ARL Joins Coalition Raising Privacy Concerns on Nomination of Sessions

On January 9, 2017, ARL joined a coalition of organizations in sending a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Feinstein (D-CA) raising concerns regarding Senator Sessions’ record on privacy.

The letter notes that

Senator Sessions has been a leading proponent of expanding the government’s surveillance of ordinary Americans at the expense of civil rights and civil liberties. He has spent his 20-year career in the Senate arguing for broad, often unchecked surveillance powers in intelligence investigations, even though those investigations pose unnecessarily invasive risks to privacy. Senator Sessions has staunchly defended the USA Patriot Act’s most controversial and privacy invasive provisions, calling the Act “a restrained piece of legislation.” He has advocated for broader surveillance powers than the intelligence community (IC) itself has asked for and opposed the USA Freedom Act, which the IC supported.

The letter continues by providing specific examples and statements by Senator Sessions that raise serious concerns regarding his commitment to privacy, freedom of speech and civil liberties.  The full letter can be read here.

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Network Neutrality in the Cross Hairs

*Jointly authored by Larra Clark, Krista Cox and Kara Malenfant*

It is widely reported that network neutrality is one of the most endangered telecommunications policy gains of the past two years. The ALA, ARL and ACRL—with EDUCAUSE and other library and higher education allies—have been on the front lines of this battle with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Congress, and the courts for more than a decade. Here’s an update on where we stand, what might come next, and what the library community may do to mobilize.

What’s at stake: Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular services or websites. Net neutrality is essential for library and educational institutions to carry out our missions and to ensure protection of freedom of speech, educational achievement, research and economic growth. The Internet has become the pre-eminent platform for learning, collaboration, and interaction among students, faculty, library patrons, local communities, and the world.

In February 2015, the FCC adopted Open Internet rules that provided the strongest network neutrality protections we’ve seen, and which are aligned with library and higher education principles for network neutrality and ongoing direct advocacy with FCC and other allies. The rules:

  • Prohibit blocking or degrading access to legal content, applications, services, and non-harmful devices; as well as banning paid prioritization, or favoring some content over other traffic;
  • Apply network neutrality protections to both fixed and mobile broadband, which the library and higher education coalition advocated for in our most recent filings, as well as (unsuccessfully) in response to the 2010 Open Internet Order
  • Allow for reasonable network management while enhancing transparency rules regarding how ISPs are doing this;
  • Create a general Open Internet standard for future ISP conduct; and
  • Re-classify ISPs as Title II “common carriers.”

As anticipated, the decision was quickly challenged in court and in Congress. A broad coalition of network neutrality advocates successfully stymied Congressional efforts to undermine the FCC’s Open Internet Order, and library organizations filed as amici at the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit. In June 2016, the three-judge panel affirmed the FCC’s rules.

What’s the threat:  During the presidential campaign, and with more specificity since the election, President-elect Donald Trump and members of his transition team, as well as some Republican members of Congress and the FCC, have made rolling back network neutrality protections a priority for action.

Here’s a sample of what we are reading and hearing these days:

“The fate of the agency’s net neutrality rules will be the FCC’s biggest fight of the year.”

“2015 was the year the Federal Communications Commission grew a spine. And 2017 could be the year that spine gets ripped out.”

“Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai yesterday vowed to take a ‘weed whacker’ to FCC regulations after President-elect Donald Trump takes office, with net neutrality rules being among the first to be cut down.”

“The caucus recommends undoing the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 regulation, on the grounds that it did too much in a stroke.”

“Pai and O’Rielly will have a 2-1 Republican majority on the FCC after the departure of Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler on January 20. Pai previously said that the Title II net neutrality order’s ‘days are numbered’ under Trump, while O’Rielly said he intends to ‘undo harmful policies’ such as the Title II reclassification.”

As in the past, attacks on network neutrality may take many different forms, including new legislation, judicial appeal to the Supreme Court, initiating a new rulemaking and/or lack of enforcement by new FCC leadership, or new efforts by ISPs to skirt the rules.

