Read the letter from the President of the UK Society of Authors, Sir Philip Pullman to Rachel Esson and Minister Tinetti about the Internet Archive. Here: Philip Pullman UK SoA
Rachel Esson – National Librarian
30 September 2021
Dear Jan Tinetti and Rachel Esson,
The Society of Authors (UK) is very concerned to hear about the plans to digitise 600,000+ books from the National Library of New Zealand’s collection for use by Internet Archive, irrespective of whether or not they’re in copyright. Members of our Society, as well as many authors who are not members, greatly value the copyright laws that make it possible for us to earn a living from our work. This right seems to be so basic a natural good, so obviously and clearly just and proper, that it’s impossible to imagine a scheme like this being proposed in any other field of human life.
‘Yes, we know you cure the sick, but you’d probably go on doing it even without a salary. So, from this week on, no more pay.’
‘Just carry on making cars. That’s fine. But we’re not going to pay you for them, because then they’d cost much more to the general public.’
‘You’re doing a great job on your farm. Good healthy food for everyone. We’ll take it away for nothing, and we won’t even charge you for the transport costs.’
Libraries are the very heart of a nation and a culture’s knowledge of itself and understanding of the world. It’s impossible to overstate their value. We authors who write the books on your shelves are inveterate, habitual, lifelong users of libraries, and all of us share a gratitude and appreciation of the work that librarians do in preserving our work and promoting reading in every part of society. The one thing that makes this link between us so valuable is our sense that libraries understand the nature of our work, that they know that the vast majority of authors do not make fortunes from their books, that they share with us the belief that a modest but secure reward can be the foundation for works of imperishable greatness.
To find that a great national library like that of New Zealand is collaborating in a scheme to break the cherished copyright laws and give our work away for nothing is profoundly shocking. None of our 11,000+ members have been consulted about this plan or asked for their consent. Digitising old out-of-copyright books is one thing, and we can all see the benefit of that; but taking rightfully earned money out of the pockets of living writers is quite another. Please let us, and writers in every part of the world whose works you are planning to use for nothing, know that you’re going to change your mind about this iniquitous scheme, and return to the principle of paying fairly for the use of our work.
President of the Society of Authors United Kingdom