we can and must support institutions and practices that were refined over hundreds of years starting with selling ebooks to readers and libraries.

So if we all handle this next phase of the Internet well, I believe the answer is, yes, there will be libraries in 25 years, many libraries—and many publishers, many booksellers, millions of compensated authors, and a society in which everyone will read good books.

*Editorial note: This op-ed was first published in 2021.

Let Readers Read

Ask publishers to restore access to the 500,000 books they’ve caused to be removed from the Internet Archive’s lending library.

Sign the Open Letter


I’m Chris Freeland, a librarian at the Internet Archive. The lawsuit against our library—Hachette v. Internet Archive—is fast approaching the oral argument stage of its appeal on June 28. I’ve been reflecting on our ongoing, four-year experience with this litigation and on the outcome we’re hoping for. Our position is straightforward; we just want to let our library patrons borrow and read the books we own, like any other library. 

We purchase and acquire books—yes, physical, paper books—and make them available for one person at a time to check out and read online. This work is important for readers and authors alike, as many younger and low-income readers can only read if books are free to borrow, and many authors’ books will only be discovered or preserved through the work of librarians. We use industry-standard technology to prevent our books from being downloaded and redistributed—the same technology used by corporate publishers.

But the publishers suing our library say we shouldn’t be allowed to lend the books we own. They have forced us to remove more than half a million books from our library, and that’s why we are appealing.  

Impact

The legal decision and resulting injunction against our library have already had a profoundly negative impact on our patrons. They have inundated us with so many inquiries that our patron services team needed to prepare a Help Document explaining why our collection has been shrinking so rapidly. 

We asked our patrons to share their stories of what losing access to these 500,000 books has meant to them. What’s clear from the hundreds of testimonials we’ve received is the ability to access our books remains an absolute necessity for the many people around the world who depend on our library for their educational and professional development: 

  • Mark, a researcher from New York, said that as an independent scholar without an institutional affiliation, he often struggles to gain access to books he needs for his research. He says that The Internet Archive has been a lifeline for him.
  • We heard from Lucero, an educator from Mexico City, who said that without our library, he wouldn’t have been able to complete his research on Mexican Sign Langauge.
  • Perhaps Mrittika said it best. She’s from a rural region in India and doesn’t have access to rare books. She asks the publishers, “If you are going to ban online availability of these resources, what about us?”

Take Action

In appealing the district court’s decision, our goal is simply to let these readers continue on their journey. We envision a world in which Wikipedians can verify facts by following citations to information contained only in our printed history; where libraries can serve their communities online with collections financed through public investment; and above all, where library patrons are free to read without fear of corporate or government surveillance.

Sign the Open Letter

Please help spread the word across social media: Bluesky, Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, TikTok, Twitter/X

The potential repercussions of this lawsuit extend far beyond the Internet Archive. This is a fight for the preservation of all libraries, and the fundamental right to access information, a cornerstone of any democratic society. We believe in the right of authors to benefit from their work; and we believe that libraries must be permitted to fulfill their mission of providing access to knowledge, regardless of whether it takes physical or digital form. Doing so upholds the principle that knowledge should be equally and equitably accessible to everyone, regardless of where they live or where they learn. 

As we head into this appeal, our message remains clear and unwavering: Let readers read.

Lend your voice to this message by signing the open letter to publishers, asking them to restore access to the books they have removed from our library.

Patrons Speak Out: The Impact of Losing Access to More Than 500,000 Books

Earlier this week, we asked readers across social media to tell us the impact of losing access to more than 500,000 books removed from our library as a result of the publishers’ lawsuit.

The response was overwhelming, and the stories shared were powerful and heartfelt. It wasn’t just titles that disappeared—it was countless memories, research materials, and sources of inspiration for readers around the world. Below, we share some of the most impactful testimonials, highlighting the profound effect these removals have had on readers and researchers everywhere.

If you’d haven’t already done so, please share your story!


Tran D. A., Ha Tinh, Vietnam: It hampers my ability to look up data sources. Books in Vietnam are significantly less accessible and my economic background doesn’t allow me to afford these things.

R.F., Surrey, Canada: As a Wikipedia editor, the Internet Archive is one of the most useful tools to find citations and verify facts. By removing books from the Internet Archive, it hinders the ability to find sources for an open encyclopedia.

