Book lovers, rejoice! The prolific Internet Archive—a digital archive of sites, media, and cultural artifacts for free public consumption—has recently unveiled the National Emergency Library. In an attempt to give more access to the public while local libraries are increasingly closed, the archive has suspended their two-week waitlists for copies of their materials through the month of June or until restrictions on these brick-and-mortar institutions are lifted.
Brewester Kahle, a digital librarian for the archive, says this emergency library is “coming to aid those that are forced to learn at home.” However, the publicity coming from the project’s announcement has stirred up old debates about the archive’s legality. According to NPR, the internet archive has received hundreds of copyright infringement notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 that prevents the sharing and circulation of digitized copyright material without permission.
Despite the archive’s reported compliance with these notices, many authors have taken to social media to critique the National Emergency Library. Citing severe monetary impacts for both authors and publishers, writers like Neil Gaiman have spoken out against the libraries’ temporary waitlist suspensions. Kahle assures critics that the library limits access to these works using the same system of controls that publishers do and have designed their loans to be encrypted files that disappear from computers after a short period of time.
Ultimately, while the internet continues to complicate legal procedures concerning copyright and ownership of digital content, the fact remains that the archive’s initiative does offer incredible opportunity for democratizing information in this time of crisis.
The Internet Archive suspends waitlists for their materials in their new National Emergency Library.
Library books may be a no-go these days — but the nonprofit Internet Archive is keeping digital bookshelves stocked through the end of the national coronavirus crisis. https://t.co/Qa01RQiyXw
— NPR (@NPR) March 26, 2020
However, it should be noted that Neil Gaiman, and other authors, are taking to social media to critique the Internet Archive’s project.
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) March 29, 2020
h/t: [Design Boom]