ARL Policy Notes
Broad Coalition Opposes Cyber Information Sharing Act of 2014

On June 26, 2014 the Association of Research Libraries joined with thirty-four other organizations opposing the Cyber Information Sharing Act of 2014 (CISA). This broad coalition sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) expressing concerns that the bill would create a loophole in existing privacy laws and does not prevent the government from requesting “voluntary” cooperation from private companies in sharing information, including content of communications.

The letter raises a number of concerns, including threats the bill poses to whistleblowers and transparency. Additionally, with respect to specific privacy concerns, the letter notes that the bill creates a “danger of a potential end-run around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”), the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”), the Fourth Amendment and other crucial privacy protections [which] is compounded by the potentially broad immunity conferred on sharing ‘in accordance’ with the act, and the additional absolute defense when sharing occurs in violation of the act but in ‘good faith’ reliance on the mistaken belief that the sharing is lawful.”

This letter makes several specific recommendations:

  • Ensure that DHS is the custodian of cybersecurity information voluntarily shared by the private sector, and has the authority to prevent sensitive information from being transmitted to the intelligence community and military without appropriate privacy protections;
  • Ensure that information shared is “reasonably necessary” to describe a cybersecurity threat;
  • Restrict the use of information received under the sharing authority to actual cybersecurity activities, the prosecution of cybercrimes, the protection of individuals from imminent threat of physical harm or death, or to protect children from serious threats;
  • Limit FOIA restrictions to those provided by 6 U.S.C. §§ 131-34 (2012).14
  • Require public disclosure of annual reports from relevant inspectors general describing what information is received, how it is used, who gets it and how it is treated to protect privacy.
  • Include a sunset provision in the bill keyed to these reports, which will allow the measure to expire if abuse or misuse is disclosed;
  • Allow individuals harmed by inappropriate sharing to sue the government if it intentionally or willfully violates the law.
WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright Limitations and Exceptions Meeting This Week

This week, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) will meet from June 30-July 4. The agenda for this session of SCCR includes discussion of broadcasting, limitations and exceptions for libraries, and limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities.

At the last meeting of SCCR which took place from April 28-May 2, the EU blocked the conclusions of the meeting, refusing to agree to language referring to “text-based” work on limitations and exceptions for libraries. Ultimately, the Chair of SCCR released the conclusions as a Chair’s document, rather than as the agreement of the WIPO member states. Because WIPO operates on the basis of consensus, a single country or group can block action at WIPO, including for example, blocking adoption of conclusions or agreement to hold a diplomatic conference. By blocking the conclusions, the EU has potentially made it more difficult to move forward on work on limitations and exceptions at SCCR.

A live webcast of this week’s SCCR, as well as meeting documents, is available here. Additional coverage of SCCR is available here.

U.S. House of Representatives Passes Amendment to End NSA Backdoor Spying

On June 19, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 293-123 to pass an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill to cut funding for NSA backdoor spying under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments. Current NSA practices include the collection of vast amounts of information and, provided that there is a foreign “target,” the NSA can search these collections for communications of U.S. persons, thus providing a “backdoor” method of conducting surveillance on Americans. This Amendment, originally primarily sponsored by Representatives Massie (R-KY), Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Lofgren (D-CA), would restore Fourth Amendment protections by cutting funding of current NSA practices of conducting these warrantless searches.

Majority of House of Representatives Co-Sponsor Email Privacy Act; ARL Applauds Milestone in ECPA Reform Efforts

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is pleased that on June 17, 2014, the Email Privacy Act, H.R. 1852, reached a milestone of 218 co-sponsors, representing a majority of support from the members of the House of Representatives.

The Email Privacy Act, originally introduced by Rep. Yoder (R-KS) on May 7, 2013, would update an outdated law known as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and ensure that important Fourth Amendment privacy protections extend to online communications. ECPA was enacted in 1986 and has not kept pace with evolving technologies. The law permits government agencies to access e-mails, documents and other communications that are older than 180 days and stored online without obtaining a warrant, affording online communications with less protection than hard copy documents stored in a filing cabinet.