For instance, there may be an effort by some Members of Congress to craft a “compromise” bill that would prohibit blocking and degradation by statute but reverse the FCC’s decision to classify ISPs as Title II common carriers. We are wary, however, that this so-called compromise may not give the FCC the authority to enforce the statutory rules.

So, now what? As the precise shape of the attacks is still taking form, the library and higher education communities are beginning to connect and engage in planning discussions. We will monitor developments and work with others to mobilize action to ensure Open Internet protections are preserved.

Library advocates can help in several ways:

  • Stay informed via District Dispatch blog (subscribe here) and ARL Policy Notes blog (subscribe here)
  • Sign up for Action Alerts so we can reach you quickly when direct action is needed
  • Share your stories, blog and engage on social networks about the importance of network neutrality and the need to defend it

*Larra Clark is Deputy Director for the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy and Public Library Association. Krista Cox is ARL Director of Public Policy Initiatives. Kara Malenfant is ACRL Senior Strategist for Special Initiatives.

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What Will Happen to the TPP Copyright Provisions?

Over the last several years, a group of countries, including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States negotiated a comprehensive regional trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).  This agreement was controversial for a number of reasons and, as a result of the recent elections in the United States, will almost certainly not come into force.

The TPP garnered heavy criticism, not only for the substantive provisions being negotiated, but also because of the lack of transparency in the negotiations; an official release of text occurred only after the agreement had been signed.  One of the chapters included in the TPP is one on intellectual property, with detailed provisions on copyright.  On October 5, 2015 the twelve ministers of the TPP countries announced that a deal had been reached and the final agreement on the copyright provisions had mixed results.

The final text showed several great improvements over earlier leaked versions of the United States’ proposal.  The text included flexibility in the language on technological protection measures and removed earlier proposals banning parallel importation or formalities, for example.  In many areas, including on technological protection measures, the text represented an improvement over prior, bilateral trade agreements between the United States and other countries.  Additionally, the TPP included a significant provision on limitations and exceptions, requiring parties to “endeavor to achieve an appropriate balance,” the first time such a provision has been included in a United States trade agreement.

While there were some improvements, there also remained areas of concern.  For example, the provisions on Internet service providers included a carve-out to allow Canada to maintain its notice-and-notice system, but did not extend this flexibility to any other country.  Additionally, the TPP included the lengthy copyright term of life plus seventy years, far exceeding the international minimum standard of life plus twenty.

Regardless of whether the TPP text was ultimately a positive or a negative, with Trump’s election and refusal by Congress to vote on the deal during lame duck, the agreement will not move forward in the United States and, likely, for the other eleven parties.  The TPP includes a provision stating that it will not go into force until after the ratification of the agreement by both the United States and Japan.  Although the remaining parties could renegotiate the agreement, they may not want to do so given that one of the major incentives was access to the United States market and that six of the eleven countries already had preexisting trade agreements with the United States.

What does this mean for the final copyright provisions, both the good and the bad, of the TPP?

First, with respect to the harmful provisions, countries should avoid adopting implementing legislation to comply with an agreement that will not come into force, such as restrictive provisions on technological protection measures or copyright term extension.  Curiously, some countries, most notably New Zealand, went forward with ratification and implementation anyway; New Zealand passed implementing legislation on November 15, including a provision to extend copyright term to the TPP-mandated term of life plus seventy years (though this legislation will only come into force if/when the TPP comes into force).  It would seem that in adopting such implementing legislation, if it does not go into force, New Zealand may lose some bargaining power in future negotiations, whether with the United States or not, with respect to copyright since it has already clearly indicated its willingness to adopt a term extension that has no real policy justification or evidence basis to support it.  In fact, New Zealand’s analysis found that copyright term extension would result in a “significant cost” to its economy. “This cost – in terms of foregone savings on books, films, music and other works – increases gradually over 20 years and averages around $55 million a year over the very long term.” Without the benefits of access to the United States’ (and other TPP parties’) markets, the real point of a trade agreement, why would countries move forward to implement provisions that do not benefit them?

