When the lockdown began, it created a ton of problems for nearly everyone. From food shortages to lost jobs, it affected everyone. But, one of the most visible things was the closure of schools and libraries, creating real problems for students. In an attempt to rectify the situation, the Internet Archive decided to clear out the waitlist for its ebook loaning program. They called the altered program the National Emergency Library, which made the ebooks in the library available to everyone for free, regardless of the availability of the titles. Now, that decision is having expected repercussions for the organization.
The Internet Archive did not get licensing to loan these books without restriction, in violation of the existing licensing agreement for these titles. As a result, four publishers (Hachette Book Group, Inc., HarperCollins Publishers LLC, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and Penguin Random House LLC) filed suit against the organization for copyright infringement. The suit asks for an injunction against the Internet Archive from sharing copyrighted content and statutory damages, in an amount that could be as high as $150,000 per infringement. If that fine was to be levied, it would almost certainly end the organization.
Recognizing the potential cost of the suit, the organization has decided to shut down the program two weeks early. The Internet Archive sees the suit differently, claiming,
This lawsuit is not just about the temporary National Emergency Library. The complaint attacks the concept of any library owning and lending digital books, challenging the very idea of what a library is in the digital world.
This isn't quite reality, though, as libraries actually follow the law. The digital content that is lent through proper libraries is licensed through special programs for digital lending, whereas the Internet Archive decided to scan physical books and make them available to anyone for free without restriction. This will be an uphill battle for the organization if the publishers decide to follow through, now that the program is shut down.