If It Looks Like a Library, It Must Be Bad

September 25, 2023

The Internet Archive is the best digital archive that preserves the Internet’s past as well as the old media, out of print books, and more. The Internet Archive (IA) has been the subject of various legal battles regarding copyright infringement, especially in its project to scan and lend library books. Publishers Weekly details the results of the recent court battle: “Judgment Entered In Publishers, Internet Copyright Case.”

Judge John G. Koeltl issued a summary judgment decision that the Internet Archive did violate copyright and infringed on the holders’ rights. The IA and the plaintiffs reached an semi-agreement about distributing digital copies of copyrighted material but the details are not finalized. The IA plans to appeal the judge’s decision. A large continent of record labels are also suing the IA for violating music copyright.

The IA has a noble mission but it should respect copyright holders. The Subreddit DataHoarder has a swan song for the archive: “The Internet Archive Will Die-Any Serious Attempts At Archiving It?” User mikemikehindpart laments about the IA’s demise and blames the IA’s leadership for the potential shutdown. His biggest concern is about preserving the archive:

“I can’t really figure out any non-conspiratorial explanation as to why the IA people have not organized a grand archiving of the IA itself while there is still time. Is there any such initiative going on that one could join?”

User mikemikehindpart lambasts the IA leaders and claims they will go down in as self-proclaimed martyrs while dutifully handing over their hard drives if authorities come knocking. This user wants to preserve the archive especially defunct software, old Web sites, and other media that is not preserved anywhere else:

“fear is that the courts will soon order the site to be suspended while the trial is ongoing, so as to not cause further harm to the rights holders. Like turning off a switch, poof.

Eventually the entire archive will be ordered destroyed, not just the books and music. And piracy of popular books and music will continue like nothing happened, but all those website snapshots, blogs and lost software will simply disappear, like so many Yahoo! groups did.”

The comments vary on efforts how to start efforts to preserve the IA, to non-helpful non-sequiturs, and a few realistic posts that the IA may continue. The realistic posts agree the IA could continue if it stop sharing the copyrighted material and a consensus might be reached among IA and its “enemies.”

There are also comments that point to a serious truth: no one else is documenting the Internet, especially free stuff. One poster suggested that the Library of Congress should partner with the IA. I see absolutely nothing wrong with that idea.

Whitney Grace, September 21, 2023


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