Section 108 Study Group Looks at Exceptions to Law for Libraries; the Recommendations of an Independent Library of Congress Panel Include Archival Preservation of Web Sites

Article excerpt

The Section 108 Study Group, convened by the Library of Congress, has recommended changes in copyright law aimed at addressing digital rights and preservation issues.

After nearly three years of work, the independent group has issued its report and recommendations on exceptions to copyright law to address how libraries, archives, and museums deal with copyrighted materials in a digital environment. The report is available at

Section 108 is the section of the Copyright Act that provides limited exceptions for libraries and archives so that they may make copies to replace copyrighted works in their collections when necessary, preserve them for the long term, and make them available to users.

Digital technologies have radically transformed how copyrighted works are created and disseminated, and how libraries and archives preserve and make those works available. Cultural heritage institutions have begun to acquire large quantities of "born digital" works (those created in digital form) and to digitize analog works already in their collections to ensure the continuing availability of those works to future generations. Section 108 of the Copyright Act is not seen to adequately address many of the issues unique to digital media, either from the perspective of rights owners or from that of libraries and archives.

The Library of Congress convened the group under the auspices of the U.S. Copyright Office and the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program. The Library acted as a facilitator in the process and had no control over, or influence on, the report's final recommendations.

SLA Fellow and John Cotton Dana award winner Laura N. Gasaway, associate dean for academic affairs, professor of law and former director of the law library at the University of North Carolina School of Law and former columnist, and Richard S. Rudick, former senior vice president and general counsel of John Wiley and Sons and vice chair of the board of directors of the Copyright Clearance Center, cochaired the group.

The report will serve as the basis on which legislation may be drafted and recommended to Congress.

Among the recommendations are:

* Museums should be included for Section 108 eligibility, as they perform many of the same functions as libraries and archives.

* A new exception should be added to Section 108 to permit certain qualified libraries and archives to make preservation copies of at-risk published works prior to any damage or loss. Access to these "preservation-only" copies will be limited.

* A new exception should be added to Section 108 to permit libraries and archives to capture and reproduce publicly available Web sites and other online content for preservation purposes and to make those copies accessible to users for private study, research, or scholarship. …