There’s a copyright row breaking out in the US after the launch last week by the Internet Archive of something called the ‘National Emergency Library’. It’s not actually a brand new thing: it’s a change of policy for its existing ‘lending library’ for ebooks. The change is that people don’t have to join a waitlist for books – the idea being 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”.
Students are a particular focus. Is this a good thing? Not according to publishing-industry body The Author’s Guild, which is “appalled” by the decision. “IA has no rights whatsoever to these books, much less to give them away indiscriminately without consent of the publisher or author. We are shocked that the Internet Archive would use the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse to push copyright law further out to the edges, and in doing so, harm authors, many of whom are already struggling,” it explained in a blog post. People are piling in from both sides of the existing arguments about copyright and online rights, with battle drawn along familiar lines.