Internet Archive Is NOT Like Your Library (2023)

Internet Archive Is NOT Like Your Library (1)

Image: Pixabay

Because internet people get all hot about this and then go into a rage where they make terrible points, usually using the wrong form of “its,” let’s start this column at the end, then go back and fill in the rest.

Usually, after a rambling column lambasting Internet Archive’s attempt to impersonate your local library, I’d give those folks a little credit, a little something more pleasant to go out on.

Here’s that little something: I do support Internet Archive in the gray areas of books.

The gray areas of books include books that are out of print, books that are mega expensive for no real reason, and books where the publisher is just sitting on the rights (usually with no real intentions of driving up pricing, just because they, well, have them).

When Internet Archive is collecting, preserving, and making available things that are otherwise difficult or impossible to come by, I don’t take any issue. When it's acting like an "archive," we're good.


That's the end of the good stuff I have to say.

I have a problem with Internet Archive checking out a digital copy of The Martian by Andy Weir. This is not rare, out of print, or difficult to find cheap or even free.

Internet Archive has American Psycho.

Internet Archive has John Dies At The End.

(Video) The Internet Archive Wants To Be A Digital Library For Everything | Sunday TODAY

Internet Archive has A TON of stuff that’s readily available, and that’s stuff I have a problem with.

But what really chafes my inner thigh is…well, that’d be my other inner thigh, but what chafes me in a LESS LITERAL sense is Internet Archive pretending it’s a library.

Because it’s not.

The Story Thus Far

Internet Archive was sued by a group of publishers for “mass copyright infringement” because they were purchasing single copies of books, scanning them, and distributing them online.

Internet Archive disagreed that this was copyright infringement.

Unfortunately for Internet Archive, the ruling was not in their favor:

At bottom, IA's fair use defense rests on the notion that lawfully acquiring a copyrighted print book entitles the recipient to make an unauthorized copy and distribute it in place of the print book, so long as it does not simultaneously lend the print book…But no case or legal principle supports that notion. Every authority points the other direction.

Internet Archive plans to appeal this decision, and after the decision came down, they had A LOT to say about being a library:

Libraries are more than the customer service departments for corporate database products…For democracy to thrive at global scale, libraries must be able to sustain their historic role in society—owning, preserving, and lending books.

And here’s the crux, in Internet Archive's own words:

Today’s lower court decision in Hachette v. Internet Archive is a blow to all libraries and the communities we serve. This decision impacts libraries across the US who rely on controlled digital lending to connect their patrons with books online. It hurts authors by saying that unfair licensing models are the only way their books can be read online. And it holds back access to information in the digital age, harming all readers, everywhere.

And now, a disassembly.

Let’s Rewind

The library wing of Internet Archive started with good goals, with the right spirit.

(Video) What is Happening to The Internet Archive?

The library wing of Internet Archive started with good goals, with the right spirit: The idea was to get books, scan them, and make them available, especially to people with disabilities.

I very much support that, and I’m actually pretty certain this part of what they do is not illegal.

See, back in the 1930s, a bunch of laws got passed because people with blindness were fed up with the bullshit. The Pratt-Smoot Act of 1931 (not to be confused with the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of the same year, this Smoot dude was busy) led to some key exceptions to copyright law: libraries were authorized to make accessible copies of printed books, usually in audio or Braille formats, for use by people who can’t read them due to any sort of disability.

In 2010 (time jump, but you’re smart, you can handle it), Internet Archive was all about book accessibility. And to some extent, today, they still are.

You might’ve looked up a book on Internet Archive and seen it available in the DAISY format. This is an audiobook format that’s available only to those who have a disability. You basically fill out a form, get approved, and then you’re able to decrypt DAISY files.

But here’s the thing: The National Library Service already provides this to people with disabilities. Folks can get items by mail or via download 100% free of charge.

Internet Archive argued that the decision against them was a blow to all libraries, but I’m not sure this is so. I think libraries that are working within the law are…fine?

“Unfair Licensing Models”

Internet Archive gets the bulk of its books from Better World Books, which explains why so many of the books they have include library stickers, barcodes, stamps, and other markings.

See, lots of libraries donate their books to Better World Books when they are weeded from the collection.

Better World Books or Internet Archive scan the books, and they become part of the collection.

Your local library does not offer eBooks by scanning physical books. Your library licenses them, for a fee, and those fees vary depending on the type of license (some are lifetime licenses, some are for a limited number of checkouts, some are for a limited timeframe).

