ARL Policy Notes
LCA Statement on Copyright Remedies for House Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing

On July 24, 2014, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet continued its copyright review with a hearing on copyright remedies. Witnesses at this hearing include Mr. David Bitkower, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice; Mr. Steven M. Tepp, President and Chief Executive Officer, Sentinel Worldwide; Mr. Matt Schruers, Vice President for Law and Policy, Computer & Communications Industry Association; Mr. Sherwin Siy, Vice President of Legal Affairs, Public Knowledge; and Ms. Nancy E. Wolff, Partner, Cowan DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard LLP.

The Library Copyright Alliance filed a statement for the hearing, focusing on the problems with statutory damages. The statement notes that the existing safe harbor requiring a court to remit statutory damages when a library, archive, educational institution or public broadcasting entity believed and had reasonable grounds to believe that its use constituted fair use applies only to the reproduction right. The statement recommends an update to reflect the digital era so that this safe harbor applies to any type of use, including those implicating performance, display, distribution or derivative work rights.

Library and Higher Education Organizations File Net Neutrality Comments with the FCC

On July 18, 2014, ARL, together with ten other library and higher education groups filed comments with the FCC on net neutrality. These comments largely expand on the points made in the Net Neutrality Principles jointly filed by library and higher education groups on July 10, 2014, going into greater detail and making specific suggestions to strengthen the proposals made in the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

Importance of Net Neutrality for Libraries and Higher Education

The comments point out that library and higher education organizations depend on the open Internet, or net neutrality, to carry out their missions and ensure the protection of freedom of speech, education achievement and economic growth. It notes that the essential character of the Internet is an open platform, promoting “the open exchange of information, intellectual discourse, research, free speech, technological creativity, innovation and learning.” The comments recommend that the FCC’s final order recognize the value of net neutrality for education, research and freedom of speech.

Specifically, the comments note that public libraries provide Internet access to their patrons, a particularly necessary service for the approximately one-third of the population that do not have broadband access at home but rely on such access for homework assignments, to locate e-government services, find health information, apply for jobs, share digital content and other activities. Higher education institutions make Internet access available to their students, faculty, researchers and administration. Many students today are also involved in distance learning—including MOOCs—or hybrid courses and therefore depend on the availability of high-bandwidth Internet access. Degradation of Internet transmission speeds would detrimentally impact these populations and activities.

The comments also provide seven specific examples of projects and services by libraries and higher education institutions that provide important access to information and culture but depend on net neutrality to disseminate. Three of these examples include:

  • The National Library of Medicine (NLM), the world’s largest medical library, provides a vast amount of information-based services, ranging from video tutorials to downloads of large genomic datasets. NLM provides valuable information and data to the public amounting to trillions of bytes each day disseminated to millions of users. Without rules to protect the open Internet, NLM’s ability to provide access to this important information would be jeopardized.
  • Columbia University created the 9/11 Oral History Project, focusing on the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center. The Project includes over 900 recorded hours on digital media. More than half of the collection is open and available to the public, and the entire archive will eventually be available for study and research. This content is currently used in New York City K-12 public schools.
  • After receiving over 2,500 boxes of records and documents and 12,000 promotional photographs from the New York World’s Fair of 1939 and 1940, the New York Public Library (NYPL) digitized the content and makes it available online. It provided the material in a free app that was later named one of Apple’s “Top Education Apps” of 2011 and is used in New York City K-12 public schools.

Specific Proposals to Strengthen the Proposed Rules

The joint comments lay out several specific proposals to strengthen those proposed rules published in the FCC’s NPRM. The FCC could strengthen the rules and address the concerns of libraries and higher education by:

  • Clarifying the definition of end-user customers to ensure that libraries, institutions of higher education and other public interest organizations are covered.
  • Prohibiting paid prioritization, which would divide the Internet into “fast lanes” and “slow lanes.” The comments note that libraries and institutions of higher education may not be able to afford the additional fees to use the “fast lanes.”
  • Clearly stating that the FCC’s net neutrality rules apply to public broadband providers and not to private networks, such as those provided by many colleges and universities (which provide private end user networks that are not available to the general public), or end users.
  • Applying the rules in a technology-neutral manner applicable equally to fixed and mobile services. Internet users are increasingly dependent on mobile devices, and often switch between fixed and mobile services.
  • Clarifying disclosure rules to ensure that information regarding data caps and bandwidth speeds are displayed prominently and clearly to consumers and edge providers.
  • Establishing a firm “no blocking” rule to bar providers from interfering with the consumer’s choice of content, application or services. The comments express concerns with the FCC’s proposal to include a definition of a “minimum level of access” or “minimum level of service,” and instead recommends that a no-blocking rule prohibit a provider from blocking access to any lawful website, application or service chosen by the end user, subject to reasonable network management. This rule is governed by the choice made by the end user and therefore would not implicate concerns regarding broadband providers being regulated as common carriers.
  • Authorizing the proposed enforcement ombudsperson “watchdog” to advocate for the interests of libraries, colleges and universities, in addition to consumers, start-ups and small businesses.

Legal Basis for the FCC’s Actions

The comments clearly note that if the FCC reclassifies broadband Internet service as a Title II “common carrier” service, it would provide valuable certainty in the market place and ensure that the goal of prohibiting discrimination. However, if the FCC chooses not to reclassify and use its Title II authority, it may act under its Section 706 authority.

