Brewster Kahle is the founder and digital librarian of the Internet Archive. Brewster spoke at the press conference hosted by Internet Archive ahead of oral argument in Hachette v. Internet Archive.
The Internet is failing us. The Internet Archive has tried, along with hundreds of other libraries, to do something about it.
A ruling in this case ironically can help all libraries, or it can hurt.
The Internet Archive is a library I founded 26 years ago. This library has brought hundreds of years of books to the wikipedia generation, and now 4 massive publishers are suing to stop us.
As the world now looks to their screens for answers, what they find is often not good. People are struggling to figure out what is true and it is getting harder.
Digital learners need access to a library of books, a library at least as deep as the libraries we older people had the privilege to grow up with.
The Internet Archive has worked with hundreds of libraries for decades to provide such a library of books. A library where each of those books can be read by one reader at a time. This is what libraries have always done.
We also work with libraries that are under threat. We work with many libraries that have closed their doors completely– libraries with unique collections: Claremont School of Theology, Marygrove College of Detroit, cooking school of Johnson & Wales Denver, Concordia College of Bronxville NY, Drug Policy Alliance’s library of NYC, the Evangelical Seminary of Pennsylvania. I have looked these librarians in the eye and told them that we are there for them.
They entrust their books to us, as a peer library, to carry forward their mission. Most of the books are not available from the publishers in digital form, and never will be. And as we have seen, students, researchers and the print-disabled continue to use these books for quotations and fact checking. And I think we can all agree we need to be able to do fact checking.
Here’s what’s at stake in this case: hundreds of libraries contributed millions of books to the Internet Archive for preservation in addition to those books we have purchased. Thousands of donors provided the funds to digitize them.
The publishers are now demanding that those millions of digitized books, not only be made inaccessible, but be destroyed.
This is horrendous. Let me say it again– the publishers are demanding that millions of digitized books be destroyed.
And if they succeed in destroying our books or even making many of them inaccessible, there will be a chilling effect on the hundreds of other libraries that lend digitized books as we do.
This could be the burning of the Library of Alexandria moment– millions of books from our community’s libraries – gone.
The dream of the Internet was to democratize access to knowledge, but if the big publishers have their way, excessive corporate control will be the nightmare of the Internet.
That is what is at stake. Will libraries even own and preserve collections that are digital? Will libraries serve our patrons with books as we have done for millennia?
A positive ruling that affirms every library’s right to lend the books they own, would build a better Internet and a better society.