There is always hope that should another large trade agreement be negotiated in the future, countries can find ways to oppose a copyright term that is highly controversial, even within the United States, which has been the demandeur of term extension.  One obvious positive of the TPP’s death is that these harmful provisions need not be enacted and, hopefully, will therefore be less likely to become a new global norm.

Of course, on the other side of the equation, what happens to the positive, or relatively positive, outcomes in the copyright section of the TPP?  For the first time in any United States trade agreement, text was introduced acknowledging the importance of a balanced copyright system and the role limitations and exceptions play in achieving this balance.  This text, a proposal by the United States, was substantially improved over the course of the negotiations, for example by clarifying that the language did not reduce the application of other limitations and exceptions permitted under international agreements, and also ultimately included a footnote referencing the Marrakesh Treaty for the Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled.  It would be a shame not to include this balancing provision in future trade agreements.  While the provision certainly could have been improved by requiring parties to achieve a balance, it still required parties to endeavor to achieve.  Hopefully, its inclusion in the final negotiated text, and the fact that it was a proposal by the United States, signals an intention to include balancing provisions in future trade agreements.

Furthermore, additional TPP provisions on technological protection measures, general provisions, and ones on enforcement allowed for greater flexibility than the provisions of many existing trade agreements.  Such flexibility may have resulted from the benefits of a larger group of negotiating countries which ultimately gave the United States less leverage in the negotiations.

President-elect Trump has indicated a desire to revisit the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and in doing so, it is certainly concerning that the more harmful copyright provisions of the TPP may find their way into a renegotiation of NAFTA, without the benefits of the positive provisions.  Canada, in particular, because it has not yet implemented copyright term extension and has a robust fair dealing provision, should be wary of reopening copyright

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ARL Joins Coalition Letter Raising Concerns Over Compelled Scanning of E-mails

On Tuesday, October 25, ARL joined a coalition of civil society groups raising concerns regarding recent reports that Yahoo! had been compelled under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to scan the emails of all of its users for a “signature” associated with a foreign power.  The letter raised serious concerns over user privacy and also noted that such scanning could violate FISA and the Fourth Amendment.

The letter calls on the Director of National Intelligence to publicly disclose the interpretations of law relied upon to justify the scanning order; to release FISA Court opinions that compelled such surveillance (and as required under the USA FREEDOM Act); disclose whether scanning of e-mail content occurred under this order; disclose the selectors the government believes are permissible; and to indicate the number of times such an order was issued compelling the scanning of all incoming emails.

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ICYMI: Maria Pallante Removed as Register of Copyrights

On Friday, October 21, 2016, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced the removal of Maria Pallante as Register of Copyrights.  Hayden appointed Maria Pallante as Senior Advisor for Digital Strategy and Karyn Temple Claggett, currently the Associate Register, as the Acting Register of Copyrights.  Under Pallante’s direction, the Copyright Office made orphan works legislation and reform of Section 108, two areas where the library community has raised serious concerns, strong priorities. Pallante also advocated for the Copyright Office to become an independent agency, rather than being housed in the Library of Congress.

A press release issued today by House Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member Conyers (D-Mi.) indicates that Maria Pallante will be leaving the Copyright Office.  This press release also suggests that Congress may take this opportunity to “examine the selection process for the new register.”  Such an examination may be an issue considered as Congress continues to look at bills to modernize the Copyright Office.

Edited to add: On October 25, 2016, Politico confirmed news that Maria Pallante resigned.  Her resignation letter is available here.

Below are some articles covering this recent development:

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USPTO Hosts Unbalanced Global Intellectual Property Academy Copyright Seminar

Several weeks ago, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) hosted a copyright seminar at its Global Intellectual Property Academy for two dozen intellectual property officials primarily from countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. While the first several days involved an “overview” of copyright and mostly time with United States government officials, September 22 was labeled “Industry Day.” The speaker list revealed a very heavy focus on rightholders, in several cases the panels did not have any voices advocating for the importance of consumers and the role of limitations and exceptions in copyright law.