As libraries and universities move services into the cloud and more communications take place online, it is critical that Fourth Amendment protect information long considered to be private—including what individuals are reading or researching, and to whom they are talking—even in the digital world. The growth of the Internet has launched new forms of communications and changed the way individuals interact since ECPA’s enactment in 1986. The Email Privacy Act would change the absurd results of ECPA and require agencies to obtain a warrant for content, thereby ensuring that Fourth Amendment protections extend to online documents and communications.

A majority of the House of Representatives clearly supports the restoration of these important privacy rights and ARL urges Congress to act quickly to pass the Email Privacy Act. There is no logical reason to grant greater privacy protection for hard copy documents or traditional forms of communication than for documents stored in the cloud or e-mail and social media communications. The Email Privacy Act provides a practical solution to this absurdity.

Second Circuit Affirms Fair Use in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust

On June 10, 2014, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court decision in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust in favor of HathiTrust Digital Library’s (HDL) motions for summary judgment, finding that two of the three uses by HDL (creating a full-text search database and providing access to the print disabled) constituted fair use and remanding the issue of the third use (preservation) back to the district court to determine the standing of the plaintiffs to bring the claim.

The Second Circuit began its fair use analysis by noting that while the Copyright Act certain exclusive rights, “there are important limits to an author’s rights to control original and derivative works. One such limit is the doctrine of ‘fair use,’ which allows the public to draw upon copyrighted materials without the permission of the copyright holder in certain circumstances.” The court then detailed numerous examples of fair use that have been upheld by various courts, including district courts, appellate courts and the Supreme Court of the United States before going through the three HDL uses at issue.

Fair Use Factors

The Second Circuit summarized the four fair use factors codified under Section 107 of the Copyright Act and explained how these factors are evaluated. These factors include:

1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

With respect to the first factor, the court noted the importance of whether the use is considered “transformative” which it defines as “something more than repackage[ing] or republish[ing] the original copyrighted work. The inquiry is whether the work ‘adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning or message …’” (quoting Campbell, 510 U.S. 16 579)). The Second Circuit rejected the district court’s implication that a use is transformative if it adds value or utility, instead emphasizing that a transformative work is “one that serves a new and different function from the original work and is not a substitute for it.”

The court noted that the second factor evaluates the nature of the work and recognizes a greater need to disseminate factual works than fiction.

The third factor addresses the amount of the copyrighted work used and the court noted, “we assess the quantity and value of the materials used and whether the amount copied is reasonable in relation to the purported justification for the use.”

Finally, citing the Supreme Court case, Harper v. Row, the Second Circuit called the fourth factor, which assesses the impact of the use on the potential market, the “single most important element of fair use.” The court noted that “[t]o defeat a claim of fair use, the copyright holder must point to market harm that results because the secondary use serves as a substitute for the original work.”

Full Text Search

The court first evaluated whether HDL’s full text search constitutes fair use. The court explains the program, noting that the Libraries create digital copies of the entire books, but HDL does not allow viewers to view any portion of the books searched, but only to identify where a search term appears in a particular book. In evaluating the four fair use factors, the court concluded that three of the four factors favor fair use and upheld the district court’s determination that the full-text search constitutes fair use.

The Second Circuit found that the full-text search is a “quintessentially transformative use” as it is “different in purpose, character, expression, meaning, and message from the page (and the book) from which it is drawn.” The court further noted that the full-text search is more transformative than other uses previously upheld as fair use by the Second Circuit as well as other circuits.

With respect to the second factor, the court did not find it to be dispositive, noting that this factor may be limited in value where a creative work is being used for a transformative purpose.

Turning to the third factor, the Second Circuit pointed to precedent that copying a work in its entirety is sometimes necessary. It found that it was “reasonably necessary” for HDL to copy the entirety of the work in order to enable the full-text search function. Accordingly, this factor weighed in favor of HDL.

Discussing the fourth factor, the Second Circuit reminded that the analysis “is concerned with only one type of economic injury to a copyright holder: the harm that results because the secondary use serves as a substitute for the original work.” Here, the Second Circuit rejected the contention that market harm has occurred finding the full-text search does not substitute for the original. The court stated that it is therefore “irrelevant” that libraries may be willing to pay licensing fees to enable this type of transformative use. The court also rejected the plaintiffs’ suggestion that the risk of a security breach would impact the market, noting that HDL undertook extensive security measures and it could find no basis to assume such a breach would occur. Consequently, the fourth factor weighs in favor of fair use and, taken together, that the overall analysis of the four factors results in a finding that the full-text search database is fair use.

