ARL Policy Notes
House Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing on Preservation and Reuse of Copyrighted Works; Testimony of James Neal, Endorsed by LCA

On Wednesday, April 2, 2014, the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet continued its copyright review. This hearing focused on “Preservation and Reuse of Copyrighted Works” with six panelists: Mr. Gregory Lukow (Chief, Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, Library of Congress); Mr. Richard Rudick (Co-Chair, Section 108 Study Group); Mr. James Neal (Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian, Columbia University); Ms. Jan Constantine (General Counsel, The Authors Guild); Mr. Michael C. Donaldson (Partner, Donaldson + Callif, LLP, on behalf of Film Independent and International Documentary Association); and Mr. Jeffry Sedlik (President and Chief Executive Officer, PLUS Coalition). Written testimony from each witness is available here.

Neal’s statement, endorsed by the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), provides that the “overarching point is that the existing statutory framework, which combines the specific library exceptions in Section 108 with the flexible fair use right, works well for libraries, and does not require amendment.” In reaching this point, the written statement goes through four issues: 1) the importance of library preservation; 2) how the library exceptions under Section 108 supplement rather than supplant fair use; 3) the diminished need for orphan works legislation; and 4) perspective on the HathiTrust case.

Library Preservation

The written testimony emphasize that providing access to collections of preserved materials is a critical part of libraries’ missions. It notes that with the digital age and new technology, new challenges for preservation have emerged to ensure that new media, which represent a substantial part of the cultural record, are adequately preserved. Neal’s statement gives several examples from his experience at Columbia emphasizing the need to format shift and preserve materials in different formats, including content that existed on short-lived websites. The statement further notes that in order to achieve this mission, libraries “require robust applications of flexible exceptions such as fair use so that copyright technicalities do not interfere with their preservation mission.”

Relationship Between Section 108 and Fair Use

The statement points to the privileged status of libraries throughout the Copyright Act, with seven specific examples. For example, the statement notes that Section 504(c)(2) shields libraries from statutory damages where the library reasonably believed their activity constituted fair use. Section 12014(b) excludes libraries from criminal liability under the DMCA. And, of course, Section 108 provides libraries and archives with a clear set of exceptions for certain activities.

The written testimony emphasizes that Section 108 does not represent the totality of exceptions and limitations from which libraries may benefit, as the Authors Guild initially argued in HathiTrust, and that fair use, amongst other exceptions, may also be relied upon. Without being able to rely on fair use and other exceptions that exist in other sections of the Copyright Act, libraries, including the Library of Congress, would be considered serial infringers. Further, Section 108(f)(4) clearly and unambiguously provides that nothing in Section 108 “in any way affects the right of fair use” and the legislative history supports the meaning of the plain language of the statute. Scholars and case law similarly support this clear reading of the interplay between Section 108 and Section 107.

Furthermore, fair use sufficiently updates Section 108 and it is therefore unnecessary to make legislative changes to Section 108. Neal notes that, as a member of the Section 108 study group, a report was issued after three contentious years, reflected only a high level agreement, and did not resolve many important issues because of the lack of agreement. The statement highlights a concern that some of the Study Group’s recommendation could limit what libraries do today. This section of the statement concludes, “The fact that Section 108 may reflect a pre-digital environment does not mean it is obsolete. It provides libraries and archives with important certainty with respect to the activities it covers. Furthermore, Section 108 provides courts with importance guidance concerning the application of Section 107.”

Orphan Works

The statement also notes that from Neal’s perspective and of LCA’s, orphan works legislation is no longer necessary because the “gatekeeper” problem has diminished due to greater certainty regarding fair use, including recent jurisprudence in this area in a wide range of cases. Furthermore, the Code of Best Practices has provided reassurances with respect to orphan works in a special collection as well as digitizing and making available materials in special collections. In addition to fair use developments, there is less likelihood that injunctions will be issued since the Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling in eBay v. MercExchange which changed the presumptions regarding injunctions in cases of infringement. Furthermore, mass digitization has become more common. In addition to these developments, the clear disagreement over an orphan works solution suggests that a legislative solution regarding orphan works, mass digitization or Section 108 will be very difficult if not impossible.

HathiTrust

The fourth section of the statement explains the HathiTrust project and discusses the litigation initiated by The Authors Guild. The statement goes into Judge Baer’s district court decision in detail and expresses the “hope that the Second Circuit will agree with Judge Baer that HDL (HathiTrust Digital Library) preserves important works, allows them to be searched, and provides access to the print disabled, without causing any economic harm to rights holders.

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