Tuesday, August 4, 2020 News

Internet Archive Files Response to Lawsuit Emphasizing Need for Access to Information

Open Access

While the demand for digital access to books skyrockets during the global pandemic, the Internet Archive maintains that its practice of Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) is more vital than ever.

On July 28, the San Francisco-based nonprofit filed a response to the lawsuit brought by four commercial publishers to end the widespread practice of CDL. Scanning a copy of a print book and lending it one digital copy at a time to one reader at a time is how Internet Archives lending has worked for nearly nine years, writes its founder Brewster Kahle in a blog about the issue.

“Publishers are seeking to shut this library down, claiming copyright law does not allow it. Our response is simple: Copyright law does not stand in the way of libraries’ rights to own books, to digitize their books, and to lend those books to patrons in a controlled way,” write Kahle.

Beyond ending the practice of CDL, the publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House) call for the destruction of the 1.5 million digital books that Internet Archive makes available to public. The move would be a “digital book burning” that would harm individuals with disabilities who rely on digital access to information, notes Kahle who urges the companies to drop the suit.

“As we launch into a fall semester that is largely remote, we must offer our students the best information to learn from—collections that were purchased over centuries and are now being digitized,” writes Kahle. “What is at stake with this lawsuit? Every digital learner’s access to library books. That is why the Internet Archive is standing up to defend the rights of hundreds of libraries that are using Controlled Digital Lending.”

In a podcast released last week, Andrew Albanese of Publisher’s Weekly questioned the rationale of the lawsuit, noting:

“The Internet Archive makes what to me is a huge point, and is going to be a huge point in the suit: “The public derives tremendous benefit from the program, while rights holders will gain nothing if the public is deprived of this resource.”

To listen, click here:


SPARC has expressed support for CDL and the role that the Internet Archive plays in democratizing access to the world’s knowledge. To learn more, see our CDL resource page. You can read the statement here and add yourself or your organization as a signatory here.

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