The following organizations are deeply troubled by Fight for the Future’s letter “In Solidarity with Libraries” that a number of authors have signed. While there are principles stated in the letter with which we agree, it is highly misleading both regarding the lawsuits that publishers have filed against the Internet Archive’s Open Library and in falsely equating the Open Library project with the purchasing and lending practices of public libraries generally.
The truth is that the lawsuit is completely unrelated to current practices of real libraries. The Internet Archive’s Open Library operates an unlicensed digital copying and distribution business that copies millions of literary works without permission and gives them away for free in direct violation of U.S. copyright law.
Here are five facts that IA and Fight for the Future do not want you to know:
- In speaking with authors who signed this letter because they support public libraries, as we do, they feel misled about the purpose of this letter. For instance, Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) disavows the letter and supports the lawsuit.
- The lawsuit against Open Library is completely unrelated to the traditional rights of libraries to own and preserve books. It is about Open Library’s attempt to stretch fair use to the breaking point – where any website that calls itself a library could scan books and make them publicly available – a practice engaged in by ebook pirates, not libraries.
- Fight for the Future is closely related with IA; it is not an independent organization.
- While we agree with both IA and Fight for the Future that “libraries are a fundamental collective good,” between 2011 and 2020, IA had the gall to charge the small percentage of US public libraries and universities it works with more than $35 million to scan the books in their collections. That $35 million could have been spent to purchase eBook licenses legally for library patrons to check out and ensure that the authors who wrote the books received the royalties they are entitled to under copyright law.
- The lawsuit is being brought only against IA’s Open Library; it will not impact in any way the Wayback Machine or any other services IA offers.
As a founding member of the American Library Association’s Unite Against Book Bans Coalition, the Authors Guild and many of the other organizations below are working very closely with both publishers and libraries to combat the massive attacks on free speech currently taking place across the nation—the most urgent issue today for anyone who loves books and free expression.
Instead of churning up animosity amongst publishers, authors and libraries by issuing misinformation about the Open Library and the lawsuit and other publisher activities, we challenge both the Internet Archive and Fight for the Future to join with us to decry the book removals as well as the legislation in 15 states that censors ideas and bans books that children and young adults, particularly students of color and those who identify as LGBTQ+, so desperately need access to.
The Authors Guild
American Photographic Artists
American Society for Collective Rights Licensing
American Society of Media Photographers
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
Society of Authors (U.K.)
International Authors Forum
National Press Photographers Association
Romance Writers of America
Graphic Artists Guild
Sisters in Crime
Canadian Authors Association
Western Writers of America
Writers’ Union of Canada
Horror Writers Association
National Writers Union
Dramatists Guild of America
European Federation of Journalists
International Federation of Journalists
European Writers’ Council
Society of American Travel Writers
Textbook & Academic Authors Association