A few days ago I told you that the Internet Archive had received a demand from 4 publishers for publishing books in digital format in an online library, something that many thanked in times of quarantine. Now the result is known: they have had to close it to avoid having to face each other in court.
The National Emergency Library was a program that made approximately 1.4 million books available to the public without the usual waiting lists.
The show has been terminated due to the copyright infringement lawsuit. The Internet Archive explained in a blog post that after June 16, it would revert to a controlled digital lending model, in which libraries lend users digitized copies of a physical book, one by one.
It was last Monday when four commercial publishers chose to sue the Internet Archive during the global pandemic, a lawsuit that could affect any library that owns and lends digital books, challenging the very idea of what a library is in the digital world. By eliminating waiting lists, the National Emergency Library program effectively changed the way publishers have so far controlled how libraries distribute electronic books.
Until now, publishers sell two-year licenses that cost a lot more than a book. What the Internet Archive program did is that an unlimited number of people could temporarily download a single e-book an infinite number of times between March 24 and June 30, the original end date of the program, to help during the quarantine.
In their complaint, Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, and John Wiley & Sons allege that, in addition to copyright infringement, the Internet Archive’s free e-book program vastly exceeds the library’s legitimate services and constitutes intentional digital piracy to industrial scale.
Publishers could claim up to 150,000 in damages for each published book, and that would cause the entire web to shut down, as it is a non-profit organization unable to bear the expense.
Controlled digital loans are not exclusive to the Internet Archive, so it seems that new rules will have to be defined.
You can see the Internet Archive article at this link.