Meilan S., Washington, DC, USA: As the online history editor at a national magazine, I use the Internet Archive on an almost daily basis. It’s an invaluable tool for accessing books cited by my writers, conducting research for articles I’m writing, and fact-checking quotes and other information. I regularly link to the Internet Archive in our published content, as I believe we should be as transparent as possible regarding sourcing, in addition to offering readers links to sites where they can learn more about a given topic. It has been disheartening to find the majority of books I need to access for work now listed as “removed.” The removal of this content makes it more difficult for me to include diverse, in-depth and reliable sources in my writing and editing.

Tamia T., Montreal, Canada: Internet Archive gives me access to scholarly information that is not afforded to those outside of the post-secondary education system. The Internet Archive helps bridge the gap when it comes to literacy, comprehension of history, and the discovery of new works that are otherwise gate-kept from the average person.

Olga A., Moscow, Russia: I can’t proceed with my research on bioanthropology, regarding both the current state of this science and the history of this field. None of the books I’m looking for are available for purchase in my country, even if I, by some miracle, managed to find them in second-hand bookshops abroad and had great amounts of money to buy them.

Jason V. M., Tucson, AZ, USA: The Internet Archive has allowed me and my family to access books quickly, conveniently and safely. I’m afraid that without the Archive, access to teaching material for my daughter and studying material for myself has now become significantly limited at my income level and in my area.

Poppy, Indonesia: Most of literature I’ve been using from IA are ones I couldn’t find in my city’s library, either public or academic. Without IA, my academic progress would be halted.

Lyria V.W., Middle River, MD, USA: My school in the past wanted me to read books that were considered banned (like The Great Gatsby and To Kill A Mockingbird) to learn about the culture and history at the time. I did not always have physical access to these books.

Zachary C., PA, USA: Without archive.org’s availability, I would have not been able to further my education on historical architecture and fashion.

Samson W., Omaha, NE, USA: It has made it more difficult to find quotes, to read quotes in full context, and to research language.

Nathan W., Portland, OR, USA: I purchase dozens of books every year, and check out even more from my local library — Internet Archive is an invaluable resource to explore books I’m interested in and quickly search for remembered passages or quotes from books I have already read.

Jefferson C., Managua, Nicaragua: Internet Archive had everything I needed to go through college, whilst not having ANY library available in my home country and with college books costing hundreds of dollars on top of import fee and taxes (which alone could be the salary of a person here).

Marina K., Minneapolis, MN, USA: I am an award-winning artist and writer for video games. I often need to research many diverse topics as an independent artist without institutional backing or studio resources. The Internet Archive is a valuable resource that allows me to create work that interacts more deeply with the world.

Harry S., UK: I’m a student studying Ancient History and having 500,000 books removed will undoubtedly remove my access to some sources I can’t get my hands on otherwise.

Carlos R., Aguascalientes, Mexico: I was reading Story : substance, structure, style and the principles of screenwriting (1997) and I no longer have access to it.

Alicia P., MD, USA: I organize Wikipedia editing events to improve Wikipedia articles about historical topics. We rely heavily on Internet Archive books as sources, since they are publicly available. This is essential for transparency in Wikipedia articles: every factual claim has a footnote, and the reader can click the hyperlink in the footnote to go directly to the source of the information in an Internet Archive book (often an older academic book that is no longer in print or at public libraries anyway).

Renard, Osasco, Brazil: The Internet Archive allowed me to expand my boundaries and access materials that do NOT exist here, or would be incredibly expensive to import, much of the price going to shipping and a reseller’s pockets.

Ethan S., Ottawa, Canada: I have been working on a project to document the history of social democratic governments in Canadian provinces and territories. These governments (by the NDP and CCF) are not well researched and the resources that are available at public libraries don’t always include older books, often written by members of cabinet or caucus. The Internet Archive has had some of the relevant books removed due to the lawsuit.

Berry J., Boston, MA, USA: I understand that publishers and authors have to make a profit but most of the material I am trying to access is written by people who are dead and whose publishers have stopped printing the material.

Chloe, London, UK: Internet Archive allows me to search a large number of books by keyword/name and it triggered my buying a lot of hard copies of books I would have never even known existed. I am so distressed that this has been taken away from me, as I research the history of lesbianism and it is already an extremely difficult niche field to research.

