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Library Copyright Alliance Opposes Reform of US Copyright Act Section 108

Library of Congress dome, image CC-BY by Tony Brooks

The US Copyright Office released a Notice of Inquiry on June 7, 2016, calling for meetings with stakeholders to discuss possible reform of Section 108 of the Copyright Act—exemptions for libraries and archives. The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and other members of the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) have requested a meeting with the Copyright Office. LCA released a statement (PDF) on June 16 reiterating its long-held position that Section 108 does not require reform—contrary to the Copyright Office’s portrayal of Section 108 being “obsolete,” libraries use these exemptions every day. 

The Library Copyright Alliance opposes Section 108 reform for four reasons:

First, although Section 108 may reflect a pre-digital environment, it is not obsolete. Section 108 provides libraries and archives with important certainty with respect to the activities it covers.

Second, as the recent decision in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, 755 F.3d 87 (2d Cir. 2014), makes clear, fair use supplements Section 108 and thus provides a sufficient mechanism for updating Section 108 when necessary. For example, fair use provides a sufficient basis for website archiving.

Third, amending Section 108 could have the effect of limiting what libraries do today. Again using website archiving as an example, the Library of Congress’s Section 108 Study Group proposed a complex regulatory scheme for website archiving, an activity already routinely performed by libraries as well as commercial search engines. Indeed, some rights holders see the updating of Section 108 as an opportunity to repeal the fair use safe harbor in Section 108(f)(4) and restrict the availability of fair use to libraries.

Fourth, based on the highly contentious and protracted deliberations of the Section 108 Study Group, it is clear that any legislative process concerning Section 108 would be equally contentious and would demand many library resources just to maintain the status quo, let alone improve the situation of libraries. A Section 108 reform process would consume significant Congressional resources as well.

The Association of Research Libraries is working to show the Copyright Office the value of Section 108—how the exemptions directly support campus communities and the public in their research, education, and teaching. If legislation is introduced, ARL and LCA will work to ensure that the needs of libraries are achieved. 

About the Association of Research Libraries

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 124 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/.

About the Library Copyright Alliance

The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) consists of three major library associations—the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Association of Research Libraries—that collectively represent over 100,000 libraries in the United States and Canada, employing over 350,000 librarians and other personnel. An estimated 200 million Americans use these libraries more than two billion times each year. LCA is on the web at http://www.librarycopyrightalliance.org.