10,000 people supported the Internet Archive in the BattleForLibraries.com online rally. One day of oral arguments in big publisher snoopers to force the Internet Archive to delete 4 million digital books and block libraries nationwide from owning and preserving digital books, activists make their voices heard.
The Internet itself had something to say as the San Francisco-based Internet Archive braced for the latest round of attacks from four of the world's largest publishers in a suit aimed at ending all libraries last option to own and preserve digital books. As of noon PT, 11,000 activists had taken action and voiced their support for the nonprofit that curates the history of the web and a collection of over 37 million texts as well as the rights of all libraries to own and preserve digital books.
Author groups, library associations, researchers and organizers for causes such as Digital Rights, Medicare for All, and Universal Basic Income all voiced support for the Internet Archive, joining household names like Peter Gabriel, Neil Gaiman and Professor Lawrence Lessig in their recent defense of the digital rights of libraries. The Freedom of the Press Foundation and Wikimedia Foundation also chimed in.
Big Publishing shareholders shouldn't decide what books we can read or how we read, according to a pledge signed by over 11,000 people. Their profit-motivated attack on the Internet Archive library is an attack on all libraries rights to own and preserve digital books. It is an attack on our ability to access uncensored books no matter where we live or what our incomes are. Today was an historic moment for the digital rights of libraries. We were disappointed to see Judge Koeltl focus so much on the economic impact of the oral arguments on the oral arguments, as the court could have substituted print book for digital book and had essentially the same exchange on library impact. No one is disputing whether libraries should be allowed to own and preserve print books, and digital books should be treated the same. With NPR coverage of libraries starting to transition to digital-only collections, it seems more important than ever that libraries digital rights be robustly defended.
Today, digital books are often the mediums of marginalized voices, local historians, authors who don't sell well, etc. It is important that traditional publishers preserve works against censorship and deletion. There is no institution better equipped to do so than libraries. Libraries must be able to offer digital books without having to worry about Big Tech intermediaries like Amazon and Overdrive, which are motivated by profit to invade the privacy of people seeking knowledge. Libraries have been an institution where everyone can learn without fear of punishment, regardless of whether they want information on religion or gender-affirming care. This shouldn't change simply because a book is on a screen rather than paper.
No matter what happens to the suit, we know that it is only one step in the long struggle to ensure that Big Media and Tech companies don't usurp the traditional role of libraries in the digital age. As this suit and other efforts move into mainstream consciousness, it's becoming increasingly evident that libraries' rights to own, preserve and curate their collections have broad public support. Today, we were heartened to see the internet showing up to demand that libraries traditional roles of owning and preserving books continue into the digital age.