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The Internet Archive’s Literary Civil War

The beloved online athenaeum just lost a big court case

Here's a lesson I learned early in life: never piss off a librarian. Apparently, District Court Judge John Koetl skipped out on a formative traumatic-shushing experience, because his recent ruling against the Internet Archive, a beloved digital library nonprofit, has riled up the biblio-archivist community. 

Some brief background: During the early days of COVID lockdowns, the Internet Archive launched a program called the National Emergency Library, or NEL. Since library closures had ripped millions upon millions of books out of circulation, the Internet Archive wanted to help people stuck at home access information. The NEL was part of a larger project called the Open Libraries Initiative, where the Internet Archive scans physical copies of library books and lets people digitally check them out. 

It was always meant to be temporary, but the NEL shut down early after some of the largest publishing houses banded together to sue for copyright infringement. This week, Koetl sided with the publishers. He didn’t buy the Internet Archive’s argument that its digitization project fell under the Fair Use doctrine. Sample line: “There is nothing transformative about IA’s copying and unauthorized lending of the Works in Suit.” The Internet Archive plans to appeal

Please select this link to read the complete article from WIRED.

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