Although I appreciated the opportunity to have participated on a panel on issues related to publishing, I was disappointed to learn that USPTO planned such a highly unbalanced lineup of speakers, overall. By hosting a day almost exclusively comprised of copyright maximalists, USPTO provides its audience, intellectual property officials in other countries, only one side of the story.

Balance is critical in a functional copyright system to ensure that user rights are protected. In addition to the numerous specific limitations and exceptionsin copyright law, the United States has a strong “safety valve” in its copyright system: fair use. This flexible doctrine accommodates new technologies and circumstances. It ensures that Congress does not need to pass new legislation each time a new limitation or exception is needed. Fair use, of course, is not limited to consumers of copyrighted goods and is essential to rightholders as well. Rightholders have successfully relied on the right of fair use in litigation, even though they often complain about consumers who rely on this doctrine. The U.S. Government also relies on fair use; the Patent and Trademark Office itself relies on it in the patent examination process and for photocopying materials. Despite the importance of fair use and other limitations and exceptions, the panels appeared to be heavily skewed only toward discussing the rights of rightholders. Absent from these panels were voices like documentary filmmakers, remix artists, consumer groups and others who would provide different perspectives from the traditional content industry and give the audience a more balanced view of the United States copyright system.

On my own panel, the other speakers included Allan Adler of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), Ryan Fox of the Authors Guild, and Michael Healy of the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC).  All of these groups strongly advocate for greater rights of rightholders and have been involved in recent cases opposing fair use (such as Authors Guild v. HathiTrust or the Georgia State E-Reserves Case), as parties to the case, as amici, or by funding the litigation (or some combination).

These USPTO seminars would benefit from a more diverse groups of speakers who can provide meaningful balance.

Below is the full list of topics and speakers from “Industry Day”

Overview of Key Issues facing the Music Industry

Part 1: Efficient and fair licensing, collection and distribution of royalties

Tim Dadson, Assistant General Counsel, SoundExchange

Erich Carey, Vice President & Senior Counsel, Litigation at National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA)

Part 2: Sound recording licensing

Steve Marks, Chief, Digital Business & General Counsel, RIAA

Greg Barnes, General Counsel and Director of Governmental Affairs, Digital Media Association (DiMA)

Overview of Key Issues facing the Audiovisual (Film) Industry

Kevin Rosenbaum, Of Counsel, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP; Counsel to the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA)

Troy Dow, Vice President and Counsel, Government Relations and IP Legal Policy and Strategy, The Walt Disney Company

Paula Karol Pinha, Director of Public Policy, Latin America -Netflix (invited)

Overview of Key Issues facing the Software Industries

Ben Golant, Entertainment Software Association (ESA)

Christian Troncoso, Director of Policy, Business Software Association (BSA) | The Software Alliance

Chris Mohr, Vice President for Intellectual Property and General Counsel, Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA)

Overview of Key Issues facing Photographers and Visual Artists

Joshua J. Kaufman, Chair, Art, Copyright & Licensing Practices, Venable LLP

Tom Kennedy, Executive Director, American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP)

Overview of Key Issues facing the Publishing Industry

Michael Healey, Executive Director, International Relations, Copyright Clearance Center (CCC)

Allan Adler, General Counsel and Vice President for Government Affairs, Association of American Publishers (AAP)

Ryan Fox, Editorial Director, Author’s Guild

Krista Cox, Director of Public Policy Initiatives, Association of Research Libraries

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New ARL Advocacy and Public Policy Update Available

On September 26, 2016, ARL released a new Advocacy and Public Policy Update covering the period from July 15 to September 26. This update covers the following issues:

