The New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (PEN NZ) Inc (NZSA) and the Publishers Association of New Zealand Te Rau o Tākupu (PANZ) are shocked that the National Library of New Zealand (NLNZ) has announced plans to hand over hundreds of thousands of books from its collection to the notorious Internet Archive.
The Internet Archive’s scanning and online distribution of books has been condemned internationally as piracy on a massive scale. This activity by the Archive is the subject of a major lawsuit by international publishers, representing authors from around the world, and supported by authors’ groups.
Our organisations represent thousands of authors and dozens of publishers from across Aotearoa New Zealand. In recent years leading authors from New Zealand, including Catherine Chidgley, Keri Hulme, Elizabeth Knox and Damien Wilkins, have had their books illegally distributed online for free by the Internet Archive, forcing publishers and authors to repeatedly spend time and money taking enforcement action.
But the piracy of treasured New Zealand works continues unabated. On the day of the National Library’s announcement, works by Janet Frame, Patricia Grace, Keri Hulme, Witi Ihimaera, Albert Wendt and many other leading authors were being illegally distributed by the Internet Archive.
‘We are stunned the National Library would partner with internet pirates that damage New Zealand literature on a daily basis,’ says PANZ President Graeme Cosslett. ‘The Internet Archive’s repeated infringements of New Zealand works shows their true nature – no claim to made-up laws, fake protocols or sanctimonious ideals can obscure this – they are committed to taking work from Aotearoa’s authors and publishers. How can the National Library stand alongside internet pirates and not New Zealand’s own literary community?’
'The Internet Archive’s online distribution of copyright books is illegal,’ says NZSA Chief Executive Jenny Nagle, ‘American colleagues have described what the Internet Archive is doing as “no different than heaving a brick through a grocery store window and handing out the food – and then congratulating yourself for providing a public service.”
'Now their made up ruse of "controlled digital lending" means they’re simply asking people to form an orderly line around the block before receiving stolen goods. Hearing our own National Librarian repeat this lawless rationale is frightening.’
The National Library pleads that an ‘opt-out’ clause for rights holders of books given to the Internet Archive will address rightsholders’ concerns.
Like the wider agreement, this mechanism has no standing in law, here or abroad. It appears to make claim to a presumed consent that simply does not exist, as shown by the scale of the current lawsuit from affected rightsholders. This partnership directly contravenes international copyright treaties to which New Zealand is a signatory.
If the National Library follows through with this scheme it will jeopardise New Zealand’s global standing as a place where creative industries can flourish. ‘It amounts to the National Library exporting its problem – washing its hands of it – to become instead the problem of individual authors, publishers, family estates and other rights holders around the world,’ says Cosslett. ‘This is not how New Zealand typically behaves on the world stage, nor does it reflect our nation’s values as a responsible global actor.’
Authors and publishers invest vast amounts of time, energy, and resource into working alongside New Zealand libraries, including the National Library, to provide readers with access to books. This scheme jeopardises our local literary ecosystem.
‘Internet Archive piracy challenges the livelihoods of Kiwi authors and publishers, who work hard in tough market conditions, to bring Aotearoa the stories we treasure,’ says Nagle. ‘The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) appears to think this scheme comes at no cost. But it brings heavy long-term costs, costs that fall squarely on local authors, publishers and the creative sector.’
We acknowledge that the National Library is under pressure to find a solution for these books. Placing them offshore with internet pirates is not the answer. On hearing, by chance, of this scheme last Friday we have sought urgent meetings with Minister Jan Tinetti but have been met with silence. We call on Minister Jan Tinetti and DIA Chief Executive Paul James to overturn this radical alliance with a pirate organisation.
Authors and publishers will be reviewing all their current relationships with National Library in light of this total disregard for New Zealand books and creativity.