The National Library of New Zealand (NLNZ) is halting its donation of 600,000 books from its overseas collection to the Internet Archive in response to mounting pressure from author and publisher groups around the world, including the Authors Guild, which sent out an alert to its members last week encouraging them to opt out of the program by the stated deadline of December 1. On Monday, November 29, the NLNZ issued a statement announcing that it was “reconsidering” plans “in light of concerns raised by interested parties, including issues associated with copyright."
The decision to donate books to Internet Archive—an entity currently embroiled in a copyright infringement lawsuit—for digitization and lending was decried by authors and author organizations around the world. Earlier this month, authors held a protest in Wellington calling for the library to respect copyright. The New Zealand Society of Authors and the Publishers Association have been leading the charge, including by filing a petition with New Zealand's Attorney General to investigate the legality of the partnership.
While the fate of the 600,000 books, which include thousands of books by U.S. authors that are protected by copyright, remains unclear, the NLNZ's statement strongly suggests that the library is looking for alternative ways to dispose the retiring collection, including through destruction. The NLNZ has said that it is "taking some time to look at all available options that align with our collection plans, while preserving author and publisher interests.”
The Authors Guild has been a staunch opponent of Internet Archive’s attempts to digitize and distribute copyrighted books without the authorization of authors or publishers. As the Authors Guild has previously written, the Internet Archive has scanned more than 1.4 million physical books and posts those scans on its websites for anyone in the world to read without the permission or payment to the author, relying on a faulty legal theory called “Controlled Digital Lending” that the U.S. courts have already flatly rejected. The Internet Archive has been propagating its services and the faulty copyright theory internationally, but, as the New Zealand experience shows, authors around the world and the organizations that represent them remain ever vigilant and ready to fight any encroachment against their rights.
We will continue to support our New Zealand peers and deliver updates on the fate of the NLNZ’s overseas collections.