Camila N., Mexico City, Mexico: Cultural heritage, including documentary heritage, is essential for forging identities, offering knowledge, telling human history and promoting the progress of societies accompanied by cultural development.

Mary S., Rochester, NY, USA: It’s an access issue. It’s substantially harder to find the books I’m interested in reading. Heck, even for more common books, the libraries in my area are not practical to get to except by car, and I have a lot of friends who don’t have easy access to a car.

Robin L., Sydney, Australia: Having decreased access to books such as books on collage artists during certain parts of history affects my research, since I have limited to no access to such books in Australian libraries or bookshops both physical or digitally.

Samuel R., Chicago, IL, USA: In many cases there are not physical lending copies of titles i am looking for within 200 miles of my location, and no legal methods available to purchase e-versions. The Internet Archive is far and away the best solution for reading and preserving niche books across a variety of genres.

Zulma P., Covina, CA, USA: The Internet Archive has lots of books my local library doesn’t own and books that are very hard to find.

Thomas R., Manningham, Australia: These books being available on archive.org is a vital resource for me and many like me. A large amount of the Archive was never released in my corner of the globe, meaning I have few if any options for reading on niche subjects.

Juan V., Medellin, Colombia: I am a dance artist and require a big selection of options for my artistic research. Some of the books that I was using on my research are no longer available.

Sage L., Grand Rapids, MI, USA: I am an illustrator and character designer with a passion for science fiction. I use the Internet Archive to research projects that I don’t have enough background knowledge on. I frequently find that books I need are missing.

Oguz Alp K., Antalya, Turkey: In one word I can say: “devastation”. It is very difficult for people like me who live and do research in third world countries to access the books and documents in your archive.

Zachary B., Lockport, NY, USA: As someone who is working to understand the evolution of society through literature, reduced access to many classic works makes gathering information much more difficult.

Andrea T., Canada: I did not go to a university with a giant archive in the library for medieval texts, so to research these topics, free resources like Internet Archive really came into play. Not everyone will have an opportunity to read these books available at libraries. Not everyone can even afford to attend university, where many of these now removed texts are available for free in libraries and archives. Why should other students, and other people interested in these topics, be deprived of this free resource? Going into my Master’s degree, I have now lost a resource I relied on heavily through my post secondary education up until this point, hindering what sort of research I will be able to accomplish as I enter higher education.

Isa B., Lelystad, Netherlands: I was working on several papers for my education and I had to change sources because the literature was inaccessible despite it being of great importance to my research.

Mrittika D. S., Kolkata, India: Resources I had previously found on the Internet Archive site were all of a sudden no longer available when I searched for them. Hence, I faced a huge problem in completing my papers, as I had already formed a plan on what sources I wanted to refer to, and my plan was completely disrupted.

Schuyler V., Troy, NY, USA: While I am lucky to be near many physical libraries, none are as convenient and complete as the Internet Archive. Nearly all the books I’ve purchased in the last decade were ones I saw on the Internet Archive first.

Samantha F., Providence, RI, USA: Honestly? Without these books, my job becomes that much harder. Publishers aren’t going to put out a new run of, say, a 40-year-old book on specific aspects of animation history, because it’s not profitable. So, to remove them limits the number of folks like me, who are trying to tell a cohesive and factual story, who can actually work to do so as these materials get rarer and more expensive.

Kerry L., Boston, MA, USA: I had used copies of books a few months back when doing research for my master’s thesis—when I came back to them in April and May, I was surprised to find many of my more crucial secondary sources were gone. These books specifically are not as prevalent in public libraries, being older and region-specific. I was fortunate that I had taken detailed notes and quotes, but I was unable to check my references for books that were physically located miles and miles away from me.

Nicolas T., Paris, France: This gray zone of books still under copyright but that have disappeared from bookstores and libraries can be so useful… and the DRM on digital copies was very clever and fair.

Lola, Poland: On a personal level, this has severely limited the potential for both me and my partner to read books, we don’t have the money or ability to purchase actual books or E books and while there is a library near by, they usually don’t have the books we are looking for, it has in turn likely limited us from reading so many books.

