Internet Archive blames 'environmental factors' for overnight outages

Power failure rather than lawyers to blame for Wayback Machine wandering off

The Internet Archive took a tumble overnight after "environmental factors" downed the Wayback Machine, leaving wobbling in a way that might bring a smile to the faces of certain publishers wishing for its demise.

According to the organization, there was a "brief power outage in one of our datacenters," which was followed by "environmental factors," causing the service blackout.

Those environmental factors are likely to be an increase in heat following a cooling outage.

By this morning, The Internet Archive was reporting that things were back up and running again. However, some users (this writer included) are still experiencing the odd error or two when accessing the organization's services.

For many users, the Internet Archive is an invaluable resource. In addition to providing free access to digital materials, including software, video, and text, it also hosts the Wayback Machine, which serves up an archive of web pages and is a useful tool for spotting when publishers quietly change pages or remove entire websites.

This morning's outage made clear what could be lost if the service were no longer around.

In May, the Internet Archive was pelted with a multi-day distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, which caused service problems for users. The organization subsequently emphasized that its collection and web archive were safe.

However, the Internet Archive is still in the midst of a years-long David versus Goliath legal tussle against major US book publishers and record labels, which charged the site with copyright infringement back in June 2020, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. The case, Hachette Book Group, Inc v Internet Archive (1:20-cv-04160), was filed in New York on June 1, 2020.

In March 2023 a US federal judge ruled that the non-profit Internet Archive did not have a "fair use" right to lend out a digital copy of each printed book that it had purchased. The decision opened up the organization to claims for copyright infringement. The case rumbles on, and is currently pending on appeal before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

An oral argument in the appeal was heard at the end of June.

While inconvenient to users, this morning's upset was helpful in demonstrating what could be lost should the non-profit be forced to pull down the shutters if it finds itself on the hook for some potentially huge damages at the end of the legal process. ®

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