What this means is, publishers get to negotiate with libraries (sometimes through a digital vendor like Overdrive or Hoopla) and come to a fair agreement on what a digital copy is worth. Each copy of a book is paid for (or, each checkout on a service like Hoopla triggers a charge). And, libraries agree to provide certain restrictions so that their users are the ones accessing books, not the entire world.

The way libraries manage digital materials, creators and publishers have a seat at the table. Neither side sets the entirety of the rules.

(Video) Internet Archive loses their case - Mad at the Internet

Internet Archive doesn't want to work with publishers and creators. Internet Archive wants to dictate all the terms.

That doesn't strike me as fair at all.

Somebody Think of the Authors!

Internet Archive claims the library's digital licensing system, “... hurts authors by saying that unfair licensing models are the only way their books can be read online.”

But I’m not sure which authors they’re talking about. The Authors Guildsaid they were "thrilled" by the decision against Internet Archive:

...scanning & lending books w/out permission or compensation is NOT fair use—it is theft & it devalues authors’ works.

And in fact, the Authors Guild claims they offered to sit down with Internet Archive and look at alternative ways digital books might be licensed:

We approached IA years ago to create a license for books used on Open Library but IA refused to engage with us.

If you want to throw Satan Burger on Internet Archive, I think Carlton Mellick III should have a say in that (it's on there, and I'm guessing nobody asked Carlton). I think he should have the option to negotiate what he thinks is fair. I think Internet Archive could've chosen to approach him with an offer.

Jeff Strand should be able to choose what he thinks Pressureis worth on Internet Archive. It's there, and I'm betting nobody asked Jeff what he thought about it.

You'll notice no authors have a problem with local libraries. This is because local libraries don't expect authors to work for free. Libraries treat authors like real people whose labor has value.

Art Should Be Free!

Okay, really quickly for the dipshits:

The reasonable version of this point of view is, “Artists should always have the option of free distribution.”

If the artist wants their stuff to be given for free, if they feel like that’s what’s right, more power to them, and that should always be an option.

(Video) How to use the Internet Archive

But the proposal that all art should be free, taken to its end, would mean that if you created something, The Man should have the right to bust into your house, take it, and distribute it.

It’s not really yours, it belongs to everyone, right?

Information Should Be Free!

I’m a little more open to this one, but I don’t consider The Martian “information.”

Internet Archive of the Future

I think Internet Archive can survive, and I think it can be something good. But it needs to change. Even if it wins its appeal, I think it should change.

If Internet Archive wants to call itself a library, it needs to start acting like a library.

If Internet Archive was more careful with its collection, if they lived in the gray a little bit, I think things would be better. If they made available only those books that are not currently in production and are currently not widely available, it'd change the way a lot of folks feel about it.

If Internet Archive had anything remotely resembling a vetting process, making books available to people with disabilities, people who have little or no library service, or maybe people whose libraries are being destroyed by Moms For Liberty, that’d hit different.

But the game Internet Archive plays today is a distasteful one. They're grabbing and scanning everything, and they're claiming the moral high ground, talking democracy and fairness and then hiding behind the idea of library service.

You can't talk about democracy when you remove a creator's choice in whether or not they get paid for their work.

You can't talk about fairness when you're unwilling to bend even slightly to accommodate reasonable requests from rights holders.

And, please, public libraries are dealing with enough right now. How about not using them as a legal shield?

Get Pressure by Jeff Strand at Bookshop or Amazon

Get Satan Burgerby Carlton Mellick III at Bookshop or Amazon

(Video) NETLORE BONUS: The Internet Archive Lawsuit


Why is the Internet Archive being sued? ›

The four publishing houses — Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons and Penguin Random House — accused the Internet Archive of "mass copyright infringement" for loaning out digital copies of books without compensation or permission from the publishers.

Is the Internet Archive being taken down? ›

The website is replaced with an official message by the Internet Archive stating that it is permanently and completely discontinued. The website is replaced with an official message by law enforcement indicating that the domain has been seized.

How legit is Internet Archive? ›

Yes. The Internet Archive Open Library is a collection of legally obtained print books that have been digitized.

Is open library the same as Internet Archive? ›

Open Library contains information about books. Internet Archive hosts a collection of digitized books. Open Library's universal catalog provides links to discover, borrow, and read from the Internet Archive's collections. Your Internet Archive account can be used to sign-in to Open Library.

