Open letter from Senator Tom Udall to the US Copyright Office

“Thank you for your work and leadership at the U.S. Copyright Office. I write to you in consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic’s recent effect on temporary library closures, and the subsequent availability of books and other media to the public, including materials used for distance learning of students facing extended school closures. I encourage your office to work with America’s libraries, within existing law, to maximize the availability of educational materials for the benefit of both students and the broader public, while respecting the copyrights of authors who rely on royalties for their livelihoods.

As part of this effort, I also urge you to examine the National Emergency Library that has been organized by the Internet Archive which is operating without typical library licenses and is causing authors in New Mexico concern about the integrity of their copyrights. While the Internet Archive is one outlet, there may be others who are taking similar actions or plan to pursue them in the future, so I believe legal guidance from your office on this topic is in the public interest….”

Libraries Do Not Need Permission To Lend Books: Fair Use, First Sale, and the Fallacy of Licensing Culture | Kyle K. Courtney

“Licensing culture is out of control. This has never been clearer than during this time when hundreds of millions of books and media that were purchased by libraries, archives, and other cultural intuitions have become inaccessible due to COVID-19 closures or, worse, are closed off further by restrictive licensing.

And, many of us have watched as librarians, educators, parents, and students have questioned (and battled) over to right to read books aloud online to schoolchildren or to stream movies or music for our new online “classroom” environment. We have also heard about resistance to emergency or temporary digital libraries to increase access to the materials needed for education and research during this pandemic….”

Playing Stickball in Canarsie? Better Learn Brooklyn Rules | NISO website

“The Internet Archive saw this in terms of a global need and moved to serve any population whose circumstances had deprived them of local access. At the same time, while content providers and libraries continued working to ensure that access to needed resources was available, the Internet Archive was drawing attention to the problem that, for some market segments, the model does not meet the need….

In a public health crisis, it’s easy to assume that existing practices will be set aside in favor of new societal conditions in order to meet an emerging need. For a more traditionally-understood information community, we understand that we’re operating within an imperfect, artificial construct with an intentionally limited view of technology and use. However, it is one that has been worked out in recent decades by publishers and librarians through adversarial as well as collaborative engagement….

Set aside for the moment worries about unanticipated legal precedents in copyright and the agony of renegotiating world treaties. One take-away from this global pandemic might be the humble recognition that there are existing needs in the marketplace that are not satisfactorily served by current access models….

Access models need to serve fundamental business requirements, of course, but surely there is room for improvement. The question is whether it is time to work out better possibilities, better models for satisfying information needs in a marketplace ready for new efficiencies and approaches. How might we innovate more successfully to ensure that critical information resources are made accessible to all?”

In Defense of the National Emergency Library: A Call to Library Solidarity and Partnership with the Internet Archive – Cal

“Public and university libraries have paid hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, to own, catalog, and preserve print books, only now to be rendered utterly incapable of providing access to them. That is a massive waste of public funds and decades of work by librarians.

Start with that Constitutional argument of public investment for the public good, and the protestations of for-profit publishers and the Authors Guild against the National Emergency Library fall flat and ring hollow.

Many national copyright experts and Library Deans have signed off on Controlled Digital Lending as legally sound and solid. Given the current and ongoing unavailability of print books from thousands of university and public libraries, it makes perfect sense why copyright experts such as Kyle Courtney at Harvard are very confident of the National Emergency Library as a legitimate application of Fair Use law….”

The Chilling Effect of Copyright Permissions on Academic Research: The Case of Communication Researchers | infojustice

Abstract:  Communications researchers in the U.S., who routinely analyze copyrighted material, both qualitatively and quantitatively, face challenges from strict copyright. The doctrine of fair use permits some unpermissioned use of copyrighted works. Survey research shows that researchers routinely need access to copyrighted material; that they are often unsure or confused, even unknowing, about fair use; and that this lack of knowledge and/or familiarity leads to both failure to execute and failure to initiate, or “imagination foregone.” Creating a best practices code has improved knowledge but more institutional change is needed for knowledge to inform action.


