At the end of March, when quarantine measures began to arrive in the United States, the Internet Archive announced its decision to create the ‘National Emergency Library’, which would give access to 1.4 million books that were already part of the catalogue of another of its projects, the Open Library.
This ’emergency library’ (whose novelty compared to the Open Library was that it suspended the waiting lists currently in force in the lending processes) was to remain active, according to the original plan of its promoters, until the 30th of this month … or later, if the national emergency situation in the U.S. was prolonged.
However, the Internet Archive has had to announce the suspension of its initiative early (it will finally be at the beginning of next week) because of a joint lawsuit filed by the main publishers, including the giants of the sector in the US: Penguin Random House and HarperCollins.
The motivation of the Internet Archive was to help “all those who are forced to study at home” and therefore do not have access to public libraries to continue to consult the material they need, but the publishers (who own the distribution rights to many of these works) claim that lending books indiscriminately and without compensation constituted a “massive infringement of their copyright”:
“The Internet Archive scans books from start to finish, publishes complete digital files on its website and asks users to access them for free by registering on its website.
The scale of the infringement described in the complaint seems to make Internet Archive one of the world’s largest books piracy sites”.
Fortunately for Library users, in most countries affected by the coronavirus in recent months, library service is already beginning to be re-established.