  • Appropriations
  • Emergence of new preprint services
  • White House release of policy on open source software
  • Patricia Flatley Brennan named Director of National Library of Medicine
  • Carla Hayden takes office as Librarian of Congress
  • Copyright and intellectual property (including Copyright Office activities around Section 108 and mandatory deposit, and the Georgia State University e-reserves case)
  • International issues (including the Marrakesh Treaty ratification efforts and India’s recent course pack case)

The full update can be accessed here:

 

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ARL Joins 33 Organizations Urging Congressional Oversight of Intelligence Activities

On September 13, 2016, ARL joined in a coalition letter of 33 organizations expressing concerns regarding congressional oversight of intelligence activities.  The letter calls on Congress “to provide a meaningful check on the executive branch and reform how it conducts oversight over intelligence matters.”  The letter calls for a number of reforms to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and to strengthen Congressional power, including to provide members with sufficient staff assistance.

The letter concludes:

In addition to the above reforms, we urge you to consider establishing a distinct, broad-based review of the activities of the Intelligence Community since 9/11, modeled after the 9/11 Commission or the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities.

When questions were raised about the activities of the intelligence community in the 1970s, Congress reacted by forming two special committees, colloquially known as the Pike and Church committees. Reports preceded wholesale reforms of the intelligence community, including improving congressional-oversight mechanisms. The outcome improved congressional oversight and the perception of its efficacy. The House should provide the new select committee adequate staffing and financial support, and give it a broad mandate to review practices and structures associated with congressional oversight of intelligence matters.

The full letter can be read here.

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ICYMI: Library Copyright Alliance Files Comments Regarding Mandatory Deposit

On August 18, 2016, the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) filed a response to the Copyright Office’s Notice of Inquiry regarding mandatory deposit of online-only books and sound recordings.  LCA’s comments support expansion of the 2010 interim rule, which applied to mandatory deposit of online-only electronic serials (newspapers, journals, etc.), to books and sound recordings.

The comments point out the critical role mandatory deposit plays in the Library’s mission to collect, preserve and provide access to all types of works, regardless of publication type.  LCA’s comments point out:

Without mandatory deposit, works created in the digital age could be lost forever. We have seen this loss happen in the film industry. Approximately half of all films made before 1950, and most silent films, are unavailable because no effective mechanism existed at the national level to preserve these important pieces of our cultural heritage and history. The Library is actively and commendably trying to ensure that such enormous permanent losses are not replicated in the digital era. Mandatory deposit of online-only works is the necessary and appropriate solution. Although the present Notice of Inquiry presents only the issue of extending the interim rule to online-only books and sound recordings, serious consideration also should be given to applying the rule to other categories of works, such as photographs and films, to ensure that all types of works are adequately preserved and included in our national Library.

The comments also support expanding access to works collected through mandatory deposit and:

limiting simultaneous access to two on-site users at dedicated terminals is too restrictive and not in accord with current practices in the library community. Access is an essential component of the Library’s mission and such a limited policy hampers the spread of knowledge and culture. Extension of the applicability of the interim rule should involve reconsideration of the current, overly conservative limitation of accessing materials to two on-site terminals at the Library.

In total, there were fifteen submissions to the Copyright Office with respect to this notice of inquiry.  Libraries submitting comments include the University of Michigan, University of California Los Angeles, and University of Virginia.

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A New Approach to Copyright Exceptions and Limitations

*Guest post by Jonathan Band, policybandwidth*

Any discussion with policymakers or rightsholders concerning the possible adoption of new copyright exceptions and limitations invariably centers on how to make sure that the exception is not abused. This leads to lengthy negotiations resulting in complex, difficult-to-use provisions that resemble the tax code. This pattern has been repeated in connection to the exceptions to section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the TEACH Act for distance education (17 U.S.C. § 110(2)), the Chafee Amendment for the print disabled (17 U.S.C. § 121), and orphan works legislation, to name just a few of the more salient examples.

It’s time for this pattern to be broken. Rightsholders have nothing to fear from exceptions and their possible abuse. Infringement deriving from abuse of exceptions likely would be a tiny fraction of the overall incidence of infringement. At the same time, preventing the public benefits that flow from exceptions undermines the purpose of the copyright system.

