National Library of New Zealand Reconsiders Agreement with Internet Archive

The National Library of New Zealand, which had announced plans to ship more than 400,000 books they are de-listing from their Overseas Published Collections catalogs to the Internet Archive for digitization and inclusion in its Open Library, now is reconisdering “in light of concerns raised by the various interested parties, including issues associated with copyright.” The National Library will not export any of the OPC until it “consider[s] its next steps.”

The decision follows warnings issued by SFWA and The Authors Guild to members that they had until December 1 to opt out of digitization if their books were among those being transferred.

The Authors Guild reports that in November authors held a protest in Wellington calling for the library to respect copyright. And the New Zealand Society of Authors and the Publishers Association have filed a petition with New Zealand’s Attorney General to investigate the legality of the partnership between the National Library and the Internet Archive.

National Librarian Te Pouhuaki Rachel Esson said in a press release that the National Library has listened to multiple views and worked hard to support New Zealanders’ ongoing access to books from the Overseas Published Collections.

“We are aiming to balance our duty to all New Zealanders with the concerns of our valued book sector colleagues and will continue to build relationships with them,” says Ms Esson.

Ms Esson also says, “It is part of the National Library’s mission to remove barriers to knowledge, ensure New Zealanders have the skills to create knowledge and preserve knowledge for future generations. We are taking some time to look at all available options that align with our collection plans, while preserving author and publisher interests.”

When the project first began mid-2018 it appeared likely that books remaining at the end of the process would face secure destruction. The National Library continues to work to avoid this outcome.

SFWA says its Legal Affairs committee “will continue to follow further developments closely.”

16 thoughts on “National Library of New Zealand Reconsiders Agreement with Internet Archive

  1. Most excellent. Libraries don’t owned the copyrights on the books in their collections any more than you or I do, so they don’t have the right to do what this Library did. It’s that simple.

  2. Unfortunately, what this also means is that almost all of these books will be destroyed and lost forever. I can’t say I think that is any better a result. 🙁

  3. Good point. Though isn’t that also what will happen to the books even if the Internet Archives plan is allowed to go through? They scan the books, then what? Into the dumpster?

  4. Mike Glyer: isn’t that also what will happen to the books even if the Internet Archives plan is allowed to go through? They scan the books, then what? Into the dumpster?

    Right, but once they were scanned, they would be indexed and come up in peoples’ searches for various subjects or people. So they would be a research resource that is now not going to exist.

    I agree that violation of author copyright is not a good answer. But there don’t seem to be any good answers when it comes to books which are still in copyright but get deaccessioned and lost forever.

  5. Mike Glyer: isn’t that also what will happen to the books even if the Internet Archives plan is allowed to go through? They scan the books, then what? Into the dumpster?

    Actually I read that the books that the Internet Archive scans are then put into storage, in the event that better scanners are developed, so that way they can be re-scanned at higher resolution and into newer file formats.

    The chairman of the Internet Archive has stated that one of the goals of the Internet Archive is to own a physical copy of every book ever published. He says that they will never get there, but they will try.

  6. I read that the books that the Internet Archive scans are then put into storage, in the event that better scanners are developed, so that way they can be re-scanned at higher resolution and into newer file formats.

    The Internet Archive retains the books because the whole idea behind the Controlled Digital Lending model they use to justify making digital versions available requires a physical copy to be held for every simultaneous viewer of a digital copy. If they hold one physical copy, then one viewer at a time can see it online. If they hold two physical copies, then two viewers at a time can see them.

    And despite the statements here that the IA does not have the right to do this, Sec. 108(a) of the copyright act gives libraries the right to make copies of works and make those copies available to the public under circumstances that may apply to what the IA does. Publishers and writers are currently suing the IA over the issue, and once the case is resolved, we’ll all know if what they are doing is okay or not. But right now, this is by no means a settled issue.

  7. I really wish that the Internet Archive hadn’t violated copyright law at the beginning of the pandemic with their online library, and that they did a better job checking incoming uploads for copyright and content. With the Wayback Machine and their valid archiving of public domain works they provide an invaluable service to the world.

