Lesson I I learned early in life: never offend the librarian. Apparently District Court Judge John G. Coetl skipped the formative trauma closing experience. Because his recent ruling against the beloved digital library nonprofit Internet Archive has angered his community of bibliographic archivists.
A little background: Early in the Covid lockdown, the Internet Archive launched a program called the National Emergency Library (NEL). With millions of books out of circulation due to library closures, the Internet Archive wanted to make information accessible to those stuck at home. NEL was part of a larger project called the Open Libraries Initiative. In this project, the Internet Archive scans physical copies of library books and allows people to check them out digitally.
It was always meant to be temporary, but NEL was shut down early after several big publishers banded together to sue for copyright infringement. Koetl sided with the publisher this week. He did not accept the contention that the Internet Archive’s digitization project falls under the fair use doctrine. Sample line: “There is nothing transformative about IA’s copying and unauthorized lending of Suit’s work.” Internet Archive plans to appeal.
In principle, I support the activities of the Internet Archive. (Wayback Machine deserves all the praise it gets, and some more.) But on another principle, I believe that writers’ efforts to protect intellectual property and make money support Even before the lawsuit, some writers, such as Colson Whitehead, had criticized NEL for cutting writers’ income. I applaud Koetl’s decision as a win for the creative type.
I didn’t know how to feel about this whole fuss. Obviously, it seemed like a good thing for libraries to make it easier and cheaper to borrow ebooks. But taking money from writers seemed like a decidedly bad thing to do. This battle over the rather niche issue of ebook copyright has influenced a larger, ongoing conversation about paying artists, what it means to own digital works, and how companies drive up prices. increase.
I called several people on both sides of this issue to learn more about their positions.
One important thing to understand about this contradiction is that e-books and paper books are not sold to libraries in the same way. Unlike physical books, e-books Licensed So instead of owning them, libraries are essentially renting them. Each publisher has its own licensing method. Some are for a fixed period of time (for example, two years for him), while others need to be renewed based on the number of loans (for example, every 26 times he borrows the book). Continuing to publish e-books can be exponentially more expensive for libraries compared to hard copies. Unsurprisingly, many librarians consider these terms exploitative. UK-based academic librarian Caroline Ball tells me that in a year she has a business textbook that costs £16,000 ($19,800).
Ball sees the recent ruling as a disaster for library access.
Writer and independent journalist Edward Hasbrouck volunteers with the Writers Guild of America. no I find the ruling to be reprehensible. In fact, he is overjoyed. He says the judge made the right decision, and that his San Francisco-based Internet archive shows “typical silicon his Valley demeanor.” cursedHasbrouck feels uncomfortable blaming the ruling for poor ebook licensing arrangements. “The Internet Archive tried to impose their own de facto license terms (free) on us,” he says. I especially feel sorry for older authors with large catalogs of the past, as they are often the most affected by losing ebook licensing deals, he says.