A lower court judge in NY has ruled against the Internet Archive in a suit from major publishers that would terminate libraries’ last option to own and preserve digital books. In response, the Internet Archive has announced their intention to appeal, with a statement linked here.
The following statement can be attributed to Lia Holland (they/she) Campaigns and Communications Director at digital rights organization Fight for the Future:
“In a chilling ruling, a lower court judge in New York has completely disregarded the traditional rights of libraries to own and preserve books in favor of maximizing the profits of Big Media conglomerates.
We applaud the Internet Archive’s appeal announcement, as well as their steadfast commitment to preserving the rights of all libraries and their patrons in the digital age. And our admiration is shared—over 14,000 people having signed our pledge to defend libraries’ digital rights at BattleForLibraries.com this week alone.
From a basic human rights perspective, it is patently absurd to equate an ebook license issued through a surveillance-ridden Big Tech company with a digital book file that is owned and preserved by a privacy-defending nonprofit library. Currently, publishers offer no option for libraries to own and preserve digital books—leaving digital books vulnerable to unauthorized edits, censorship, or downright erasure, and leaving library patrons vulnerable to surveillance and punishment for what they read.
In a world where libraries cannot own, preserve, or control the digital books in their collections, only the most popular, bestselling authors stand to benefit—at the expense of the vast majority of authors, whose books are preserved and purchased by libraries well after publishers have stopped promoting them. Further, today a disproportionate number of traditionally marginalized and local voices are being published in digital-only format, redoubling the need for a robust regime of library preservation to ensure that these stories survive for generations to come.
A future in which libraries are just a shell for Big Tech’s licensing software and Big Media’s most popular titles would be awful—but that’s where we’re headed if this decision stands. No book-lover who wants an equitable and trustworthy written world could find such a future desirable. Accordingly, we plan to organize an in-person action to demand robust ownership and preservation standards for digital books and libraries. For updates on when and where, check BattleForLibraries.com.”