Section 108

Unfortunately, this pattern of developing overly restrictive exceptions may soon repeat itself in the context of the exception for libraries and archives in 17 U.S.C. § 108. In 2005, the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office convened a study group consisting of librarians and publishers to consider how to update section 108 for the digital age. After three contentious years, the study group issued a report recommending several possible amendments to section 108, but could not reach consensus on the details of those amendments, nor on how to handle other important issues such as copies for users or license restrictions.

Notwithstanding this lack of consensus, and over the objection of most libraries and archives, the Copyright Office has decided to urge Congress to revise section 108. This past June, the Copyright Office issued a notice of inquiry stating that it seeks “to finalize its legislative recommendation” concerning a “re-drafting” of section 108. In meetings with stakeholders pursuant to this notice of inquiry, the Copyright Office stated that it hopes to complete its legislative recommendation and transmit it to Congress this fall.

Although the Copyright Office hopes to make section 108 simpler and more user-friendly, the Office’s likely concern about “leakage” almost certainly guarantees that the re-drafted section 108 will be complicated and not understandable by librarians without law degrees. And even if the Office somehow manages to produce a streamlined and comprehensible proposal, the rightsholders can be expected to insist on changes to eliminate possible abuse that will inevitably make the proposal more complex.

There is no doubt that digital networks have facilitated copyright infringement. And while the adverse impact of this infringement probably has been overstated by rightsholders, it is perfectly legitimate for rightsholders to take reasonable measures to address infringement. The operative word here is reasonable. And making exceptions for libraries, educational institutions, or the print disabled difficult to use in order to reduce potential leakage is not reasonable.

There are approximately 200 million smartphone users in the United States, and 2 billion smartphone users worldwide. Each smartphone has the capability of reproducing entire copyrighted works and uploading them to the Internet, where they can be disseminated globally. In a world where this technological capability is literally at the fingertips of so many users, what possible difference could it make if there is a small amount of leakage from a library?

Consider the following examples. Under existing section 108(c), a library is permitted to make a replacement copy of a published work that is damaged or lost if the library determines that an unused replacement cannot be obtained at a fair price. While the library may circulate a physical replacement copy, it cannot make a copy available in a digital format outside the library premises. The Section 108 study group recommended modifying the prohibition on off-site lending of digital replacement copies only to allow the lending of a copy reproduced in a digital physical medium if the library’s original copy was also in a digital physical medium. In other words, if the library owned an audiobook CD that was deteriorating, the study group proposal would allow the library to make and lend a replacement CD, but it would not be able to stream the digital file to a user. Similarly, if its original copy wasn’t digital, the library would not be able to make a digital copy viewable outside of the library premises.

The publishers in the Section 108 study group insisted on these restrictions because they were afraid that the digital files would be retransmitted on the Internet. This concern overlooks four facts. First, the exception would only be available if a replacement copy couldn’t be purchased, i.e., the work was out of print so there would be no market harm, even if unlawful retransmission occurred. Second, unlawful copies of any work for which there is current and likely future demand are already available online, so how much incremental harm could be caused by unlawful retransmission of the library’s replacement copy? Third, technological measures exist to make retransmission difficult. Fourth, as fair use jurisprudence has evolved, making the digital copy available outside the library premises with appropriate technological protections likely would be a fair use. In other words, the library could probably engage in the activity anyway under a fair use theory, so why not save the library the burden of performing the fair use analysis and simply permit it under an explicit exception?

A similar analysis could be performed for many of the study group’s other recommendations. For example, the proposed exception for the archiving of publicly accessible websites was unnecessarily regulatory, especially considering that commercial entities such as Google and Microsoft routinely engage in this activity under a fair use theory.

It is the awareness that section 108 reform will be extremely contentious and unlikely to produce positive results that has led to library opposition to the Copyright Office’s initiative.

