Libraries pay many multiples of the consumer cost when they buy ebook licences, and can still only purchase a narrow suite of licensed rights. Photo: Getty Images
Copyright lawyer Michael Wolfe argues that the future of our libraries does not hinge on the outcome of an American court case
The National Library is sending books removed from its collections to the Internet Archive, a charitable library in the United States, to see them digitised and preserved in ways the public purse cannot afford. Is this a scandal? Is this piracy?
In the surprisingly high-stakes, high-emotion world of copyright law and policy, the word “piracy” is a trusty old standby — it’s the allegation copyright owner interests lob at any use of their works not subject to total owner control. “Alleged infringement” or “legally permissible but sternly disapproved of by rights-holders” just don’t convey the same sense of urgency or alarm. Besides, why bother with fussy legal technicalities when a snap moral judgment is so much easier and so much more fun to write?
So I was dismayed to see Steve Braunias use his platform to give oxygen to a moral panic over the National Library’s deaccessioning plans, complete with cries of “piracy!” The public conversation would be better served by taking a moment and giving a complicated situation the care and attention to detail it deserves.