EU Joins In The Bullying Of South Africa For Daring To Adopt US-Style Fair Use Principles | Techdirt

“As part of its copyright reform, South Africa plans to bring in a fair use right. Despite the fact its proposal is closely modeled on fair use in American law, the copyright industry has persuaded the US government to threaten to kill an important free trade deal with South Africa if the latter dares to follow America’s example. If you thought only US copyright companies were capable of this stunningly selfish behavior, think again. It seems that the European copyright industry has been having words with the EU, which has now sent a politely threatening letter to the South African government about its copyright reform (pdf)….”

The LawBytes Podcast, Episode 47: Brewster Kahle, Chris Freeland and Kyle Courtney on the Internet Archive’s National Emergency Library – Michael Geist

“Communities around the world raced to respond to the coronavirus pandemic last month by shutting down as businesses, schools, and libraries were rendered unavailable seemingly in an instant. One of the effects of the shutdown was that hundreds of millions of books were immediately made inaccessible to students, teachers, and the wider community.  The Internet Archive responded with the National Emergency Library, a tweaked version of its Controlled Digital Lending program that brings scanned versions of millions of lawfully acquired books to readers under strict controls.

I’ve been a longstanding board member of Internet Archive Canada and was pleased to be joined on the podcast by Brewster Kahle (founder of Internet Archive), Chris Freeland (Director of Open Libraries at Internet Archive), and Kyle Courtney (lawyer, librarian and the copyright advisor at Harvard University) to talk about the Internet Archive, controlled digital lending, the National Emergency Library, and the copyright implications of recent developments….”

The National Emergency Library – Who Needs It? Who Reads It? Lessons from the First Two Weeks | Internet Archive Blogs

“At a time when every day can feel like a month, it’s hard to believe that the National Emergency Library has only existed for two weeks. Recognizing the unique challenges of connecting students and readers with books now on shelves they cannot reach, the Internet Archive loosened the restrictions on our controlled digital lending library to allow increased lending of materials. Reactions have been passionate, to say the least—elation by teachers able to  access our virtual stacks, concern by authors about the program’s impact, and fundamental questions about our role as a library in these dire times when one billion students worldwide are cut off from their classrooms and libraries….

Even with a preview function where readers can see the first few pages of a book, most people who go through the check out process are looking at the book for less than 30 minutes, with no more interactions until it is automatically returned two weeks later. We suspect that fewer than 10% of books borrowed are actually opened again after the first day (but we have more work to do to confirm this). Patrons may be using the checked-out book for fact checking or research, but we suspect a large number of people are browsing the book in a way similar to browsing library shelves….

90% of the books borrowed were published more than 10 years ago, two-thirds were published during the 20th century…

Suspicious Activity in the National Emergency Library? No, just the best kind of activity… | Internet Archive Blogs

“Since mid-2017 I’ve been conducting a long-term research project into the works of Isaac Asimov, with the aim of producing the most complete bibliography possible of this incredibly prolific author. The initial version ( was finished at the start of this year, and I used as one of the major sources of information. However, about a month ago I started a second pass through’s data, using text searching rather than metadata searching in order to carefully examine every single mention of Asimov to find items I’d missed….”

Online Learning and Copyright Exceptions for Education | infojustice

“As schools have closed in response to the Coronavirus 19 pandemic, interest in online learning has increased dramatically. Online learning often involves distributing copyrighted works online, so it is governed by copyright limitations that vary widely from one country to the next. Some countries allow teachers, parents, and/or students to share works or parts of works online for educational purposes. Other countries do not, or place different types of conditions on the limitation.  Earlier InfoJustice blogs have discussed copyright and distance learning in Ireland and Canada, and two blogs about the United States (one | two).

In 2018, PIJIP surveyed copyright profiles in 21 countries asking a wide range of questions about copyright exceptions. (We are in the process of surveying more countries, and currently have completed, coded data on 23.) The survey and all of the answers are available at One question in particular asked if countries’ laws allowing unauthorized uses for educational purposes applied to use in online courseware.  

16 of the 23 respondents said that their countries’ copyright laws “clearly” or “mostly/probably” allowed the online sharing of copyrighted works for educational purposes. 7 respondents said their countries’ laws did not. Both groups of countries include relatively wealthier and less wealthy countries. …”