Can artists weather the COVID-19 storm?


Molly Torsen Stech

Can artists weather the COVID-19 storm?


The pandemic means that copyright is more important to visual artists’ survival than ever before, explains Molly Torsen Stech, copyright attorney and author of “Artists' Rights: A Guide to Copyright, Moral Rights and Other Legal Issues in the Visual Arts Sphere.”

In June of this year, the US Internet Archive ended its National Emergency Library programme, which provided free access to almost 1.5 million books. Before the pandemic, the Internet Archive had permitted access to scanned books, which could be checked out digitally, to its users, one user at a time, not unlike a bricks-and-mortar library.

But the emergency programme provided free access to anyone anywhere, without reader waitlists, and effectively substituted for a purchased copy, thereby eradicating the revenue stream for publishing houses and authors alike.

Publishers including Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, John Wiley & Sons, and HarperCollins filed a lawsuit against the Internet Archive on June 1 pointing out the programme’s disregard for copyright law, and the programme was, at least temporarily, ended.

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