Open Thread - Thurs 23 Mar 2023: The Internet Archive
The Internet Archive
The Internet Archive, also known as the Wayback Machine, is a 'non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more'.
The part of it known as the Wayback Machine has over 800 billion snapshots of websites taken throughout the history of the Internet. Wanna see how a website has changed? The Wayback Machine can help with that. Wanna see if a website has removed some content, for whatever reason? The Wayback Machine can often show you the removed content. Wanna see an old website that's been removed? The Wayback Machine can help with that too!
As for books, well, I love the Internet Archive for that. Much like google books, but predating it, and non-profit, the Internet Archive has scans of over 37 million books and texts. These books can be old, out of print, hard to access through a library... but there they are, scanned and available to all. The Internet Archive is a great resource for music too, and movies and more.
Recently, four giant publishers have sued the Internet Archive over digital books. During the Covid crisis, the Archive let children (and others) borrow e-books, to use and read at home, without fees and other restrictions, because the children (and others) couldn't access schools and/or physical libraries. This lawsuit
against the nonprofit Internet Archive threatens the future of all libraries. Big publishers are suing to cut off libraries’ ownership and control of digital books, opening new paths for censorship. Oral arguments are on March 20.
(emphasis mine). But, note that this article from Vox says the lawsuit might not be the 'existential threat' to the Internet Archive that it seems it could be.
The Internet Archive is being defended by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) with co-counsel Durie Tangri. This article on the EFF website explains more about the lawsuit and what's being targeted. Basically the Internet Archive (and other libraries) have developed a program called 'Controlled Digital Lending' (CDL). This program lets people borrow digital books (e-books) much like they'd borrow a physical book from a library. The digital book can be checked out
for two weeks or less, and only permits patrons to check out as many copies as the Archive and its partner libraries physically own. That means that if the Archive and its partner libraries have only one copy of a book, then only one patron can borrow it at a time, just like any other library. Through CDL, the Internet Archive is helping to foster research and learning by helping its patrons access books and by keeping books in circulation when their publishers have lost interest in them.
As mentioned above, the oral arguments happened just a couple of days ago. I don't know the official outcome, it hasn't been released yet. This twitter account has a lot of tweets about the Internet Archive and the lawsuit and its affects on libraries (digital and physical). These tweets include commentary and transcriptions of the oral arguments presented to the judge on March 20 as well as links to other articles about the lawsuit and about CDL and libraries.
I guess the thing that strikes me, and depresses me, is how indicative this whole lawsuit is of the way the internet is being closed down, monetized, and basically, destroyed. Ok, maybe not completely destroyed, but a lot of the stuff I love is being removed or ruined or stifled. All for the sake of the almighty dollar. Let's hope the judge rules fairly and lets CDL become a path for book lending for libraries in the digital future.
I can understand wanting one's book to 'sell', all authors want that, including me. Authors also want tons of people to read their book(s), and I know that libraries, digital and physical, are the way that will happen. I guess that puts me at odds with publishers and on the side of the Internet Archive.
So, thanks for reading and here's the open thread - and remember, everything is interesting if you dive deep enough, so tell us about where you're diving!