A Gathering Storm?

Another voice has joined the Library Copyright Alliance (speaking for ALA's Washington Office, Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of College and Research Libraries), Society of American Archivists, and DPLA in opposing changes to Section 108 of  copyright: the Internet Archive, home of the "Wayback Machine."

In this blog post, Lila Bailey cites some of the other groups lining up against change and wonders, quite rightly, who wants changes in the sections governing library use of materials. 

"This recent move, which has its genesis in an outdated set of proposals from 2008, is just another in series of out of touch ideas coming from the Copyright Office. We’ve seen them propose 'notice and staydown' filtering of the Internet and disastrous 'extended collective licensing' for digitization projects. These and other proposals have lead some to start asking whose Copyright Office this is, anyway. Now the Copyright Office wants to completely overhaul Section 108 of the Copyright Act, the 'library exceptions,' in ways that could break the Wayback Machine and repeal fair use for libraries."


"Drafting a law now could make something that is working well more complicated, and could calcify processes that would otherwise continue to evolve to make digitization efforts and web archiving work even better for libraries and content owners alike.

In fact, just proposing this new legislation will likely have the effect of hitting the pause button on libraries. It will lead to uncertainty for the libraries that have already begun to modernize by digitizing their analog collections and learning how to collect and preserve born-digital materials. It could lead libraries who have been considering such projects to 'wait and see'.”


A good friend of ReadersFirst, Carrie Russell of Washington's ALA Office, warns of what might result from a process that seems "Top secret, hush, hush."

With this many groups taking objection, librarians should be getting familiar with this issue and be ready to take a stand. Will changes in Section 108 inhibit fair use of materials? Does the Copyright Office already know what it wants and is it bowing to pressure from rights holders disappointed in the outcome of the Google case and eager to effect though legislation what could not be gotten through the courts? 

Far from closing "library exceptions," the Copyright Office should be looking at ways that licensing closes out public access to library materials--fair use that we have under copyright but not under restrictive contracts. The public has a right to information and libraries have a duty to preserve information. Be ready to tell your legislators that you oppose closing out so-called "library exceptions" and advocate for a laws that balance the rights of copyright holders and information consumers in a rapidly changing digital environment.

Michael Blackwell, St Mary's County Library