Access to the Print Disabled

Turning to HDL’s use of the works to facilitate access to the print disabled, the Second Circuit concluded that this use is also protected under fair use.

With respect to the first factor, the Second Circuit rejected the district court’s finding that creation of accessible format works is transformative. The Second Circuit equated the creation of an accessible format with a derivative work, but notes that even absent a finding of transformative use, a defendant may still satisfy the first factor. In finding that the first factor favors access to the print disabled, the Second Circuit first quoted the Supreme Court’s decision in Sony Corp of America which stated that “Making a copy of a copyrighted work for the convenience of a blind person is expressly identified by the House Committee Report as an example of fair use, with no suggestion that anything more than a purpose to entertain or to inform need motivate the copying.” The Second Circuit also pointed to legislative history of the Section 107 of the Copyright Act, the enactment of the Section 121 of the Copyright Act, also known as the Chafee Act, and Congressional concern for the disabled reflected by the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as evidence that the first factor weighs in favor of fair use.

While the court found that the second favor weighed against fair use, it noted that such a finding is not determinative in the fair use analysis.

Turning to the third factor, the court found it reasonable for HDL to retain text and image copies to facilitate access to the print disabled. It noted that the text copies are necessary to enable text-to-speech capabilities, but that the image copies are also of use and value for disabled patrons.

Finally, the court found that the fourth factor weighs in favor of a finding of fair use, noting that the market for accessible format works is insignificant and publishers generally do not make their books available in specialized formats. Evaluating the four factors together, the Second Circuit found that providing access to the print disabled constitutes fair use.

Preservation

The Second Circuit declined to rule on the issue of whether HDL’s storage of digital copies for preservation constitutes fair use on the basis of lack of standing or live controversy. The court stated that the record before the district court did not demonstrate whether the plaintiffs own copyrights in the works where a replacement copy would be unobtainable at a fair price and thus subject to copying by the Libraries for the purpose of creation of a replacement copy in case of loss or destruction. The court stated that “[b]ecause the record before us does not reflect the existence of a non-speculative risk that the HDL might create replacement copies of the plaintiffs’ copyrighted works, we do not believe plaintiffs have standing to bring this claim, and this concern does not present a live controversy for adjudication.” The Second Circuit thus vacated the district court’s judgment regarding this issue and remanded the standing issue to the district court. In remanding this issue back to the district court, the Second Circuit did not suggest that preservation could not be considered fair use, but instead simply expressed skepticism that the plaintiffs had standing to bring this claim.

Orphan Works Project

The Second Circuit upheld the district court’s finding that the issue regarding the orphan works project was not ripe for adjudication. Because the orphan works project was suspended with no notice that the University of Michigan intends to revive it, there is no impending harm. The court further noted that there is no hardship to the plaintiffs in not deciding this issue because “it is far from clear that the University of Michigan or HathiTrust will reinstitute the OWP in a manner that would infringe the copyrights of any proper plaintiffs. If that occurs, the Authors may always return to court.”

Greg Cram of The New York Public Library Represents Library Perspective on the First Sale Doctrine at House Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing

On Monday, June 2, 2014, the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet continued with its copyright review with a [field hearing held in New York, NY](Greg Cram of The New York Public Library to Represent Library Perspective on the First Sale Doctrine at House Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing). This hearing focused on the first sale doctrine, a principle that provides that after the first sale of a lawfully made copy of a copyrighted work, the copyright holder’s distribution rights in that particular copy terminate.

The panel included nine witnesses: Stephen M. Smith, President and CEO of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; John Ossenmacher, CEO of ReDigi; Ed Shems of edfredned illustration & graphic design; Jonathan Band representing the Owner’s Rights Initiative, Matthew B. Glotzer, Greg Cram, Associate Director of Copyright and Information Policy at The New York Public Library; Sherwin Siy, Vice President of Legal Affairs at Public Knowledge; John Villasenor, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Public Policy at UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs; and Emery Smith, Counselor for BSA – The Software Alliance.

