“The lobbyists on the other side”, said Internet Archive (IA) owner Brewster Kahle in 2020, “are paid a lot of money by some people to go and spread misinformation.” So not only a pirate, then, but also a purveyor of porkies.
This porkie was easily rebutted by Edward Hasbrouk, co-chair of the Book Division of the National Writers Union in the USA, in his May 2020 webinar What is the Internet Archive doing with our books? The facts are that the NWU has no paid lobbyists, and all the advocacy it does on behalf of writers and their rights is done by unpaid volunteers. Those working for Kahle, by contrast, are handsomely rewarded, with the five highest-paid employees of the IA averaging US$192,000 per year. (The median annual writing-related income of full-time book authors in the US? US$20,300.)
It’s a David vs Goliath situation, with the writers having no power against a man with hundreds of millions of dollars to spend as he pleases, including pirating the works of authors who are already earning a mere pittance for all their hard work. And boy does Kahle’s outfit milk them for every last penny.
In the webinar and its accompanying article Hasbrouk explains exactly how the IA goes about stealing the work of others and presenting it in multiple digital formats. Also how it makes up fake policies such as ‘digital controlled lending’ and ‘opt-out’ provisions, which have no status in national or international copyright law. But alas, possession is indeed nine-tenths of the law (for pirates, anyway). So perhaps the saddest part of this whole sad tale of governments rewarding technocrats and punishing writers is that otherwise reputable libraries have gone to the dark side and sent their collections to the pirate to do with as he pleases.
The Devil finds work for idle hands… Kahle pivoted from clever geek to self-styled philanthropist in 1999 when he sold his web-crawler company to Amazon for US $250,000,000, and since then he has had ample time and resources to impose his vision of what Internet-based archives and libraries should be and how they should be run on the world. This vision bears little if any relation to what researchers and writers actually want and need – but then, they were never consulted by Kahle and his pirate crew. It’s a pattern which has been adopted by the libraries which have facilitated the rise of the IA, and that includes (another sad, sad development) the National Library of New Zealand not consulting with NZ authors and publishers’ organisations, and researchers and writers, before cutting a deal with the IA to take the nation’s books.
For the details on how the IA does what it does, Hasbrouk’s article and webinar are extremely comprehensive, and provide all the facts anyone needs to show that what the IA does with copyright works is indeed piracy times ten. For why it makes a mockery of real knowledge sharing and generation, read BGA’s analysis Books are for knowledge; screens are for (mis)information (coming up next!)