A Case Study for Consensus Building: The Copyright Principles Project

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Posted: 05/16/2013

Today, the Committee on the Judiciary is hearing information regarding section 108 and future copyright law. The Section 108 Study Group previously made recommendations to amend section 108 of the United States Copyright Act, which addresses how libraries may preserve and replace items in its collection, distribute items to patrons, and disseminate items via interlibrary loan. Laura Gasaway, who was a member of the Section 108 Study Group and who is a Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law, is participating in this committee hearing today. She makes the following recommendations in her Statement to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Professor Gasaway recommends amending the language in section 108 to address the orphan works issue and to deal more flexibly with digital items. Further, and more specifically, she suggests adding museums to section 108, not restricting the number of preservation and replacement digital copies to three, and allowing a preserved or replaced item to be used outside the premises of an institution. Professor Gasaway also suggests adding preservation subsections that would allow for up-front preservation of publicly available digital works, and to permit the preservation of publicly available websites not restricted by access controls.

If Congress is not willing to amend section 108, other suggestions given are to repeal section 108 and rely solely on fair use, or implement a technology neutral statute that would allow users of libraries and archives to use copyrighted works in a non-commercial guise. Such suggestions appear to be based on the Copyright Principles Project.

One can only surmise what Congress will ultimately do, if anything at all. However, at least some library advocates are giving testimony in these hearings before the Committee on the Judiciary today.