A Timeline of The National Emergency Library Controversy

A Timeline of The National Emergency Library Controversy

The National Emergency Library initiative was launched by the Internet Archive a few months ago, as a response to US libraries shutting down due to the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak. Since then it’s become the subject of much discussion regarding accessibility to information and the question of rights in book digitization and digital lending.

As a retrospective today, and an anecdote for the future, we’ve thrown together a timeline of events so far:

January 7, 2020
Disease Discovered!

A new type of coronavirus is discovered in the midst of a pneumonia outbreak in China.[1]

This virus would later be dubbed 2019-nCoV[2] or SARS-CoV-2[3], and the associated disease would go on to be known as COVID-19[4].

January 7, 2020
March 11, 2020
Pandemic!

The spread of the disease reaches such high levels that the World Health Organization officially declares COVID-19 a pandemic[5].

March 11, 2020
March 13, 2020
National Emergency Declared

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, a National Emergency is proclaimed in the US[6].

March 13, 2020
March 13, 2020
The “Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research” Statement

Social distancing measures led colleges and universities to turn to remote learning.

Copyright Specialists and Librarians across the US release a public statement[7] on what constitutes fair use and what steps educators can take to avoid infringing on copyright, while still being able to provide access to educational materials for students.

March 13, 2020
March 17, 2020
ALA advices libraries to close

The American Library Association advices libraries across the US to close down until the outbreak subsides[8].

March 17, 2020
March 24, 2020
National Emergency Library

In light of recent events, The Internet Archive officially launches the National Emergency Library[9].

Different from IA’s standard lending, where only one user can borrow a given item at a time, throughout the NEL program waitlists are suspended, allowing for multiple people to borrow the same item.

March 24, 2020
March 26, 2020
Positive Coverage

The New Yorker[10] described it as a “gift to readers everywhere”.

NPR[11] called it a “compelling alternative [to a public library]”.

March 26, 2020
March 27, 2020
Condemnation

The Association of American Publishers[12] and The Author’s Guild of America[13] both condemn the NEL form of loaning to be “uncontrolled” and “infringing”.

March 27, 2020
March 30, 2020
Negative Coverage

The New York Times gives voice to authors feeling threatened by the NEL[14].

NPR apologizes for their over-optimism and acknowledges the IA had not asked for permission for the books they’ve made available, from the respective writers and publishers, who considered this indifferent from piracy[15].

March 30, 2020
March 30, 2020
Internet Archive Response

IA addresses misunderstandings and misconceptions about the NEL.

Furthermore, authors are reminded that they have the chance to issue take-downs of their books, if they feel their rights to have been infringed. [16]

March 30, 2020
March 31, 2020
Internet Archive Down

Surge in activity crashes the Internet Archive’s servers[17].

March 31, 2020
April 8, 2020
Senate Involvement

Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on IP Chairman Thom Tillis sends a warning letter to Brewster Kahle of IA, expressing his concerns over the legal basis of the NEL initiative[18].

April 8, 2020
April 10, 2020
Brewster Kahle’s Response

Brewster Kahle responds with a lot of the same points on the legitimacy of the IA as a library which were stated in the March 30 Response, and how he believes the NEL constitutes fair use[18].

April 10, 2020
June 1, 2020
Lawsuit

Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley and Penguin Random House sue IA for their NEL program as well as their OpenLibrary program, which long predates the COVID-19 crisis[19].

June 1, 2020
June 10, 2020
Updated Deadline

IA makes an announcement stating that they will be shutting down the NEL program early[20].

June 10, 2020
June 16, 2020
Closure

NEL is expected to shutdown.

June 16, 2020

A lot has happened these past few months, and there is very much certainly a whole lot more to be said. Which is why we’ll be doing an in-depth analysis of the situation in the coming days. Stay tuned!


Sources:

[1]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jggndUgvhrk
[2]https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200121-sitrep-1-2019-ncov.pdf?sfvrsn=20a99c10_4
[3]https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200211-sitrep-22-ncov.pdf?sfvrsn=fb6d49b1_2
[4]https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/technical-guidance/naming-the-coronavirus-disease-(covid-2019)-and-the-virus-that-causes-it
[5]https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19—11-march-2020
[6]https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-declaring-national-emergency-concerning-novel-coronavirus-disease-covid-19-outbreak
[7]https://docs.google.com/document/d/10baTITJbFRh7D6dHVVvfgiGP2zqaMvm0EHHZYf2cBRk/preview#
[8]http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2020/03/ala-executive-board-recommends-closing-libraries-public
[9]http://blog.archive.org/2020/03/24/announcing-a-national-emergency-library-to-provide-digitized-books-to-students-and-the-public/
[10]https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-national-emergency-library-is-a-gift-to-readers-everywhere
[11]https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/03/26/821925073/national-emergency-library-lends-a-hand-and-lots-of-books-during-pandemic
[12]https://publishers.org/news/comment-from-aap-president-and-ceo-maria-pallante-on-the-internet-archives-national-emergency-library/
[13]https://www.authorsguild.org/industry-advocacy/internet-archives-uncontrolled-digital-lending/
[14]https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/30/books/internet-archive-emergency-library.html?ref=oembed
[15]https://www.npr.org/2020/03/30/823797545/authors-publishers-condemn-the-national-emergency-library-as-piracy
[16]http://blog.archive.org/2020/03/30/internet-archive-responds-why-we-released-the-national-emergency-library/
[17]https://twitter.com/internetarchive/status/1244792891186106369?s=20
[18]https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20200414/11273744299/senator-tillis-angry-internet-archive-helping-people-read-during-pandemic-archive-explains-why-thats-wrong.shtml
[19]https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/6935704/4388-1.pdf
[20]https://blog.archive.org/2020/06/10/temporary-national-emergency-library-to-close-2-weeks-early-returning-to-traditional-controlled-digital-lending/

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