Last week, the Internet Archive launched a “National Emergency Library” project to provide 1.4 million free books to users during the new coronavirus pandemic,media reported. The library, which is intended to serve those who cannot use ordinary classrooms or public libraries, will be open to the world before June 30 or the end of a state of emergency in the United States.
But it also raises the question of whether the books in the Internet Archive’s collection are legal. Does it hurt the writer?
The Emergency Library is an extension of the Open Library, which has teamed up with major libraries to scan the books on the books it holds. For nearly a decade, it has allowed people to “borrow” books through waiting lists, allowing them to get as many books as paper books. In the library’s view, this amounts to borrowing an entity book from a branch of the local library.
But the emergency library took a further step during this extraordinary period, suspending the waiting list so that every reader could immediately get the books they wanted to read. “This is a response to a lot of inquiries from educators asking about the capacity of our lending system and the scale of the need to meet classroom needs because of the closure of the library,” wrote Chris Freeland, director of the Open Library. “
However, these changes have drawn condemnation from some writers. The Writers Guild of America said on Friday that it was shocked by the state’s emergency library’s practices and accused the Internet archive of spreading pirated content “by trampling on the rights of authors by sending their books around the world”.
Writers, including Colson Whitehead and N.K. Jemisin, joined the group in denouncing the project — “They illegally scanned books and put them online, (but) it wasn’t a library.” “
It is understood that while the Internet Archive offers unrestricted e-books in the public domain, the Emergency Library has a dedicated collection of still copyrighted books, including many popular novels. The most popular lists include Andre Asiman’s “Please Call Me By Your Name,” Margaret Atwood’s The Story of the Woman and J. K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. However, authors can contact the Internet Archive to request the removal of their books.
But in the eyes of the National Emergency Library, this is actually a win-win. Some people and libraries can’t afford e-books especially during the pandemic, the Second Internet Archive can help them access important resources, and others may go to borrow books they never bought for free and become longtime fans of an author. Of course, the Internet Archive still encourages people to buy books when they can afford it. Interestingly, writers complain that free online scanning undermines sales and future publishing agreements – and now the future of the book world looks particularly grim.