  8. I think it’s useful to remember that copyright is fundamentally about a quid-pro-quo.

    The purpose of copyright is to enrich the public domain – to support the arts and sciences and enable the creation of more works in the public domain, for the enjoyment and use (including copying, modifying, mashing up, building on top of …) of everyone.

    The mechanism that copyright uses to try to achieve its purpose is to give creators a limited monopoly on the use, in particular on the commercial use, of what they create – so that they can gain financially from the thing they create, rather than someone else, thus enabling them to get paid fr the things they create and allowing them to create that thing in the first place, and perhaps more things after that. This monopoly is, however, limited in time: that copyright expires at which time the work eventually actually enters the public domain.

    So any work that gets created and published, but which effectively disappears before it can enter the public domain, could be seen to mis-use copyright – only reaping the benefit of copyright for the creator, without giving the benefit to everyone else of the work entering the public domain and becoming available to everyone to use.

    Seen in that context, archiving works so that they will remain available at and after the time that they should enter the public domain is very much in the spirit of achieving the purpose of copyright: enriching the public domain.

  9. I don’t mind living authors objecting, but copyright should expire on death. And as we pretty know whether authors with commercial stakes in their published works are still alive, it would be a simple filter the IA could apply. Of course there are edge cases, but they should not block the principle.

    I plan to upload 10Gb of SF convention material to the IA soon.

  10. https://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/books/127618485/help-us-the-national-librarys-unsolvable-dilemma

    Looks like the NZ National Library is now begging for an option other than recycling for these books. What a waste. And for what? What exactly are the rights holders losing in the proposed (now abandoned) scenario? How does controlled digital lending (CDL) hurt the rights holder when the library is not adding to the supply-side of the equation (no additional books are actually being distributed – one copy is made available to one person at a time, just as libraries have done for generations, under legal protections)?

    If anything, sharing out of print books could spark renewed interest in them… possibly even to the point where they once again become viable commercial products for which the publisher would still have the sole right to exploit related economic rights.

    Remember, libraries aren’t making any money in this scenario. Instead, they are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars to connect readers with underused books (that someone already paid the rights holder for).

    Does anyone know what the actual (evidence-based and specific) rights holder concerns were in this scenario? It’s hard to imagine one that doesn’t also obliterate any rationale for having a library as a public good.

  11. @Amanda–

    Does anyone know what the actual (evidence-based and specific) rights holder concerns were in this scenario? It’s hard to imagine one that doesn’t also obliterate any rationale for having a library as a public good.

    For a time during the pandemic, The Internet Archive decided that they had the right, due to conditions, to “lend” unlimited numbers of copies of books which they legally owned only one copy. They eventually had to back down, but there’s no obvious reason why publishers, authors, or other creatives and rights holders to simply trust their (claimed) good intentions now, unless it’s in a clear, explicit contract with the rights holders themselves.

    It’s embarrassing that librarians ever agreed to this in the first place.

  12. Thanks for that, Lis. So it was the National Emergency Library, which as you mention removed one of the CDL safeguards (the own-to-loan ratio waitlists) during the first wave of the pandemic when no one had access to print library books, that has created a lack of faith that the Internet Archive would respect CDL safeguards now? It’s not a problem with CDL itself? That is a position I can understand, just want to make sure that’s what you meant.

  13. Amanda, yes, exactly. The CDL is important for libraries. What the Internet Archive did with the “National Emergency Library” was unilaterally and without any authority to do so, was dump the “Controlled” part.

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  15. Good to know the problem wasn’t with the legal framework of existing CDL services, as it seems fairly solid and these services are being implemented by a number of libraries (especially in North America) and also being seriously considered by libraries around the world. Many eyes are watching the unfolding lawsuit on this issue, which I believe is considering both NEL and CDL.

    I wonder if the NZ National Library considered setting up a CDL platform separate from the Internet Archive? Of course, it’s hard to imagine a library spending that kind of money to share works that fall outside their primary mandate.

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