Will the Internet Archive win the lawsuit? ›

On March 24, the Internet Archive lost the copyright lawsuit that had been brought against it by four major publishers. The group—which comprised Hachette, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House—had sued early in the pandemic, shortly after the Internet Archive opened the National Emergency Library.

Who is behind Internet Archive? ›

Brewster Kahle founded the Archive in May 1996 around the same time that he began the for-profit web crawling company Alexa Internet.

What is the oldest archived website? ›

History. The Wayback Machine began archiving cached web pages in 1996. One of the earliest known pages was archived on May 10, 1996, at 2:08 p.m. (UTC).

What is the biggest website archive? ›

Internet Archive's Wayback Machine is the largest and oldest web archive in the world, dating back to 1996.

Does Internet Archive violate copyright? ›

March 25 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge has ruled that an online library operated by the nonprofit organization Internet Archive infringed the copyrights of four major U.S. publishers by lending out digitally scanned copies of their books.

Is monitored? ›

Technical details. Because does not employ tracking cookies to track users, our view counting system uses a privacy protecting hash of the user's IP as a user id. At the end of each day we process all of our web server logs from all of our hosts.

How many books are on Internet Archive? ›

Yes, the Internet Archive has over 2.5 million books that are in the public domain.

Where can I read all books for free? ›

Best Websites To Read FREE Books Online!
  • Feedbooks.
  • Project Gutenberg.
  • Open Library.
  • ManyBooks.
  • Free-eBooks.
  • Bookyards.
  • Kobo.
  • Bookboon.
Nov 23, 2022

How do I rip books from Internet Archive? ›

Usage After borrowing or lending a book on, two new buttons read "Quality" and "Download" will appear under the book reading window, beside the "Favorite" button. To download the current book, Click the "Download" button, and then the button will turn into a progress bar.

Why use library instead of Internet? ›

Libraries provide free access to scholarly books, journals, newspapers, encyclopedias, and other print reference sources. A lot of information on the Internet is FREE, except scholarly materials.

How does the Internet Archive make money? ›

The Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization, uses thousands of computer servers to save multiple digital copies of these pages, requiring over 70 petabytes of data. It is funded through donations, grants and payments for its digitization services.

How much data is on the Internet Archive? ›

The Internet Archive's collection, which spans not just the web, but books, audio 78rpm records, videos, images, and software, amounts to more than 40 petabytes, or 40 million gigabytes, of data. The Wayback Machine makes up about 63% of that."

Why is Internet Archive so slow? ›

Everything else is the other half. Why is the Wayback slow? Well, it's a combination of multiple factors. The saved websites have to be tracked down to the server set that has them, and then the webpage has to be unpacked for you from compressed datasets, and then rendered.

How do you view old websites that no longer exist? ›

3 Tools You Can Use to See Old Versions of Websites
  1. Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. The Internet Archive is a nonprofit organization, which is dedicated to building a digital library of websites, books, audio recordings, videos, images, and even software. ...
  2. oldweb. today. ...
  3. Library of Congress.

What is the oldest website still active today? › - home of the first website.

How do I view a website that no longer exists? ›

Use The Wayback Machine

The Wayback Machine is a popular tool for archiving old websites, but anyone can search its archives as well. Head to the site's URL to get started. Conduct a search in the Machine's search bar. The search bar is centered towards the top of the page.

How many unused websites are there? ›

While there are 1.13 billion websites in the world, only a fraction of these are actively used and updated. A staggering 82% are inactive, meaning only 200,121,724 of the 1.13 billion websites are actively maintained and visited.

Can I archive an entire website? ›

Use an Online Archive (Such As the Wayback Machine)

The Save Page Now form on the Wayback Machine website. To archive a page, simply add the URL you wish to save to this form, then click Save Page.

Where are most websites stored? ›

Websites are now stored on web servers, which are computers that are connected to the internet and host websites. Web servers store the files that make up a website, such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files.

Why is blocked at school? ›

It's blocked because it contains adult content.

Is everything on Internet Archive public domain? ›

Most content in the Archive is in the Public Domain and can be streamed or downloaded by any user, without the need to register or sign in.

Are emails safe in archive? ›

Archiving allows important emails and attachments to be kept safe and secure in a separate folder, they can then be referred back to later or deleted from the email archive when no longer needed.