John P., Menlo Park, CA, USA: In 2016 a fire in my home office left my personal library (about 700 books) smoke damaged, but still readable. Rather than let all these books go to waste, I donated them to the Internet Archive, so books in my collection they hadn’t already scanned would be available to the rest of the world. I had hoped I would be able to refer to the collection there. Unfortunately, many of these books are no longer available due to the lawsuit restrictions.

Andrew M., Easton, CT, USA: Prior to the removal of books on the IA I was able to access works on niche topics like La Terra in Piazza (1984) to review and promote reading about all sorts of interesting things to a wider audience. Since the removal, I’ve already struggled to finance a project translating a book on the causes of the fall of Rome, which would not have happened if I’d had access to materials that had been on IA at an earlier date.

Stephano L., Peru: The links I used for citations in university works are now dead, so I will have to correct that in many papers I wrote.


Editorial note: Statements have been edited for clarity.

Internet Archive Stands Firm on Library Digital Rights in Final Brief of Hachette v. Internet Archive Lawsuit

Today, the Internet Archive has taken a decisive final step in our ongoing battle for libraries’ digital rights by submitting the final appellate reply brief [PDF] in Hachette v. Internet Archive, the publishers’ lawsuit against our library. This move reaffirms Internet Archive’s unwavering commitment to fulfilling our mission of providing universal access to all knowledge, even in the face of steep legal challenges.

READ THE FINAL APPELLATE REPLY BRIEF

Statement from Brewster Kahle, founder and digital librarian of the Internet Archive:
“Resolving this should be easy—just sell ebooks to libraries so we can own, preserve and lend them to one person at a time. This is a battle for the soul of libraries in the digital age.”

This process has taken nearly four years to work through the legal system, and in that time we’ve often fielded the question, “Why should I care about this lawsuit?” By restricting libraries’ ability to lend the books they own digitally, the publishers’ license-only business model and litigation strategies perpetuate inequality in access to knowledge.

Throughout this legal battle, Internet Archive has remained steadfast in our mission to defend the core values of libraries—preservation, access, and education. This fight is not just about protecting the Internet Archive’s digital lending program; it’s about standing up for the digital rights of all libraries and ensuring that future generations have equal access to the wealth of knowledge contained within them.

Internet Archive an ‘Information Lifeline’ for Librarian Professionally and Personally

When Zeau Modig began as the graduate school librarian at the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) nearly a decade ago, many of the students lived nearby. They came to the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, campus to check out some of the library’s 1,500 print books and make photocopies.

Zeau Modig, librarian

Today, the majority of students live elsewhere in a dozen different countries from Brazil to Hungary—and instruction has moved online. This is driving up demand for e-books. Modig has found resources on the Internet Archive to fill the gap between what her physical library can provide and the needs of her community.

“The Internet Archive has been amazing for us to be able to get material into our students’ hands, and making it accessible, especially for the people overseas studying in less developed countries,” Modig said. “If you’re not in the United States it’s not as easy to get books because of shipping—it could take weeks to get there. The Internet Archive has really been a tremendous help to our students.”

The graduate program attracts students who are often mid-career, working in education, criminal justice, business or any field looking for strategies and scholarship to address conflicts, repair harm, and restore community among individuals and groups. To understand the foundational ideas behind restorative practices, the classes sometimes assign readings of theoretical models that are hard to find. Modig said students often turn to the Internet Archive to find obscure books or journals that have otherwise vanished.

Modig said she values the Archive’s collaboration with Wikipedia to turn reference links in Wikipedia articles blue, connecting citations to the original source content in Archive’s digital collections. This effort gives scholars single-click access to verify information for their research.

“It’s made my life as a librarian so much easier,” Modig said of the Archive. “The faculty, too, most of whom work remotely, really appreciate having books at their fingertips.”

Outside her job, Modig said she uses the Archive for genealogy research, leisure reading and entertainment. She recently discovered a commemorative family reunion volume from 1883 on her French Huguenot relatives that gave her insight into her family history. Inspired by the Netflix series, “The Queen’s Gambit,” Modig checked out the original novel on which the show was based.

“Internet Archive has become an essential information lifeline for my graduate institution’s students and faculty, and also for me personally.”

