Statement from Brewster Kahle: Appeal is ‘a fight to keep library books available for those seeking truth in the digital age.’

On December 15, 2023, Brewster Kahle, founder and digital librarian of the Internet Archive, spoke at a press event for the filing of Internet Archive’s opening appellate brief in Hachette v. Internet Archive. These are his remarks:

We submitted our appeal to the court today to protect the core mission of libraries—preservation and access. This is a fight to keep library books available for those seeking truth in the digital age. 

Libraries are not just repositories of books; they are guardians of history and the published record. In this time of wars, election angst, and unstable moments for democracy, this fight gains even more importance.

Why should everyone care about this lawsuit? Because it is about preserving the integrity of our published record, where the great books of our past meet the demands of our digital future. This is not merely an individual struggle; it is a collective endeavor for society and democracy struggling with our digital transition. We need secure access to the historical record. We need every tool that libraries have given us over the centuries to combat the manipulation and misinformation that has now become even easier.

This appeal underscores the role of libraries in supporting universal access to information—a right that transcends geographic location, socioeconomic status, disability, or any other barriers. Our digital lending program is not just about lending responsibly; it’s about strengthening democracy by creating informed global citizens.

The stakes of the lower court decision are high. Publishers coordinated by the AAP (Association of American Publishers), have removed hundreds of thousands of books from controlled digital lending. The publishers have taken more than 500 banned books from our lending library, such as 1984The Color Purple, and Maus. This is a devastating loss for digital learners everywhere. 

This lawsuit is about more than the Internet Archive; it is about the role of all libraries in our digital age. This lawsuit is an attack on a well-established practice used by hundreds of libraries to provide public access to their collections. The disastrous lower court decision in this case holds implications far beyond our organization, shaping the future of all libraries in the United States and unfortunately, around the world.

If this decision is left to stand, it will take away a library’s ability to lend books from its permanent collections to digital learners.

In the face of challenges to truth, libraries are more vital than ever. 

Let this be a call to action—to protect the core mission of libraries in our digital age.

—Brewster Kahle

Updated 12/15/23 to include video.

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