What is the biggest online book library? ›

Featuring over 36 million ebooks, the Internet Archive is possibly the largest digital library ever created. In addition to free ebooks, its catalog includes over 778 billion web pages and millions of videos, concerts, audio files, and software programs. Think of the Internet Archive as a digital time machine.

What is the biggest library archive? ›

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world with more than 173 million items. View detailed collection statistics.

How long can you borrow a book from Internet Archive? ›

You can borrow 10 books at a time from Each loan will expire after 2 weeks and will automatically “return” at the end of that time period.

What is the website that has every book? ›

The Library of Babel is a website created by Brooklyn author and coder Jonathan Basile, based on Jorge Luis Borges' short story "The Library of Babel" (1941).

Which is the best app for reading books free? ›

Recommended Free Reading Apps
  • Google Play Books.
  • Amazon Kindle App.
  • Goodreads.
  • Scribd.
  • Oodles.
  • KoboBooks.
  • Libby.
  • Wattpad.
Dec 16, 2022

Where can I download books for free without paying? ›

Here are some free sites on the internet that provide downloadable ebooks.
  • Free Ebooks.Net. This site has some free ebooks you can download or view on your computer. ...
  • Project Gutenberg. ...
  • Obooko. ...
  • ...
  • Scribd.
Feb 2, 2023

What are the disadvantages of internet library? ›

Disadvantages of Digital Libraries
  • Copyright: Digitization violates copyright law because an author's thought content can be freely transferred by another without his acknowledgment. ...
  • Access speed: As more computers connect to the Internet, the speed of access gradually decreases.
Mar 1, 2022

Are libraries necessary anymore? ›

"Public libraries are arguably more important today than ever before," Marx says. "Their mission is still the same — to provide free access to information to all people. The way people access information has changed, but they still need the information to succeed, and libraries are providing that."

Why people don t use libraries? ›

The 2005 LBC research found that among the 40% of the population who hadn't used a public library in the previous 12 months, 27% were non-users for 'lifestyle factors' and 13% attributed non-use to a 'lack of access or awareness'.

What authors are in the Internet Archive lawsuit? ›

In Sept. 2022, hundreds of authors — including Neil Gaiman, Naomi Klein, Cory Doctorow and more, as well as Tom Morello, Daniel Ellsberg and Lilly Wachowski — signed a Fight for the Future open letter in support of Internet Archive and asking that the publishers withdraw their lawsuit.

Do publishers steal manuscripts? ›

Can a publisher steal your book? The simple answer is no. But that doesn't mean they can't infringe on your copyright in other ways. One of the most common ways publishers infringe on authors' copyrights is by distributing their work without permission.

What author was rejected by 30 publishers? ›

[*] Carrie by Stephen King was rejected by 30 publishers. “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell,” one letter said. It was finally published in 1974.

Can you get sued as an author? ›

Authors are not often sued for libel, but it can and does happen. While you can never be 100 percent sure you are not at risk, there are some basic dos and don'ts that can help you reduce the probability your book could result in a lawsuit.

What is the illegal download of copyrighted materials? ›

DMCA violations may carry hefty civil and criminal penalties which may include damages and legal fees. The minimum fine is $750 per downloaded file and fines can be up to $250,000 and time in prison.

Does Internet Archive archive everything? ›

Do you collect all the sites on the Web? No, the Archive collects web pages that are publicly available. We do not archive pages that require a password to access, pages that are only accessible when a person types into and sends a form, or pages on secure servers.

What's considered fair use? ›

For example, in the United States, copyright rights are limited by the doctrine of "fair use," under which certain uses of copyrighted material for, but not limited to, criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research may be considered fair.

Is everything on copyright free? ›

No! Most content in the Archive is in the Public Domain and can be streamed or downloaded by any user, without the need to register or sign in.

Is permanent? ›

We try to keep everything forever and try to make everything available publicly, and if not publicly, then at least to researchers, historians, and scholars. That is how we see our job. Updating, deleting, and exporting account information is available to each user, not limited to residents of the EU.


1. The End of the Wayback Machine?
(LMG Clips)
2. The Internet Archive Is In Danger...
3. How to Download Borrowed Books from Archive org | Decrypt acsm PDF Files
4. Internet Archive Sued By Book Publishers
(TWiT Tech Podcast Network)
5. How to get Borrowed Books from Available for 1 Hour and 14 Days
6. Why Trust A Corporation to Do a Library’s Job?
(Internet Archive)


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