Judge John G. Koeltl of the Southern District of New York has set March 20, 2023 as the date for oral arguments in four major publishers’ lawsuit against the Internet Archive’s digital library.
The following statement can be attributed to Lia Holland (they/she), Campaigns and Communications Director at Fight for the Future:
We’re eagerly awaiting the Internet Archive’s opportunity to have their day in court and speak up for the digital rights and future of all libraries in the US. This suit from major publishers has broad implications for libraries’ abilities to circulate digital books—namely, whether or not they are allowed to own and preserve digital books at all.
Currently, major publishers offer no option for libraries to permanently purchase digital books and carry out their traditional role of preservation. It is just as important to preserve digital books as paper books, given especially the rising popularity of digital books and the fact that many local and diverse voices are not published in print. We want a future where libraries are free to preserve digital book files and ensure they remain accessible to the public as well unaltered. Instead, libraries are forced to pay high licensing fees that regard patron privacy as a premium feature, and the third-party vendors like Overdrive that offer such licenses are vulnerable to censorship from book banners. Under this regime, publishers act as malicious gatekeepers, preventing the free flow of information and undermining libraries’ ability to serve their patrons.
This untenable situation is the direct consequence of shareholder greed at Big Publishing monopolies. Libraries owning and preserving books is not the reason that most authors are being paid ever less amid the past few years’ record publishing profits. The publishers’ suit against the Internet Archive’s library must be recognized for what it is: an attack on all libraries, conveniently aimed at a groundbreaking nonprofit that Big Publishing’s highly-paid lobbyists aggressively mischaracterize as a for-profit Big Tech company.
With a similar preservationist ethos to the Wayback Machine, another Internet Archive project considered essential infrastructure for our digital lives, the Internet Archive’s library provides access to and preservation of out-of-print, midlist, local, and diverse voices in addition to popular books. In many ways, this initiative is similar to the Brooklyn Public Library’s youth censorship circumvention efforts—but the Internet Archive’s library is accessible to everyone around the world, not just youth in the US. The Internet Archive’s digital books also are used for citations on Wikipedia, underpinning yet another core digital public good.
We hope that on March 20th Judge Koeltl will resoundingly free this robust and beloved institution from the greedy maw of Big Publishing.