The Library Copyright Alliance endorsed Cram’s statement, which highlights the importance of the first sale doctrine to the mission of libraries. Cram also states support for the Supreme Court’s ruling last year in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, applying the first sale doctrine to a lawful physically copy of a work regardless of the place of manufacture or sale. He also discusses the issue of first sale in the context of the digital marketplace.

Importance of First Sale to Libraries

In his statement, Cram notes that throughout American history, even prior to the founding of the nation, libraries have promoted democratic values by lending books and other materials. In discussing the history of libraries providing access to information, Cram quotes Thomas Jefferson: “I have often thought that nothing would do more extensive good at small expense than the establishment of a small circulating library in every county, to consist of a few well-chosen books, to be lent to the people of the county under regulations as would secure their safe return in due time.”

Cram’s statement points out that Americans borrow books and other materials from libraries 4.4 billion times a year and that per capita circulation grew by 26.1% between 2000 and 2009. Between 2008 and 2012, NYPL saw a 44% increase in circulation with 28 million items circulated in 2012. The vast majority of library collections represent physical copies of works, highlighting the importance of the first sale doctrine, without which library lending would not be possible.

Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons

In his written testimony, Cram expresses support for the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2013 in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, an opinion which found in favor of international exhaustion, a rule applying the first sale doctrine to lawful copies of copyrighted works regardless of the place of manufacture or sale. Without a rule of international exhaustion, library lending would be seriously threatened as more than 200 million books in U.S. libraries have foreign publishers. Books published by U.S. publishers are often manufactured by printers in other countries, often without any indications on the copyright page of where they were printed. As a result, libraries have no way of knowing whether the books were manufactured domestically or abroad. With large portions of collections manufactured abroad, the Kirtsaeng decision is crucial in allowing libraries to continue their acquisition and circulation policies. Cram concludes, “This is the right rule for libraries and for American consumers, and Congress should not disturb it.”

Digital First Sale

Cram’s statement also explains the complexities of the use of digital resources as libraries increasingly license electronic resources. Licenses set the terms under which a library can make the content available and such terms can vary:

Often, the content is hosted on the server of the publisher or other intermediary, and the library is buying access to the server for its users. An authorized user might be able to download the content onto her computer or device, and digital rights management software will allow the content to reside there until it is automatically deleted in accordance with the license term … Currently, for most popular trade titles a library contracts with vendors to enable users to check out a licensed title based on the print “one copy, one user” model. Libraries must license additional e-book files in order to lend to more than one user at the same time. After a prescribed period, the book is automatically returned and becomes immediately available for digital check out by another user. Other licenses might not allow digital download, but instead permit a user to print out a limited number of pages, e.g., a journal article. Other licenses permit users to access content only when the user is connected to the Internet, e.g., streaming access.

While acknowledging that the digital marketplace has provided certain advantages over the traditional model (libraries no longer need to repair torn pages or place the books on a physical shelf), Cram also points out several drawbacks. Under the print model, a book can remain in a library’s collection until it wears out, but in the digital environment, a library can only provide access when it has paid the licensing fees and the terms of renewal licenses may vary. Cram explains that under some licensing models, arbitrary circulation limits are enforced and that license rates for e-books “can be more expensive than its print counterpart, and sometimes more than ten times the consumer e-book price.” Furthermore, some publishers do not license e-books to libraries at all. The current model also raises serious concerns regarding preservation of materials.

With respect to the digital marketplace, the Cram concludes:

Congress needs to consider whether to prohibit the enforcement of contractual limitations on copyright exceptions in certain circumstances. Significantly, the suite of statutory instruments for amending the UK copyright law that will come into force on June 1, 2014, prohibit the “contracting out” of many exceptions in the research and education context. Congress therefore needs to closely monitor the evolving digital marketplace to ensure that it is sufficiently competitive to provide widespread public access to works.

Boston Library Consortium Calls out Publishers on Price-Gouging

On May 27, 2014, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a letter to the editor entitled, “Ebook Pricing Hikes Amount to Price Gouging.” As a result of announced price increases that appear to be “an experiment in predatory pricing,” the Boston Library Consortium has pledged to address these increases by rewarding those publishers whose prices remain reasonable.

