Veritas and Copyright: The Public Library in Peril · punctum books

flavoursofopenscience's bookmarks 2022-09-26


by Eileen A. Fradenburg Joy and Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei

The antagonism between private property rights and the free dissemination of knowledge is nothing new. There are records from Ireland, as early as the 6th century, describing an actual battle that took place over what some historians consider the earliest example of copyright regulations:

[The Cathach or Psalter of Saint Columba] is traditionally ascribed to St Columba as the copy, made at night in haste by a miraculous light, of a Psalter lent to Columba by St Finnian. A dispute arose about the ownership of the copy and King Diarmait Mac Cerbhaill gave the judgement ‘To every cow belongs her calf, therefore to every book belongs its copy’. The arbitration failed and the Psalter of St Columba passed into the hands of the O'Donnells after the battle of Cul Dremhne in A.D. 561. (Royal Irish Academy)

The judgment over the copy of the Psalter made by St Columba, the failed arbitration by King Diarmait Mac Cerbhaill, and the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne are emblematic of the way in which we have dealt with “copies” ever since. We live in the world this battle created.

In March of 2021, Z Library, a “shadow library,” referred to as a “pirate library” by those who seek to criminalize their efforts to provide access to knowledge for readers around the world who cannot otherwise afford it, especially in the Global South, was temporarily suspended because Harvard Business Publishing, a subsidiary of Harvard University Press, issued what is called a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown order. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that Z Library has been “taken down.”  By law, such a takedown order allows any publisher anywhere to demand the removal of a book from the digital shelves, whether from online stores such as or from a shadow library, with a very sparse threshold of proof of copyright infringement.



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Tags: oa.libraries oa.copyright oa.dmca oa.takedowns oa.books oa.harvard_business_publishing oa.people oa.z-library oa.guerrilla

Date tagged:

09/26/2022, 04:19

Date published:

09/26/2022, 04:26