Zeau Modig, librarian, International Institute for Restorative Practices

Unfortunately, as a result of the publishers’ lawsuit against the Internet Archive’s lending library, “The Queen’s Gambit” is no longer available for borrowing. 

When Modig learned that the book can no longer be checked out to one reader at a time, she paused. “I’m glad I had the opportunity to enjoy this book while I could,” she said. “I hope that the publishers involved in the lawsuit against the Internet Archive will come to realize the advantages that controlled digital lending holds for them as well as for readers, and allow the Internet Archive to restore access to their content.”

“Overall, the Internet Archive has become an essential information lifeline for my graduate institution’s students and faculty, and also for me personally,” Modig said. “It would be deeply disappointing for us if this rich trove of content is no longer available through the Internet Archive.”

Mickey Mouse & Elon Musk Boost Libraries in Viral Week

Last week, Mickey Mouse and Elon Musk helped raise the visibility of library preservation and the Internet Archive’s mission across social media in an unexpected convergence of the public domain, popular culture and the publishers’ lawsuit against our library.

It started less than an hour into the new year. At 12:36am, we posted a 45 second clip from Steamboat Willie to X (formerly Twitter) with the iconic introduction of Mickey Mouse. By the next morning, the video had reached hundreds of thousands of views; by the end of the day, views had climbed into the millions. To date, the clip (above) has been viewed 10.2 million times.

As a result of that interest, people began looking at our profile and older posts. One key user posted a message of support about our blog post highlighting the amicus briefs filed in support of our appeal in Hachette v. Internet Archive, the lawsuit against our library.

That post, and presumably coupled with the visibility from the viral Mickey Mouse tweet, started a groundswell of support for the Internet Archive, with thousands of users sharing their thoughts on the importance of our mission. 

In that chatter, a meme started forming: “Protect the Internet Archive – pass it on

So many people were sharing this sentiment that “Protect the Internet Archive” started trending.

And then Elon Musk weighed in with “Support the Internet Archive!”:  

With Musk’s enormous following on X, activity across our profile and posts skyrocketed, including our reply, but none more so than the post he shared about our appeal. To date, the post has been viewed more than 20 million times. 

But it didn’t stop there. Because of the overwhelming level of support & visibility, we were getting dozens of messages from supporters asking how they can help our cause. In addition to telling our new followers about our mission, we also invited people to tell the publishers to stop suing libraries and sell us ebooks we can own and preserve.

And they did. Hundreds of users shared a message to the publishers with the hashtag #SellDontSue.

And then, like all viral moments, the attention faded. As of today (January 11, 2024), activity around our feed has returned to normal levels.

So what does it all mean??

While our time in the spotlight was brief, it was definitely meaningful. Now that we’ve had a little perspective and distance, we can point to three main takeaways from our viral week:

Takeaway #1: People love the public domain! Mickey Mouse moving into the public domain is a story decades in the making, so no surprise that there was an increased level of interest this year. However, we’ve noted an upswing in engagement for posts about the public domain every January, and excellent attendance at our public domain celebrations. We love the public domain, too, so we’re going to keep promoting the materials moving out of copyright year after year.

Takeaway #2: More people are armed with facts about the lawsuit against our library, and are voicing their support for library digital lending, digital ownership and preservation.

Takeaway #3: We helped more people understand the opportunities (preservation) & challenges (lawsuits) libraries face in the digital age. New people were introduced to our mission, to the legal challenges that libraries are facing in the digital age, and to understanding what’s possible when libraries are allowed to own and preserve materials for the long term.

So, a big thank you to everyone who shared posts, spoke out in support of the Internet Archive, or otherwise helped bring new visibility to our mission and work last week. We are committed to preserving materials in the public domain, fighting the lawsuits against our library, and continuing our mission of providing “Universal Access to All Knowledge”—onward!

Friend of the Court Briefs Filed in Internet Archive’s Appeal

Last week saw a massive outpouring of support for the Internet Archive and our legal positions from prominent library and nonprofit organizations, as well as hundreds of librarians and academics, who filed amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs in the Hachette v. Internet Archive Second Circuit appeal. Read on to learn why they believe our appeal should succeed.