The letter explains that academic libraries now find themselves facing sharp increases in prices for ebooks and that the Boston Library Consortium recently learned that some publishers “planned immediate, significant, and unexplained increases in price,” some of which amounted to a several hundred percent increase. The letter calls the increases “unjustified, … ethically unacceptable, and … economically insupportable.”

The Boston Library Consortium therefore announced it:

[w]ill lower the price ceiling below which individual titles are eligible to be included in our ebook program, we will reduce the availability of back-list titles at high price points, and we will increase the portion of our consortial budget that is allocated to those publishers whose pricing remains reasonable. In this way, we mean to reward what we regard as fair dealing, as we attempt to limit the budget impact of what appears plainly to be price-gouging.

We have no choice but to take action. The acquisitions budgets of academic libraries do not increase at four times the rate of inflation each year, nor are universities scaling back the teaching and research programs their libraries are called on to support. As a library consortium focused both on purchasing partnerships and pragmatic advocacy for research libraries, the Boston Library Consortium believes it must call out these escalating ebook prices as being inimical to access and contrary to fairness. We’ve seen it before, and we should not stand for it again.

We encourage campus leaders to support their libraries in this and other efforts to control costs, and we ask faculty to keep affordability in mind when considering where to publish. Finally, we thank those publishers, primarily university presses, who make ongoing efforts to offer high quality ebooks at affordable prices.

ARL Disappointed by Version of USA FREEDOM Act Passed by US House of Representatives

Today, May 22, 2014, the US House of Representatives voted 303 to 121 to pass H.R. 3361, the USA FREEDOM Act, after amending the bill twice in committees. The original version of the bill, which currently remains unaltered in the Senate, had 151 House co-sponsors. Some of these co-sponsors withdrew their support and opposed the version of H.R. 3361 reported out of the House Rules Committee on May 21, 2014, because of the significant changes made. Even several of those co-sponsors who voted in favor of H.R. 3361 expressed disappointment that the bill did not go far enough in curtailing the Government’s ability to conduct bulk collection of records and failed to protect privacy and civil liberties in the same manner as the prior versions.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) supported the version of the USA FREEDOM Act originally introduced in the House and Senate in October 2013, as well as the version altered by the Manager’s Amendment, which was unanimously passed by the House Judiciary Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on May 15, 2014. After unanimous passage through these two committees, the bill was again altered when reported out of the House Rules Committee. The version passed on the House Floor today represents a significantly watered down version of the USA FREEDOM Act.

ARL, like many civil liberties and privacy groups that previously expressed public support of the bill, has withdrawn its support for the weakened version of H.R. 3361. Although the version of the bill passed by the House today does represent a step toward reform, ARL is disappointed by the changes made at the eleventh hour that remove clarity and weaken protections afforded by earlier versions of the bill.

The prior versions of the USA FREEDOM Act would have ended bulk collection of records under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, also known as the “business records” or “library records” provision. The version passed unanimously through the Judiciary and Permanent Select Committees would have ended bulk collection by requiring that records requested and obtained by intelligence authorities be limited to a “specific selection term,” defined as “a term used to uniquely describe a person, entity, or account.” The version that went to the House Floor, however, potentially expands the scope of a specific selection term by ambiguously defining “specific selection term” as “a discrete term…used by the Government to limit the scope of information or tangible things sought.” ARL is concerned that this broad definition does not go far enough in limiting the collection of records, and the ambiguity could result in intelligence authorities overreaching and conducting large-scale collections once again.

Although ARL is disappointed by the version of the USA FREEDOM Act passed by the House today, the Association remains hopeful that the Senate will continue to work from the original version and ensure meaningful reform, including strong privacy protections for communications and records of US persons.

An excellent, in-depth analysis from the Center for Democracy and Technology is available here.

LCA submits additional comments to the Copyright Office on orphan works and mass digitization

On Friday, May 16, 2014, the Library Copyright Alliance submitted additional comments on orphan works and mass digitization in response to the Copyright Office’s notice of inquiry. These comments address the discussions from the March 10-11, 2014 public meeting on orphan works and mass digitzation noting the complete lack of consensus on these issues, the concerns regarding extended collective licensing solutions, and the appropriateness of best practices developed by user communities. The first day’s transcript of the public meeting is available here and the second day’s transcript is available here.

