In the view of coronavirus pandemic, Internet Archive launched its National Emergency Library back in March. It is a free ebook program that made over 1.4 million books available to the public without the usual waitlist system of Internet Archive for reading books.
But after receiving lawsuits from four major publishers for copyright infringement, Internet Archive has decided to end the free ebook program on June 15 — two weeks before the original June 30 date.
The lawsuit was filed by Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, and John Wiley & Sons. It alleges that apart from violating copyrights, the National Emergency Library “grossly exceed legitimate library services” and amounts to “digital piracy” on a massive scale.
From June 16, Internet Archive will return to its controlled digital lending model, in which readers can borrow digitized copies of a book one at a time via waiting lists.
The publishers aren’t just trying to kill the temporary free ebook program. Their complaint says that controlled digital lending is an “invented theory” and contends that one-to-one conflation of print and ebooks by Internet Archive is “fundamentally flawed.”
But it isn’t just the Internet Archive that uses this framework for lending books. Several university libraries like UC Berkeley Library has been using this model to help readers.
In its blogpost, IA wrote that “this lawsuit is not just about the temporary National Emergency Library. 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.”