Authors Guild Sends Open Letter to Internet Archive and Brewster Kahle Demanding Open Library’s “National Emergency Library” Shut Down
More than 6,000 authors, readers and book lovers sign the letter
New York (May 20, 2020): The Authors Guild, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit advocacy group for published authors and journalists, sent an open letter to Internet Archive and its founder, Brewster Kahle, demanding that the “National Emergency Library,” an expansion of its Open Library, be shut down.
Whether lending one e-copy of a book at a time, which is how Open Library functions, or multiple e-copies, as is the case with the National Emergency Library, Internet Archive makes 1.4 million illegal book scans available for anyone in the world to read and download. It calls itself a library although it has none of the attributes of a real library and, most importantly, does not buy and license the books and e-books it gives away as a real library does.
“Writing a book is years in an author’s life. And we do not intend to give it away for nothing in return. You would not expect the same of someone who produced a sculpture, a car, an arrangement of beautiful flowers,” wrote Nancy Bowker, one of the 6,336 signatories to the letter.
Brewster Kahle’s assertions that readers do not otherwise have access to books in libraries’ collections during the COVID-19 crisis are simply false. Libraries today have licenses to thousands of e-books that they provide to their users; in many instances they have made it even easier than ever to borrow e-books during the COVID-19 crisis by purchasing additional e-book licenses for particularly in-demand titles or books students need for school. Some publishers and independently published authors have chosen to provide expanded and free access to e-books, and it is their right to do so—not Internet Archive’s.
“The bottom line is that Internet Archive is giving away books that it does not own, without permission, and providing no renumeration to the publishers or book authors,” said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild. “That an organization that is supported by many reputable foundations and libraries has expanded Open Library so that it is now no different than a rogue pirate site at a time when scores of authors are losing work and income is outrageous. Last year, full-time authors in the United States earned a median yearly income of just $20,300, and since the start of the pandemic, 55 percent of our members have reported losing a significant portion of their regular income.”
National Book Award winner Deirdre Bair (1935–2020), the Authors Guild council member who sparked the call for action against Internet Archive’s theft days before she passed away, inspired the letter.
To read the letter asking Internet Archive and Brewster Kahle to immediately shut down the National Emergency Library, click here.
About the Authors Guild
The Authors Guild is the nation’s oldest and largest professional organization for writers. Its mission is to empower working writers by advocating for the rights of authors and journalists. The Guild protects free speech and authors’ copyrights, fights for fair contracts and a living wage and provides an engaged and welcoming community for all published authors. For more, visit www.authorsguild.org.