“In response, the Internet Archive created the National Emergency Library, an online library of books in its collection that people could “borrow” for limited periods of time. All of the books included were more than 5 years old, and copyright owners could opt out on demand. The idea was to ensure that people had at least some access to books that were otherwise unavailable.
The evidence shows that people used the online library the same way they use a physical library. Most people used the books for a few minutes, long enough to confirm a fact or check a citation. A few people used the books for longer, presumably in order to read them.
What a success! In a time of need, a charitable organization made information available to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get it, at no cost to anyone. Sometimes, charitable organizations really can solve social problems efficiently and effectively.
But wait. The copyright cops went apoplectic. On their telling, the Internet Archive is a “piracy” organization, and the NEL is “cheating” authors by “defrauding” them of book sales. Essentially, they complained that the NEL was “anti-author” because it enabled people to borrow books electronically, rather than buying them. Every borrowed book was a lost sale, at least in their imagination. And they further imagined that the profits from those supposed lost sales would otherwise have gone to authors….”