Internet Archive Ends National Emergency Library Early After Lawsuit

Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library, was sued earlier this month by a group of publishers for copyright infringement over the distribution of digital copies of books without a license. Internet Archive announced it will close its temporary National Emergency Library two weeks early and will return to its traditional practice of controlled digital lending.

Internet Archive launched the temporary National Emergency Library (NEL) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic as schools and libraries closed. Internet Archive said it wanted to “provide books to support emergency remote teaching, research initiatives, independent scholarship, and intellectual stimulation during the closures.” The non-profit added that the National Emergency Library “has filled an important gap during this crisis.”

Internet Archive said “[w]e moved up our schedule because, last Monday, four commercial publishers chose to sue Internet Archive during a global pandemic…The complaint attacks the concept of any library owning and lending digital books, challenging the very idea of what a library is in the digital world. This lawsuit stands in contrast to some academic publishers who initially expressed concerns about the NEL, but ultimately decided to work with us to provide access to people cut off from their physical schools and libraries.”

The non-profit shared it would return to controlled digital lending, which “is how many libraries have been providing access to digitized books…Controlled digital lending is a legal framework, developed by copyright experts, where one reader at a time can read a digitized copy of a legally owned library book. The digitized book is protected by the same digital protections that publishers use for the digital offerings on their own sites.” Internet Archive has used this system for nine years.

Internet Archive added that it hopes to create a system that works for all: consumers, “libraries, authors, booksellers, and publishers.”