I don’t know about you, but I think all emergency situations require books. This interesting topic came to us from Publisher’s Lunch in their article, “Internet Archive Grants Itself Emergency Copyright Powers for Uncontrolled Digital Lending.”

During this pandemic response, the Internet Archive opened the National Emergency Library—a digital collection of 1.4 million books that anyone, anywhere in the world, can check out for free. Until the end of the national emergency in the United States (whenever that is), anyone, anywhere in the world, can check books out of this library—for free.

This falls under fair use, at least for the duration, according to what copyright lawyers are thinking. Libraries have copyright “superpowers” that they can use in an emergency like this one.

There is no record of this happening before, but it is a nod to the Council on Books in Wartime, a collection of libraries, booksellers, and publishers, founded in 1942. William Warder Norton, of W. W. Norton & Company, was chair of the council, which issued a statement declaring that “books are useful, necessary, and indispensable.” F.D.R. agreed, writing to Norton, “a war of ideas can no more be won without books than a naval war can be won without ships.”

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Data Harmony, a unit of Access Innovations, the world leader in indexing and making content findable.