No Consensus on Orphan Works Legislation

In response to the Copyright Office’s request for comments in 2013, LCA noted that the opinions submitted represented diverse and wide-ranging opinions, suggesting that it would be extremely difficult to find consensus on these issues. The public meeting highlighted the continued diversity of opinion and “the divisions between different communities may be even deeper now than before.” The additional comments filed by LCA summarize the comments and divisions made during the panels.

LCA’s additional comments point out that there was hostility during the public meeting which, “exposed a basic divergence concerning the correctness of fair use decisions over the past decade. Indeed, one rights holder representative compared the recent fair use case law to Plessy v. Ferguson, suggesting that these fair use holdings were as legally and morally flawed as the Supreme Court’s 1892 ruling upholding the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine. The inflammatory nature of this analogy was exceeded only by another rights holder representative threatening three times during the course of one panel to sue libraries …”

Extended Collective Licensing

The LCA comments note that unlike the other topics discussed, the discussion regarding extended collective licensing (ECL) seemed to be in agreement that ECL would not be an effective solution to issues relating to mass digitization. The comments submitted by LCA summarize the discussions from the public meeting, which highlighted the problems of collecting societies. Additionally, the LCA statement points to comments made with respect to the value-add of mass digitization projects undertaken by libraries and benefits mass digitization has provided for persons who are blind or print disabled.

Best Practices

LCA’s additional comments also cover statements made regarding best practices at the public meeting, pointing out that “representatives of libraries, archives and documentary filmmakers noted that the best practices developed by their communities provided useful guidance concerning the application of fair use to activities relating to orphan works and mass digitization.”

The comments also address the arguments by right holders that these best practices do not have validity because they were not developed in consultation with right holders. LCA notes that “To the contrary, codes of fair use best practices developed by specific communities do have legal significance” and that community use may help judges make fair use determinations. Furthermore, the comments point out that the best practices “are not intended to be negotiated compromises that take the place of legislation. Rather, they are intended to be expressions of norms and customs relating to specific uses in specific communities.” Additionally, negotiations around best practices on these issues with rightholders are likely to be futile.

LCA’s comments highlight ARL’s Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries which provide nuanced fair use guidance for libraries in a variety of circumstances, including situations relating to orphan works and mass digitization. These situations include, for example, addressing preservation of at-risk items; creating digital collections of archival and special collection materials; creating databases to facilitate non-consumptive research uses; and collecting material posted on the World Wide Web and making it available.

Web Accessibility Toolkit for Research Libraries Launched by ARL

On the third annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (#GAAD), May 15, 2014, the Association of Research Libraries launched a new resource for the library community—a Web Accessibility Toolkit for research libraries. ARL’s toolkit shares the fundamental goal of GAAD which is to ”raise the profile” of digital accessibility and provide resources for improving access to information to “the broadest audience possible.” The toolkit aims to:

  • Promote the principles of accessibility, universal design, and digital inclusion.
  • Help research libraries achieve digital accessibility.
  • Connect research libraries with the tools, people, and examples they need to provide accessible digital content.

The lead author on the Web Accessibility Toolkit was Molly Schwartz, a member of the inaugural class of the National Digital Stewardship Residency (NDSR) program who was in residence at ARL in 2013–2014. The NDSR program is a deeply valuable partnership between the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Library of Congress. The mission of NDSR “is to build a dedicated community of professionals who will advance our nation’s capabilities in managing, preserving, and making accessible the digital record of human achievement. This will enable current and future generations to fully realize the potential of digital resources now and for years to come.”

Since the inaugural NDSR class was selected to work in Washington, DC–area institutions, the program has been extended to New York and Boston. More information on these new fellowship opportunities is available on the NDSR website.

ARL’s engagement on issues relating to accessibility includes providing resources to ARL member libraries—such as the Report of the ARL Joint Task Force on Services to Patrons with Print Disabilities (PDF)—and strongly advocating over a number of years at the World Intellectual Property Organization for a treaty for the visually impaired, which was approved in June 2013. The “Marrakesh Treaty” will significantly improve access to books for millions of people who are blind, visually impaired, and print disabled. ARL hopes its new Web Accessibility Toolkit will help libraries continue to improve access to resources for all of their patrons, regardless of ability or disability.