American Library Association and Association of Research Libraries. This brief supports the Internet Archive’s position that our use of Controlled Digital Lending is a nonprofit educational use rather than a “commercial” one, and urges the Court to consider the broader impact its decision will have on a host of everyday library practices that rely on fair use. “Libraries rely on fair use at every step in a typical digital preservation workflow, from cataloging to access.” Read the full brief here.

Authors Alliance. This brief voices the strong support of authors for the Internet Archive and controlled digital lending. “Authors want and need libraries to purchase their books, but the copyright system has never required libraries to pay for those books again and again in order to provide readers with access in formats relevant to them in light of evolving technology.” Read the full brief here.

Center for Democracy & Technology, Library Freedom Project, and Public Knowledge. This brief focuses on the significant privacy issues at play in this case. “Readers should not have to choose to either forfeit their privacy or forgo digital access to information; nor should libraries be forced to impose this choice on readers. CDL provides an ecosystem where all people, including those with mobility limitations and print disabilities, can pursue knowledge in a privacy-protective manner.” Read the full brief here.

Copia Institute. This brief raises the important First Amendment considerations embodied in fair use, arguing that the district court decision rejecting Internet Archive’s fair use defense put copyright law in conflict with the Constitution. “Copyright law should want to promote access to works, because it does nothing to promote progress if the law incentives the creation of works that no one can actually enjoy. In this case, enabling the books that were already lawfully readable to be read is what copyright law should instead be glad for the Internet Archive to do.” Read the full brief here.

Copyright Scholars. In this brief, 11 prominent copyright scholars argue forcefully for the Second Circuit to overturn the district court’s decision. “By eliminating the ability of libraries to use CDL as a means of ensuring long-term affordable digital access to their collections, publishers threaten the core functions of the library—acquiring, preserving, and sharing information. Avoiding those public harms urges a finding of fair use.” Read the full brief here.

eBook Study Group, Library Futures Project, EveryLibrary Institute, ReadersFirst, SPARC, ASERL, BLC, PALCI, Urban Libraries Unite and 218 individual librarians. This brief explains the history and development of CDL, how deeply embedded the practice is today, and urges the appellate Court not to disrupt this long-standing and widespread practice. “CDL has become a critical part of library practice in the United States because it provides a reasonable way to offer digital access to libraries’ legally acquired collections. Over 100 libraries across the United States rely on a CDL program to distribute their collections, particularly for out-of-print works, reserves, or for works that are less frequently circulated.” Read the full brief here.

HathiTrust. Digital Library consortium HathiTrust cautions the appellate court not to follow the district court’s ruling that IA’s use was “commercial” or harmed the publishers market, and warns against a broad ruling that could sweep in many other digital library practices. “[The district court’] ruling has been widely perceived by libraries as a threat to lending of digital copies in general, or even “part of a broader historical push to make libraries obsolete.” Neither the record in this case nor the applicable law supports such a result.” Read the full brief here.

Intellectual Property Law Professors. This brief focuses entirely on the district court’s deeply problematic ruling the the Internet Archive’s controlled digital lending program is “commercial.” “While there are many commercial fair uses, the Internet Archive’s digital lending program falls on the specially favored nonprofit, noncommercial side. The District Court therefore erred in interpreting “commercial” so broadly as to encompass the Internet Archive’s nonprofit lending.” Read the full brief here.

Kevin L. Smith and William M Cross. In this brief, two library and information scholars and historians with deep expertise regarding libraries and archives explain that “CDL is just one of numerous innovations in library services that have been developed and implemented through many decades and can be adapted to legal requirements. This case presents an opportunity for the Court to make clear that libraries, acting within the law, have the imperative to deploy technologies and build innovative services in furtherance of broad access to information.” Read the full brief here.

Law Library Directors, Professors and Academics. Over 50 law library directors, professors, librarians, and graduate students signed onto this brief arguing that the district court did not appropriately consider the public benefits of CDL. “Neither the public nor authors, both of whom are the intended beneficiaries of copyright, benefit from libraries spending public or community funds on the same content repeatedly instead of acquiring new content. The logical consequence is that the public has access to fewer authors and works, fewer authors get wide exposure, and fewer works are preserved for future generations.” Read the full brief here.

