Librarians Should Support the Internet Archive (Opinion)

The Internet Archive, a nonprofit library in San Francisco, has become one of the most important cultural institutions of the modern era. What began in 1996 as a bold effort to archive and preserve the World Wide Web has grown into a vast library of books, music recordings, and TV shows, all digitized and available online, with the goal of providing “universal access to all knowledge.”

Right now, we’re at a critical juncture in a still-pending copyright infringement lawsuit against the Internet Archive, brought by four of the world’s largest for-profit publishers, who are trying to shut down basic programs from the archive to libraries and library users around the world. Let’s hope they don’t succeed.

You’ve probably heard of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, which stores billions of web pages from around the world. Fewer are familiar with its other extraordinary collections, which include 41 million digitized books and texts, with more than 3 million books available for borrowing. To make this possible, the Internet Archive uses a practice known as “controlled digital lending”, “through which a library owns a book, digitizes it and lends the physical book or digital copy to one user at a time”.

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Despite its incredible library collection, which serves the needs of millions of people, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons Inc. and Penguin Random House claim that the Internet Archive is not a real library.

In their lawsuit against the Internet Archive, which could extract millions of dollars from nonprofits, the publishers claim that the Internet Archive “grossly misleads the public and boldly abuses the goodwill that libraries enjoy and have rightfully earned”. In their view, the archive’s “attempt to present itself as a library” is part of a plan to “fraudulently mislead” people, violate copyright laws and limit the profits that publishers can take advantage of in the e-book market. They describe the Internet Archive as a “piracy site” and its business model as “parasitic and illegitimate” and identify regulated digital lending as “an invented paradigm that falls outside copyright law”.

The Internet Archive, instead, argues that the practice of regulated digital lending constitutes fair use under copyright law and claims that “libraries have practiced CDL for more than a decade, and hundreds of libraries use it for lending. Today is e-book.

Why is it so important to publishers that the Internet Archive not be identified as a library? Mainly because Congress has long recognized the valuable role libraries play in our copyright system and has made special allowances in law for their work. In this case, publishers are seeking to redefine the Internet Archive on their own terms, and in doing so, deny them the ability to take advantage of the same legal tools that thousands of other libraries use to lend and distribute content to our users.

The argument that the Internet Archive is not a library is wrong. If this argument is accepted, the results will compromise the future development of digital libraries nationwide. The Internet Archive is the largest specialized library to emerge in decades. It is one of the only major memory institutions to emerge from the rise of the Internet. It is a modern cultural institution deliberately created in response to the technological revolution we have experienced.

Libraries are defined by collections, services, and standards. inside Librarian’s Book List (ALA, 2010), George M. Eberhart provides this definition: “A library is a collection of resources in various formats that (1) are created by information professionals or other specialists who (2) provide physical, digital, bibliographic, or intellectual access and (3) targeted services and Providing programs (4) aimed at educating, informing or entertaining a diverse audience (5) and aimed at stimulating individual learning and advancing society as a whole.

The Internet Archive has all these features. It is a unique independent research library, with its holdings available entirely in digital form. Its extensive physical and digital collections are unique. It employs librarians and other information professionals. It is open to all interested readers. It collaborates with peer libraries to help archive contemporary information and discourse exposed on the World Wide Web. It has an active community of scholars who rely on its collections. And it is a committed, responsive, resource-sharing partner for hundreds of peer libraries. It is now an integral part of the interlibrary loan system, sharing its holdings with other libraries around the world. It shares the core values ​​of all libraries: preservation, access, privacy, intellectual freedom, diversity, lifelong learning, and the public good. And it does all this without commercial motives as a mission-driven nonprofit.

Those of us who have worked with the Internet Archive or taken advantage of its many offerings have long considered the organization a peer. The Internet Archive fulfills the mission of a library in ways we could only dream of decades ago.

We cannot defend ourselves against lawsuits from publishers. We can, however, support the Internet Archive in fighting for the right to buy, hold and lend books, which libraries do.

The article is in Bengali

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