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Advocacy and Public Policy

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Advocating for Public Policies in Support of Our Mission and Shared Objective

The Association is the collective voice for research libraries and archives on public policy in the US and internationally. In 2019, ARL advanced public policy on accessibility, copyright, free speech, higher education, and privacy. We accomplished much of this work in partnership with the American Council on Education (ACE), American Library Association (ALA), Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL), EDUCAUSE, US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and US National Library of Medicine (NLM). 


The Association hosted a two-day meeting led by the University of Virginia (UVA) Library to explore the legal framework and opportunities for shared accessible teaching materials. We released the ARL-UVA white paper, The Law and Accessible Texts: Reconciling Civil Rights and Copyrights. The white paper analyzes how institutions of higher education can meet their mission of providing all students with equitable access to information within the current legal framework. Ensuring access to research and learning materials is critical in protecting the civil rights of people with disabilities.


ARL met with several congressional offices and coordinated with other allies to slow down and/or reduce the possibility of increased litigation brought against libraries by the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act on the creation of small-claims procedure for copyright cases. As part of the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), we sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) urging them to vote against the CASE Act. 

The Association issued two amicus briefs at the US Supreme Court as part of the Library Copyright Alliance: Allen v. Cooper and Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org. In Allen v. Cooper, LCA’s brief supports Roy A. Cooper III, governor of North Carolina, arguing that abrogation of state sovereign immunity would have a negative impact on the digital preservation initiatives of state-run libraries and archives. In Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, LCA supports Public.Resource.Org, arguing for the preservation of the comprehensive government edicts doctrine, which provides an essential safe harbor from potential copyright liability for libraries as they fulfill their role of preserving and providing access to the cultural record. The Library Copyright Alliance’s mission is to foster global access to and fair use of information for creativity, research, and education.

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ARL presented to the United States Patent and Trademark Office for intellectual property officials from other countries on the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Software Preservation, which provides clear guidance on the legality of archiving legacy software to ensure continued access to digital files of all kinds and to illuminate the history of technology.

The Association also participated in three closed-door roundtables in the Senate regarding the modernization of the US Copyright Office. In these ongoing roundtables we continue to defend against efforts to split the Copyright Office away from supervision and oversight by the Library of Congress, and we continue to protect and advance equitable access to information in various proposals for changing the office’s registration and record-keeping systems and processes.

Free speech

ARL supports freedom of speech and condemns all hate speech and speech used to threaten and intimidate marginalized communities. For ARL members, the Association wrote a review in March of US Executive Order no. 13864, “Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities.” In November, ARL issued a statement condemning the acts of hate speech and violence that took place at Syracuse University.

Higher education 

The Association convened a webinar for ARL members and select partners to discuss the risks of foreign government influence in the research enterprise, including presentations from representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and ACE.


ARL published Research Library Issues no. 297, which explored privacy from a legal, digital, and applied perspective, with a focus on the implications and opportunities for research libraries. 

We also completed a review of core interests and opportunities for research libraries in privacy and digital data policy. In 2020, this will be a focus of the ARL Digital Content Task Force and potentially a new working group set up through the Advocacy and Public Policy Committee on digital-information platform issues.

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