By Brewster Kahle, October 22, 2021 1:21 PM EDT
Kahle, Founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. Member, National Academy of Engineering, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Internet Hall of Fame
When I started the Internet Archive 25 years ago, I focused our non-profit library on digital collections: preserving web pages, archiving television news, and digitizing books. The Internet Archive was seen as innovative and unusual.
Now all libraries are increasingly electronic, and necessarily so. To fight disinformation, to serve readers during the pandemic, and to be relevant to 21st-century learners, libraries must become digital.
But just as the Web increased people’s access to information exponentially, an opposite trend has evolved. Global media corporations—emboldened by the expansive copyright laws they helped craft and the emerging technology that reaches right into our reading devices—are exerting absolute control over digital information.
These two conflicting forces—towards unfettered availability and completely walled access to information—have defined the last 25 years of the Internet. How we handle this ongoing clash will define our civic discourse in the next 25 years.
If we fail to forge the right path, publishers’ business models could eliminate one of the great tools for democratizing society: our independent libraries.