Normally, the Internet Archive’s Open Library lets readers check out books online or join waitlists if texts are already spoken for — kinda like a physical library.
But to address an “unprecedented global and immediate need for access to reading and research materials,” the archive decided to remove its restrictive waitlists — and, in the process, break controlled digital lending rules that normally prevent e-libraries from over-lending.
And not everyone was on the same page
But the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers both criticized the program, with the Guild arguing the Internet Archive “is using a global crisis to advance a copyright ideology that violates current federal law and hurts most authors.”
But the Internet Archive defended its decision…
But authors argued that those extraordinary measures are “further harming the marketplace for books — at a time when the industry is already feeling incredible pain from the bookstore and library closures.”
Now, the question is: What even IS the purpose of an e-library?
It’s a chicken-or-egg question: Which comes first, the writer or the writing?
- The Internet Archive says libraries are primarily responsible to readers, arguing they’ve existed to promote science and encourage learning since before copyright laws even existed.
- Authors and publishers say libraries are equally responsible to writers (who earned average incomes of ~$20k per year before the crisis), arguing there wouldn’t be any science to promote or learning to encourage without writers.
The Internet Archive could face legal challenges down the road: Google’s universal library project, Google Books, was sued and spent 10 years in court (before it ultimately won).
But the National Emergency Library was never meant to last forever — it will run through June 30, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later.