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Reclaiming Control: The Internet Archive Empowers People. Gatekeepers Keep Suing

Tech Dirt: “…About a year and a half later, the Internet Archive was sued for providing books in this manner to the public. The suit was triggered by a short-lived, well meaning program that made books available to students during a dark part of the pandemic by lifting certain restrictions on how many people at a time could borrow a given library title. That lawsuit just came to a judgment, ordering the Archive to take down a part of their collection and striking a blow to Controlled Digital Lending more generally, though the Archive will appeal. To be clear: what the Internet Archive is doing is traditional library lending in a digital form, and frankly not radical – I can just get access to the materials I want much more quickly through the Archive, but I must also return them much more quickly. There is no situation in which acquiring a recipe from an obsolete edition of Brody’s first cookbook with no ebook equivalent would hurt her royalties. Libraries have traditionally bought one copy of a book and then lent it, much like they do with CDL, which maintains an “owned to loaned” ratio through sequestering materials. While big publishers would have you believe that people are flocking to the Internet Archive to borrow and read these scans for free rather than relying on the “thriving ebook licensing market for libraries,” they ignore a few crucial facts to advance a bad faith argument about market harm: the average time readers spend with an Internet Archive scan is under 30 minutes. People seem to be using these materials as intended: as reference, grabbing just the bit of information they need…

Creators deserve more. As the SAG AFTRA strike has shown, large, organized communities can disrupt an entire industry by fighting for their rights. Rather than adopting a passive position against corporate overreach in the face of an digital licensing industry where one major company dominates up to 85% of the digital book market (Amazon) and another dominates up to 90% of the library lending market (Overdrive/Libby), we can come together and fight for fairer contracts, particularly when it comes to licensing rights and equitable downstream uses of work. And in my own community of librarians, we must stop infighting about whether we agree with the Archive’s position, or whether Controlled Digital Lending is legal or not. We have to work together to wrest power from the large corporations that dominate commercial publishing. The future of knowledge depends on it.”

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