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Library Copyright Alliance Comments on Orphan Works and Mass Digitization

Last Updated on January 14, 2013, 7:14 pm ET

On Monday, January 14, 2013, the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) (whose members are the American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries and Association of College and Research Libraries) filed comments (PDF) with the U.S. Copyright Office in response to their October 22, 2012, Notice of Inquiry about the current state of play with orphan works and mass digitization.

If only it were this easy…

The Office is seeking comments regarding “what has changed in the legal and business environments during the past few years that might be relevant to a resolution of the problem and what additional legislative, regulatory, or voluntary solutions deserve deliberation.”

In its comments, LCA explains that “significant changes in the copyright landscape over the past seven years convince us that libraries no longer need legislative reform in order to make appropriate uses of orphan works.” Specifically, two key developments make it possible for libraries to engage in mass digitization and other projects that involve orphan works:

  • Court decisions (and the #librarianscode!) have further solidified libraries’ rights under fair use; and

  • Libraries have successfully engaged in a range of projects involving orphan works and mass digitization.

While other communities may prefer greater certainty concerning what steps they would need to take to fall within a safe harbor, libraries can rely on their existing rights, including fair use. If Congress does consider legislation, LCA suggests that Congress abandon the overly complex arrangement it arrived at in 2008 and instead make a simple one sentence amendment to the Copyright Act giving courts the discretion to reduce or remit statutory damages in appropriate circumstances.

LCA also submitted to the Copyright Office a stand-alone policy statement on the kind of copyright reform that could benefit libraries. Originally published by LCA in May 2011, the statement emphasizes the same fundamental principles as the LCA comments: confident reliance on fair use and related rights together with the suggestion of simple reform focused on limiting remedies against libraries acting in good faith.

LCA encourages librarians and libraries to submit comments, which are due February 4, 2013, and can be submitted online here.