Tag Archives: lawsuit

LISTEN: The End of Libraries as We Know Them?

Why Is This Happening? The Chris Hayes Podcast
"We're now having the judiciary starting to judge against libraries in ways that we haven't seen in 100 years." - Brewster Kahle

The publishers’ lawsuit against our library is featured in the latest episode of “Why Is This Happening? The Chris Hayes Podcast.

Listen in as Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive’s digital librarian, talks with Chris Hayes about the future of libraries, and what the publishers’ lawsuit means for libraries & their patrons in the digital age. Chris & Brewster are joined by librarian and lawyer, Kyle K. Courtney.

Streaming now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, & TuneIn.

What happened last Friday in Hachette v. Internet Archive?

Last Friday, the Internet Archive was in court, fighting for the digital rights of libraries. Our appeal in Hachette v. Internet Archive, the publishers’ lawsuit against our library, was heard in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Here are some resources to help you understand what happened in court:

🔊 Listen to the oral argument. The full 90+ minute proceedings are available to listen to online.

🗞️ Read the analysis of the oral argument from Authors Alliance. Executive Director Dave Hansen offered a rapid analysis of the oral argument in a thorough Substack post.

📚 Read coverage of the post-argument discussion at the American Library Association Annual Conference. Following oral argument, the legal team representing the Internet Archive and Brewster Kahle, digital librarian of the Internet Archive, remotely joined the eBook Interest Group discussion during ALA’s Annual Conference in San Diego. The conversation offered Brewster and the legal team a chance to explain what happened in the courtroom, and to answer questions from librarians and members of the press who gathered for the session. Ars Technica covered the discussion in an excellent post, “Appeals court seems lost on how Internet Archive harms publishers.”

Take action

Rafael studying

Tell the publishers: Let Readers Read! We have an open letter to the publishers, asking them to restore access to the 500,000+ books they’ve removed from our lending library as a result of their lawsuit. Sign the open letter today!

Disabled Patron Asks Publishers: ‘Let us read, let us learn.’

Editorial note: The following message came into our patron services team this week. We are posting here in full with the patron’s permission as it explains the full scope of the challenges our readers are facing following the publishers’ decision to remove more than 500,000 books from our lending library.

Here is Maureen, in her own words:

“I use the Internet Archive for many reasons and the book removals have impacted my ability to do so! Despite my good fortune to live in a community which provides a great library with plenty of physical books and a decent digital selection via Libby, the Archive still meets needs which my local library cannot fulfill.

I’m disabled: it causes fatigue, executive dysfunction, and more. I also am at high risk for Long Covid complications, so I try to limit my time in crowded public areas.

Additionally I live in an area with extreme weather that runs the gamut from whiteout blizzards, river floods making roads impassable, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, extreme heat, wildfire smoke, and on and on!

This means that actually GETTING to the library can be a challenge at times, especially as I work, which further reduces the hours available.

While I do have a decent selection of typical contemporary ebooks via my community library’s Libby app, many topics of importance to me aren’t represented well or at all.

These include:

* LGBT, feminist, and disability studies books (many of which are long out of print, had small print runs or cost exorbitant academic prices, and were published long before ebooks existed or only in other areas of the world).

* retro/vintage/historical children’s picture books as well as vintage scifi and fantasy books, for many of the reasons listed above.

* Niche topics in anthropology, archaeology, and world religions. (Again for the aforementioned reasons).

It also really infuriates me that the lawsuit claims that use of the Archive’s library is just “recreational”.

* Just because I’m no longer in college or grad school doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning, or privately researching, or somehow lost my desire for knowledge!

* (Plus, full-time and part-time independent scholars EXIST OUTSIDE OF THE ACADEMY and it’s so disheartening to see their contributions ignored/denied.)

* All children’s books are BY DEFINITION educational! They’re teaching kids to read!!!!!

* So are all nonfiction & biography books! They convey important information that help people make sense of the world.

* Vintage/retro genre books (romance, mystery, scifi etc) are in fact subjects of scholarship, through Fandom Studies, Leisure Studies, History, Literature etc. The Browne Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green State University is a perfect example!

* And yes, contemporary genre books are subjects of scholarship too. And while many non-academics read vintage and/or contemporary genre books for solely for fun, many of us also like to chart changes in genre over time.

* For example, I am a Trekkie (Star Trek fan) and comparing very early Trek novels with recent ones is illuminating on a fandom history level AND a sociological level.

***Education and scholarship also mean private self-study. Publishers need to stop locking knowledge in the academic ivory tower!!!!!!!!***

In short- the Internet Archive is very important to me and millions of other readers. The books need to be restored to circulation. Let us read, let us learn.”

Maureen L., Iowa City, Iowa

We’re Fighting for Library Rights in Court This Friday – Join Us!

Friday is our day in court. After four long years of legal action, we will be in New York for the appellate oral argument in Hachette v. Internet Archive, the publishers’ lawsuit against our library.

Show Your Support!

Throughout this four-year process, our patrons and supporters have asked how to help in this fight. Here are actions you can take to stand with the Internet Archive:

1. Watch the oral argument on Friday, June 28.
The proceedings will be livestreamed starting at 10am ET. Join via https://ww2.ca2.uscourts.gov/court.html, Courtroom 1505.


2. Tell the publishers: Let readers read!
We’ve created an open letter to the publishers, asking them to restore access to the 500,000 books they’ve removed from our library. Add your signature today!


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

A quick recap

After the lower court sided with the publishers last March, we committed to appeal the decision. The appeal process kicked off last fall, with our opening brief filed in December, followed by amicus briefs in support of our library and library lending two weeks later. On Friday, we’ll appear in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, continuing our fight for library digital rights.

What’s at stake?

The lawsuit is about the longstanding and widespread library practice of controlled digital lending, which is how we lend the books we own to our patrons. As a result of the publishers’ lawsuit, more than 500,000 books have been removed from our lending library. The impacts on our patrons have been devastating:

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.

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.