Copyright

The Digital Age presents new challenges to fundamental copyright principles that are cornerstones of library services. 

It is impossible to honor professional cores values of librarians—first amendment, equity of access, and inclusion—without copyright law. Without it, libraries would be unable to loan books, preserve content, and exercise fair use. Libraries have a privileged position in the law with individual exceptions that apply only to non-profit libraries and archives. Congress recognized that libraries are sites of learning, where protected content will be continually available, distributed, used, and preserved to further knowledge, fostering the Constitutional purpose of the law “to advance the progress of science and the useful arts” to benefit the public.

Copyright policy favoring rights holders over users of information can limit access, free speech, research, and scholarship. Because of advances in digital technology and its widespread availability, educators, researchers, and the general public are using content in new ways. Where fair use begins and ends in this environment is put to the test. At the same time, fundamental reproduction rights crafted with physical content in mind must be upheld. Section 108 rights continue to be used and provide an understanding of the power Congress granted libraries in order to ensure they can fulfill mission-critical functions, including interlibrary loan, preservation, and educational services like public performance of content in the classroom.

The American Library Association works with Congress, the U.S. Copyright Office, the U.S Patent and Trademark Office and other government agencies to represent the library community and the public and to ensure that users rights are upheld. Our position is that copyright will only be effective when it is balanced between the rights of the public and the interests of rights holders.

Summary of Positions

  • ALA supports the protection of the public domain.
  • ALA opposes any revision of Section 108 that would erode existing exceptions and foundational principles.
  • ALA supports policy efforts to override contracts for digital resources that circumvent library exceptions and limitations guaranteed by the copyright law.
  • ALA opposes any legislation that would move the hiring authority for the Register of Copyright from the Librarian of Congress.
  • ALA opposes any legislation that would make the Copyright Office an independent agency of the government.
  • ALA supports the modernization of the Library of Congress and the U.S. Copyright Office.
  • ALA supports a reduction in statutory damages available under the law.
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