Wikipedia, Creative Commons, and Project Gutenberg. Three prominent open knowledge organizations filed this brief focusing on the damage the lower court ruling could do to all nonprofit uses of in-copyright material. “The district court’s decision contains factual and legal errors that, if endorsed by this Court, could threaten the ability of all nonprofits to make fair use of copyrighted material.” Read the full brief here.



Internet Archive Defends Digital Rights for Libraries

Earlier today, we filed our opening appellate brief in Hachette v. Internet Archive, reaffirming our commitment to preserving knowledge for future generations.

Statement from Brewster Kahle, founder and digital librarian of the Internet Archive: We submitted our appeal to the court today to protect the core mission of libraries—preservation and access. This is a fight to keep library books available for those seeking truth in the digital age. 

Libraries are not just repositories of books; they are guardians of history and the published record. In this time of wars, election angst, and unstable moments for democracy, this fight gains even more importance.

Why should everyone care about this lawsuit? Because it is about preserving the integrity of our published record, where the great books of our past meet the demands of our digital future. This is not merely an individual struggle; it is a collective endeavor for society and democracy struggling with our digital transition. We need secure access to the historical record. We need every tool that libraries have given us over the centuries to combat the manipulation and misinformation that has now become even easier.

This appeal underscores the role of libraries in supporting universal access to information—a right that transcends geographic location, socioeconomic status, disability, or any other barriers. Our digital lending program is not just about lending responsibly; it’s about strengthening democracy by creating informed global citizens.

The stakes of the lower court decision are high. Publishers coordinated by the AAP (Association of American Publishers), have removed hundreds of thousands of books from controlled digital lending. The publishers have taken more than 500 banned books from our lending library, such as 1984, The Color Purple, and Maus. This is a devastating loss for digital learners everywhere. 

This lawsuit is about more than the Internet Archive; it is about the role of all libraries in our digital age. This lawsuit is an attack on a well-established practice used by hundreds of libraries to provide public access to their collections. The disastrous lower court decision in this case holds implications far beyond our organization, shaping the future of all libraries in the United States and unfortunately, around the world.

If this decision is left to stand, it will take away a library’s ability to lend books from its permanent collections to digital learners.

In the face of challenges to truth, libraries are more vital than ever. 

Let this be a call to action—to protect the core mission of libraries in our digital age.

—Brewster Kahle

Watch full remarks

Statement from Corynne McSherry, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation: “The publishers are not seeking protection from harm to their existing rights. They are seeking a new right: the right to take advantage of technological developments to control how libraries may lend the books they own.” Watch full remarks.

Statement from Michael Blackwell, public library director, St. Mary’s County Library, Maryland: “The digital revolution has helped libraries reach beyond our doors but also presented enormous challenges. Publisher terms prevent us from offering in digital the robust collections we have in print. Literally millions of titles will never be digitized by the publishers because they have no profit incentive. We cannot even guarantee that digital titles we license today will be available tomorrow. To fulfill their traditional mission—the  preservation and dissemination of knowledge to benefit the public—libraries must be allowed to share online the books they legitimately own, as the Internet Archive is doing. Both literally and figuratively, we cannot afford a future in which giant corporations keep reading locked away behind paywalls, and libraries own nothing.”

Statement from John Chrastka, executive director, EveryLibrary: “The Internet Archive is focused on the same goal as every other library: helping readers access books and resources. The ability to lend is fundamental to the work of libraries, and Controlled Digital Lending is a digital solution for that core role. The outcome of this case will have far-reaching implications for readers across the country. I hope the court affirms the ability of all libraries to lend.”

Statement from Winston Tabb, Library of Congress & Johns Hopkins University Library (retired): “The Internet Archive, under the inspiring leadership of Brewster Kahle, is one of the most innovative libraries in the world today. Its focus on preserving and making content accessible to users in responsible ways is a model for other libraries.”

How to Take Action:

1. Send a message to the publishers

Share on X (formerly Twitter): Post to your followers

Hey @HachetteUS, @HarperCollins, @penguinrandom & @WileyGlobal: Instead of suing libraries like @internetarchive, just sell them ebooks they can own & preserve for the public. #SellDontSue

Facebook & Mastodon:

Hey #Hachette, #HarperCollins, #PenguinRandomHouse & #Wiley: Instead of suing libraries like #InternetArchive, just sell them ebooks they can own & preserve for the public. #SellDontSue

2. Support the Internet Archive 

Support the Internet Archive to continue fighting for libraries.

