The Internet Archive as an Educational Technology Tool

Foreword: This essay was written in November of 2020. I’m publishing it today, March 20th, 2023, in solidarity with the Internet Archive. More information about the Hachette v. Internet Archive lawsuit can be found on the Electronic Frontier Foundation website, the Library Futures website, and the Battle For the Libraries website by the advocacy group Fight For the Future.

The Internet Archive is a useful technology tool that has several factors to consider ethical usage for educational purposes. I am for the use of the Internet Archive for usage in an educational context because the content that might be used by an instructor would be specifically chosen and relevant to course material. Content that is used for educational purposes would be considered under Fair Use, as no one is profiting financially, but rather learning and engaging with content that might otherwise be unobtainable. Webpages that may no longer exist, videos and software that may otherwise be unobtainable, and books and newspapers that are difficult to obtain would still be able to be referenced.

Some arguments for using the Internet Archive for educational materials is the belief that information wants to be shared and that information wants to be free. By using materials that would otherwise be more rare or difficult to obtain for educational purposes, it can enlighten minds to think differently. Because specifically chosen content would be used under Fair Use, there would be freedom to apply and use the material as seen fit to the instructor to benefit the students and would be ethical from a contractual standpoint of the law. Students could benefit from viewing different eras of information from a unique perspective.

Some arguments against using the Internet Archive for educational material is that there could be information that publishers may have wanted to obtain a profit when used or educational purposes. By using the Internet Archive to obtain these materials, one is circumventing the systems provided by the publisher. Fair Use and copyright often overlap and can be viewed as grey area from a legal standpoint. While typically information is preferred to be available for lower-cost or free for educational purposes, creators of content have put work and effort into the creation, and therefore their labor would not be compensated for, which can be seen as an ethical problem.

In conclusion, using the Internet Archive for educational purposes is a good practice if done carefully and correctly. Content should be relevant to course material and used as such. Because of the free and open atmosphere of the Internet Archive, one still needs to apply how they use the material, crediting the authors and creators, and not circumventing them. Materials obtained from the Internet Archive should typically not be sold or used for profit unless they are in the Public Domain or especially have a license to do so. In an educational context, this is an unlikely occurrence, as generally the only profit would be gained knowledge.

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