MTP readers will no doubt have been following the absurd “National Emergency Library” scam that anti-artist activist Brewster Kahle is pushing to the great satisfaction of the BrewBros. BrewBros based the “National Emergency Library” on a “superpower” interpretation of fair use (no, that’s really what they said) that is yet another example of a very Googlely weaponization of fair use.
The BrewBros have caught the attention of Senator Thom Tillis, chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, who sent this letter into the heart of darkness today, which should finally provoke the Google lobbyists to come out into the daylight (looking at you, Matt):
Mr. Brewster Kahle
Founder and Digital Librarian
300 Funston A venue
San Francisco, CA 94118
Dear Mr. Kahle:
I write to you as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, following the Internet Archive’s recent announcement of its National Emergency “Library” initiative amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Subcommittee has jurisdiction over our nation’s intellectual property laws, including copyright law. As you may know, in February my Subcommittee began a year-long review of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act with an eye toward reforming it for the twenty-first century.
I recognize the essential nature of books and publishing efforts during these challenging times. As schools, libraries, and bookstores have closed their physical locations across the nation, continued access to books is important to ensure that students and teachers have the materials they need for remote learning. It is also important that the general public has access to various types of books and written materials. I have been encouraged to see authors, publishers and other copyright owners ease these struggles of students, parents, educators, and the general public. Among other efforts, they are providing valuable content and online courses for free, providing flexible licenses for distance learning and enjoyment, and extending access to audiobooks and ebooks. These voluntary efforts should be commended, not only because they are expanding access to copyrighted works, but also because they do not violate copyright law or harm creators. On the contrary, these times have shown the critical value of copyrighted works to the public interest.
As you can see, I deeply value access to copyrighted works, but that access must be provided within the bounds of the law-even during a national emergency. I understand that your “Library” will last until June 30, 2020 or the end of the coronavirus emergency in the United States, whichever is later, and that during this time, the Internet Archive will make 1.4 million books it has scanned available to an unlimited number of users. I am not aware of any measure under copyright law that permits a user of copyrighted works to unilaterally create an emergency copyright act. Indeed, I am deeply concerned that your “Library” is operating outside the boundaries of the copyright law that Congress has enacted and alone has jurisdiction to amend.
As I am sure you are aware, many authors and publishers are struggling during this pandemic. Just this past Monday, the president of the Authors Guild noted in the New York Times that: “Authors have been hit hard by the pandemic …. It could be a career-destroying time for some authors, many of whom are struggling to make a living.” At some point when the global pandemic is behind us, I would be happy to discuss ways to promote access to books in a manner that respects copyright law and the property interests of American authors and publishers.
Subcommittee on Intellectual Property