The Library Copyright Alliance (which represents the American Library Association and the Association of Research Libraries) has said it does not want changes, the Society of American Archivists has said it does not want changes. The Internet Archive does not want changes, DPLA does not want changes… So why is the Copyright Office holding “hush hush” meetings to “answer their last questions” before going to Congress with a proposed rewrite of the section of Copyright law that pertains to libraries?
This recent move, which has its genesis in an outdated set of proposals from 2008, is just another in series of out of touch ideas coming from the Copyright Office.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.
We are extremely concerned that Congress could take the Copyright Office’s proposal seriously, and believe that libraries are actually calling for these changes. That’s why we flew to Washington, D.C. to deliver the message to the Copyright Office in person: now is not the time for changes to Section 108. Libraries and technology have been evolving quickly. Good things are beginning to happen as a result. 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.”
Perhaps that’s the point. Because the Copyright Office’s proposal doesn’t seem to help libraries, or the public they serve, at all.