3. Stay connected

Sign up for the Empowering Libraries newsletter for ongoing updates about the lawsuit and our library.

Statement from Corynne McSherry, Legal Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is proud to join with our co-counsel Morrison and Foerster to represent the Internet Archive in challenging the district court’s ruling in this case.

For centuries, libraries have served their patrons by purchasing books and lending them for free. In the United States, libraries predated the founding of the nation – in fact they contributed to it by improving access to knowledge. Today, libraries serve many purposes, providing Internet access, meeting spaces, and even community pantries. But the heart of their mission remains the same: lending.

What has changed is how that core mission is accomplished. Like copyright law itself, library lending has evolved as new systems and technologies have created new ways to meet patron needs. For the past decade, that evolution has included controlled digital lending—a modern, more efficient version of lending that is used by libraries across the country. Controlled digital lending allows libraries to lend books via the internet subject to strict controls, for a limited time, to one patron at a time.

But four giant publishers claim that this service violates their copyrights and threatens their businesses. They are wrong: Libraries have paid publishers billions of dollars for the books in their print collections. CDL merely helps libraries better serve their patrons, but still lending just one book at a time. It is fundamentally the same as traditional library lending and poses no harm to authors or the publishing industry. In fact, the concrete evidence in this case shows that the Archive’s digital lending does not and will not harm the market for books.

The district court gave short shrift to that evidence, one of many flaws in the ruling. Another was that it concluded that the Internet Archive’s free public library is actually a commercial activity. According to the court, a nonprofit has a commercial purpose if it derives virtually any benefit connected to its a work – including ordinary nonprofit activities like attracting new members, receiving recognition from its community, or having a donate button its website. That definition of “commercial” runs contrary to well-established precedent. What is worse, it would apply to almost every library and public interest organization in the country. It doesn’t make sense.

Our brief explains why the court was wrong, and why controlled digital lending is a lawful fair use. But the core problem is this: The publishers are not seeking protection from harm to their existing rights. They are seeking a new right: the right to take advantage of technological developments 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. We are confident the Second Circuit will see that, and rule according.

Statement from Brewster Kahle: Appeal is ‘a fight to keep library books available for those seeking truth in the digital age.’

On December 15, 2023, Brewster Kahle, founder and digital librarian of the Internet Archive, spoke at a press event for the filing of Internet Archive’s opening appellate brief in Hachette v. Internet Archive. These are his remarks:

We submitted our appeal to the court today to protect the core mission of libraries—preservation and access. This is a fight to keep library books available for those seeking truth in the digital age. 

Libraries are not just repositories of books; they are guardians of history and the published record. In this time of wars, election angst, and unstable moments for democracy, this fight gains even more importance.

Why should everyone care about this lawsuit? Because it is about preserving the integrity of our published record, where the great books of our past meet the demands of our digital future. This is not merely an individual struggle; it is a collective endeavor for society and democracy struggling with our digital transition. We need secure access to the historical record. We need every tool that libraries have given us over the centuries to combat the manipulation and misinformation that has now become even easier.

This appeal underscores the role of libraries in supporting universal access to information—a right that transcends geographic location, socioeconomic status, disability, or any other barriers. Our digital lending program is not just about lending responsibly; it’s about strengthening democracy by creating informed global citizens.

The stakes of the lower court decision are high. Publishers coordinated by the AAP (Association of American Publishers), have removed hundreds of thousands of books from controlled digital lending. The publishers have taken more than 500 banned books from our lending library, such as 1984, The Color Purple, and Maus. This is a devastating loss for digital learners everywhere. 

This lawsuit is about more than the Internet Archive; it is about the role of all libraries in our digital age. This lawsuit is an attack on a well-established practice used by hundreds of libraries to provide public access to their collections. The disastrous lower court decision in this case holds implications far beyond our organization, shaping the future of all libraries in the United States and unfortunately, around the world.

If this decision is left to stand, it will take away a library’s ability to lend books from its permanent collections to digital learners.

In the face of challenges to truth, libraries are more vital than ever. 

Let this be a call to action—to protect the core mission of libraries in our digital age.

—Brewster Kahle

Updated 12/15/23 to include video.