While we are in the season of bloom for AI chatbots, AI search engines, and other AI-assisted tools, another part of the digital future is being decided. You may have heard of the Wayback Machine, an online repository that catalogs the internet’s history in snapshots from around the web on that particular date and time. The Wayback Machine was established and is run by the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library, which is currently the subject of contention.

The essence of the controversy is this: the Internet Archive catalogs digital copies of physical books (and other printed documents) and lends them out on the basis of the ‘controlled digital lending’ model (CDL). Under this model, the right to lend out the copy of the book applies to the digitized version of the book in the library’s possession, and lending is restricted to this one copy to one person at a time. However, while many libraries in the United States use this lending mechanism, it’s been criticized as being unfair to authors because it deprives them of royalties.

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