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Copyright


Last update: March 5, 2007


Libraries and Copyright in the Digital Age

The Digital Age presents new challenges to fundamental copyright doctrines that are legal cornerstones of library services. Libraries are leaders in trying to maintain a balance of power between copyright holders and users, in keeping with the fundamental principles outlined in the Constitution and carefully crafted over the past 200 years. In this role, we closely follow both federal and state legislation and make our voices heard when our issues are moving. Libraries are perceived as a voice for the public good and our participation is often sought in "friend of the court" briefs in important intellectual property cases. Our involvement extends to the international copyright arena where we also follow the treaties to which the U.S. is a signatory and which could influence the development of copyright changes at home.

Copyright issues are among the most hotly contested issues in the legal and legislative world; billions of dollars are at stake. Legal principles and technological capabilities are constantly challenging each other and every outcome can directly affect the future of libraries.

Keep informed on these important issues. Check our web site to follow the status of the key copyright issues that ALA tracks every day.

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Copyright News

March 2, 2007

Libraries Urge Support of Newly Introduced FAIR USE Act

The Freedom and Innovation Revitalizing U.S. Entrepreneurship (FAIR USE) Act of 2007, H.R. 1201, was introduced on February 27. The FAIR USE Act is co-sponsored by Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA), Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Congressman John Doolittle (R-CA). Libraries urge other Members of Congress to co-sponsor this important bill that would amend the copyright law.

Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) prohibits circumventing a technological protection measure placed on a copyrighted work to prevent access. There are very limited exceptions to the anti-circumvention provision and these exemptions sunset every three years under the current statutory scheme. At the end of 2006, the Librarian of Congress approved six exemptions from the prohibition on circumvention of technological locks. The FAIR USE Act makes these six exemptions permanent for uses that do not infringe copyright, for example, educational uses in a classroom.

Two of these exemptions are particularly important to the library community. During the rulemaking proceeding before the Library of Congress, the library community supported the exemptions for screen readers for the visually impaired and film clip compilations for college media studies classes. The Fair USE Act would ensure that these activities can continue in the future.

Additionally, the FAIR USE Act would extend the determinations of the Librarian of Congress in six narrow circumstances. For example, the Fair Use Act would extend the film clip exemption to all classrooms instead of just college media studies classes. It would allow access to public domain works, as well as works of substantial public interest.

The bill also would permit a library to circumvent technological protections for the purpose of preservation of works in a library's collection. Preservation is a critical function as libraries preserve our Nation's cultural and scientific heritage.

In addition to the provisions aimed at expressly helping libraries, the FAIR USE Act would codify the U.S. Supreme Court's 1984 ruling that a copying technology (in that case, the videocassette recorder) is permissible under the Copyright Act so long as the technology can be used for non-infringing as well as infringing purposes. The bill also would limit the availability of statutory damages against individuals and firms who may be found to have engaged in contributory infringement, inducement of infringement, vicarious liability or other indirect infringement.

For the full text of the FAIR USE Act, please follow the link below:


February 27, 2007

PRESS RELEASE

Library Copyright Alliance Strongly Supports H.R. 1201, the FAIR USE Act.

The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) strongly supports the introduction of the Freedom and Innovation Revitalizing U.S. Entrepreneurship (FAIR USE) Act of 2007, H.R. 1201. The FAIR USE Act is co-sponsored by Congressmen Rick Boucher (D-VA), Congresswomen Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Congressman John Doolittle (R-CA).

At the end of 2006, Dr. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, approved six exemptions from the prohibition on circumvention of technological measures contained in section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). These exemptions will sunset in three years. The FAIR USE Act makes these six exemptions permanent. "Two of these exemptions are particularly important to the library community," said Miriam Nisbet of the American Library Association. "During the rulemaking proceeding before the Library of Congress, the library community supported the exemptions for screen readers for the visually impaired and film clip compilations for college media studies classes. The Fair USE Act will ensure that these important activities can continue in the future and the Act will go a long way to eliminate the negative affect the DMCA has had on lawful uses," Nisbet said.

Additionally, the FAIR USE Act would extend the determinations of the Librarian of Congress in six narrow circumstances. For example, the Fair Use Act would extend the film clip exemption to all classrooms instead of just college media studies classes. It would allow access to public domain works, as well as works of substantial public interest.

Finally, it would permit a library to circumvent technological protections for the purpose of preservation of works in a library's collection. According to Prue Adler of the Association of Research Libraries, "preservation is one of a library's most critical functions as libraries preserve our cultural and scientific heritage. Unfortunately, the DMCA is interfering with our ability to preserve these works. The FAIR USE Act will eliminate this obstacle, without causing any harm to copyright owners."

"We urge Congress to enact H.R. 1201 as soon as possible," said Adler.

For more information contact:
Jonathan Band
jband@policybandwidth.com
(202) 296-5675


Archived Copyright News

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Copyright Issues Topic Index

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More Information

  • Alliance for Taxpayer Access 


  • The Copyright Advisory Network provides a forum for librarians to discuss copyright issues, with one another and with ALA-trained copyright experts. Our hope is that the discussion will provide you with new knowledge about the copyright law and give you new ideas on ways to address library copyright concerns.

  • SPARC Open Access Newsletter

  • For the text of Senate or House bills, Please visit the Library of Congress's THOMAS web site and enter the bill number in the Search window.

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Related Files

Press Release: Cinven and Candover purchase of Bertelsmannspringer (PDF File)
Libraries are Creatures of Copyright: Why Libraries Care about Intellectual Property Law and Policy (11/98) (PDF File)

Related Links

Promoting Innovation and Economic Growth: The Special Problem of Digital Intellectual Property, Committee for Economic Development, 2004
Berkeley Center for Law and Technology
Digital Future Coalition
Electronic Frontier Foundation
U. S. Copyright Office, Library of Congress
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
Digital Copyright: A Tale of Domestic Discord, Presented in Three Acts (Computers and Libraries, May 2002
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