Section 1201 Rulemaking

Likewise, the exemptions that the Library of Congress has adopted during the course of the triennial rulemaking under section 1201 of the DMCA reflect an unhealthy obsession with possible abuse. The current exemption, adopted in 2015, permits circumvention of the technological protections on lawfully acquired motion pictures by college and university faculty and students, for use of short portions for educational purposes “in film studies or other courses requiring close analysis of film and media excerpts…where the person engaging in circumvention reasonably believes that screen-capture software or other non-circumventing alternatives are unable to produce the required level of high-quality content.” Thus, an instructor or a student may circumvent only after determining that no alternative to circumvention will produce the “level of high-quality content.” This would necessitate that the instructor or student determine: 1) whether the course requires “close analysis of film and media excerpts;” 2) what level of quality excerpt she needs to satisfy her educational purpose; 3) what are the various available alternatives to circumvention; and 4) whether any of these alternatives will produce the required level of quality excerpt. In the K-12 context, this exemption is available only to instructors, not students.

The Copyright Office designed an exemption that requires educational users to jump through many hoops so as to ensure that the exemption is not abused. At the insistence of rightsholders, the Copyright Office evidently considers circumvention to be a highly dangerous activity that leaves films vulnerable to widespread infringement, and thus must be regulated carefully. However, there is no evidence that any infringement resulted from earlier iterations of the exemption that were more straightforward. Further, the software necessary to circumvent the technological protection measures on DVDs or other storage media is widely available on the Internet and easy to use. Moreover, infringing copies of most films can be found on the Internet soon after release. Thus, a simple, broad circumvention exemption for any educational use would not harm the market for the films in any meaningful way. (At one time, some film studios planned to create a market for licensing film clips to educational institutions, but the enormous number of works educators need to access made development of such a market infeasible.)

A New Approach

Rightsholders’ frustration with their loss of control over their content is understandable. It also is understandable that this frustration would fuel a desire to exercise control wherever they can, even though it makes no difference to their bottom line.

Although the rightsholders’ frustration is understandable, it is bad copyright policy to impose the costs of overly restrictive exceptions on libraries and educational institutions where there is no offsetting benefit to rightsholders or society at large. As the Supreme Court recently stated in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley, “copyright law ultimately serves the purpose of enriching the general public through access to creative works.” The Supreme Court then explained that “the statute achieves that end by striking a balance between two subsidiary aims: encouraging and rewarding authors’ creations while enabling others to build on that work.” Exceptions and limitations are the means to achieve the aim of enabling others to build on a work.

Rather than fight reasonable adjustments to Title 17 to accommodate digital technology, rightsholders should embrace them. This not only would better meet the objectives of the copyright system, it also would be in the long run best interest of rightsholders. Instead of advocating for narrow section 1201 exemptions for educational uses of film clips, studios should encourage the broadest possible use of films in classrooms. Doing so would more deeply entrench the role of films in American culture and society.

Similarly, publishers should facilitate libraries making the robust use of their collections. Libraries spend $4 billion a year acquiring books and other materials. The more access libraries are able to provide to their collections—the more libraries are used—the easier it is for libraries to secure the budget they need to purchase more materials. Additionally, greater access to written materials encourages literacy, which in turn leads to greater demand for written materials. Finally, for many users, the alternative to accessing materials through libraries would not be to purchase the materials, but to find infringing copies on the Internet.

The same logic applies to remixes and fan fiction. More enlightened rightsholders have recognized that these activities deepen fan loyalty and result in increased sales. Additionally, these activities train the next generation of artists. And of course, reasonable exceptions enhance the credibility of the copyright system generality.

In short, rightsholders should stop treating libraries and educational institutions—their biggest customers—as their copyright enemies, and instead assist them in promoting the creation and dissemination of culture by supporting the broadest possible copyright exceptions. If rightsholders can’t change direction on their own, policymakers in Congress, the Copyright Office, and the Executive Branch should lead the way. But until rightsholders and policymakers change their approach to exceptions, attempts to fashion new exceptions will largely be exercises in futility.

 

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