In effort to make it easier for educators and students to access books during the pandemic, the Internet Archive launched its National Emergency Library back in March of this year with 1.3m books available for checkout, free of charge.
In a blog post, the Internet Archive provided more details on how its National Emergency Library system works, saying:
“Users will be able to borrow books from the National Emergency Library without joining a waitlist, ensuring that students will have access to assigned readings and library materials that the Internet Archive has digitized for the remainder of the US academic calendar, and that people who cannot physically access their local libraries because of closure or self-quarantine can continue to read and thrive during this time of crisis, keeping themselves and others safe.”
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While the creation of the National Emergency Library by the Internet Archive was well-intended, publishers argued that it “exceeded legitimate library services” in a suit filed in New York federal court.
National Emergency Library
Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley and Penguin Random House's lawsuit against the Internet Archive's National Emergency Library never ended up going to court, though it did have the desired effect.
Internet Archive has now announced that its library will close on June 15 which is two weeks ahead of the date it was originally scheduled to close. While the publishers may have won this round, Internet Archive explained in a second blog post that their complaint challenges the the very idea of what a library is in the digital world, saying:
“The complaint attacks the concept of any library owning and lending digital books, challenging the very idea of what a library is in the digital world. This lawsuit stands in contrast to some academic publishers who initially expressed concerns about the NEL, but ultimately decided to work with us to provide access to people cut off from their physical schools and libraries. We hope that similar cooperation is possible here, and the publishers call off their costly assault.”
In the end, publishers took issue with the fact that the National Emergency Library lacked licensing fees as well as other agreed upon restrictions that traditional libraries have.
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