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Fair Use Promoted at House of Representatives Copyright Hearing

James Neal testifying at House copyright hearing

James G. Neal, Columbia University’s university librarian and vice president for information services, served as the voice of libraries to the US House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, when the subcommittee held a hearing on preserving and reusing copyrighted work. The hearing, “Preservation and Reuse of Copyrighted Works,” explored a variety of copyright issues, including orphan works, mass digitization, and specific provisions of the Copyright Act that concern preservation by libraries and archives.

In his testimony (PDF), Neal used examples of some of the preservation efforts currently underway in the Columbia University Library in the City of New York to illustrate how fair use is essential to helping libraries confront preservation challenges specific to the digital age. Neal argued that without fair use libraries would not be able to digitize information stored in antiquated formats or salvage content from obsolete formats.

“Digital resources are not immortal,” said Neal. “In fact, they are in formats that are more likely to cease to exist, and must be transferred to new digital formats repeatedly as technology evolves. Libraries charged with this work require robust applications of flexible exceptions such as fair use so that copyright technicalities do not interfere with their preservation mission,” said Neal.

Importantly, Neal stated that the existing statutory framework, which combines the specific library exceptions in Section 108 with the flexible fair use right, works well for
libraries and does not require amendment.

Neal’s statement was endorsed by the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), which includes the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of College and Research Libraries.

Updated on April 9, 2014: Neal also provided supplemental testimony (PDF) that expands upon some issues that arose in the hearing.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 125 research libraries in the US and Canada. ARL’s mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at http://www.arl.org/.

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