The comments recommend, however, that should the FCC exercise its Section 706 authority rather than choosing to reclassify broadband Internet services, the agency should use an “Internet reasonable” standard rather than a “commercially reasonable” standard because “a ‘commercially reasonable’ approach could be interpreted to allow any broadband and edge provider to reach a contract to provide “paid prioritization”. If the two companies reach an agreement that they mutually believe to be in their commercial interests, it might be found “commercially reasonable” even if it has the effect of degrading the Internet service used by other parties (such as higher education institutions and libraries) sharing the same network.”

The comments note that an “Internet reasonable” standard would recognize the Internet’s unique character and propose four rebuttable presumptions that the FCC could use to evaluate the reasonableness of an Internet provider’s actions. The following four activities should be considered presumptively unreasonable: 1) requiring approval to carry lawful content, applications or services; 2) allowing paid prioritization; 3) undermining the open architecture of the Internet; and 4) degrading the level of service provided and discouraging investment in greater bandwidth to a non-prioritized party.

LCA Statement Opposing Copyright Term Extension at House Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing

On July 15, 2014, the House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet continued its copyright review with a Hearing on Moral Rights, Termination Rights, Resale Royalty and Copyright Term. The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) filed a statement addressing the topic of copyright term, noting the negative effects that lengthy copyright terms have on the public domain.

The statement notes that the Constitutional rationale for intellectual property protection is “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by security for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” The Supreme Court has interpreted this rationale as having an “ultimate aim … to stimulate creativity for the general public good.”

The statement then goes through the history of copyright term in the United States, which was initially a limited period of fourteen years, with the possibility of renewal for an additional fourteen years, a period far shorter than the current term of the life of the author plus an additional seventy years. It also points out that while patents and copyrights originally had similar periods of protection, the patent term has increased by only 43 percent while the copyright term has increased by almost 580 percent.

Copyright term extensions hinder the goal of “stimulat[ing] creativity for the general public good” by shrinking the public domain. The public domain is essential to allowing access to books and texts, and also promoting future creativity by providing raw materials upon which artists and authors can build. Longer copyright terms escalate the costs of access to knowledge by requiring licenses for a greater period of time and increasing the resources that must be devoted to finding the rightsholder.

The statement also points out that a copyright term that extends beyond the life of the author exacerbates the orphan works problem. Maria Pallante, Register of Copyrights, has noted that the Copyright Office recognized in a study “it seems questionable whether copyright term should be extended to benefit remote heirs or assignees, ‘long after the purpose of the protection has been achieved.’”

Additionally, the statement calls for evidence based copyright policy. It points to the independent Hargreaves report commissioned by the United Kingdom as well as an article published in the Review of Economic Research on Copyright Issues, both of which point out that the economic evidence does not support copyright term extensions, including the current lengthy term that exists in the United States.

Finally, the statement recommends that Congress explore ways to shorten the present term or mitigate its harms, for example, by considering Ms. Pallante’s proposal to reintroduce formalities for the final twenty years of copyright protection.

Library Copyright Alliance files amici brief in Authors Guild v. Google

On July 8, 2014, the Library Copyright Alliance filed an amici brief in the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Authors Guild v. Google in favor of Google’s transformative use in creating Google Book Search (GBS). The Southern District of New York previously ruled in favor of Google, finding that GBS provided significant public benefits and constituted fair use.

The brief notes that GBS has become an essential research tool for LCA members and includes numerous examples and quotations—both in the text of the brief and accompanying appendix—from librarians explaining the value of the snippet display provided by Google. The snippet display allows librarians and researchers to identify materials that are hard to find, conduct research, developing curricula and collections, make determinations on whether to request particular books through interlibrary loans, and checking citation.

The snippet display is a critical function that makes GBS a valuable research tool yet does not substitute for the full text, displaying only three short snippets in response to a query. The brief notes that the Appellants in the case negotiated and agreed to a settlement (ultimately rejected by Judge Chin, leading to this continuing litigation) which would have allowed Google to provide a free “Preview” service that would have allowed display of up to twenty percent of the book’s text—far more than the GBS snippet display. The brief points out that “If display of 20 percent of a book did not cannibalize sales of the book, then surely display of a few snippets of a book would not do so either.”

The third section of the brief discusses the relationship between Section 108 and fair use, addressing the argument made by the amici for Authors Guild . The brief points out that the Second Circuit’s own ruling just a month prior in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust rejected the argument that the existence of Section 108 forecloses reliance on fair use. Section 108 not only includes an explicit savings clause, but the legislative intent clearly demonstrates that specific exceptions codified in the Copyright Act “do[] not limit the availability of fair use for conduct that does not fall within its scope.” Legislative history in both the Senate and the House discuss the relationship between Section 108 and fair use, noting that Section 108 was designed to give libraries a safe harbor and rights in addition to fair use.

Finally, the brief notes that the copies Google made available to partner libraries constituted fair use. Quoting the district court, the brief points out that “the purpose of the library copies is to advance the libraries’ lawful uses of the digitized books consistent with the copyright law.” Even if the Second Circuit evaluates Google’s purpose, rather than the libraries’ purpose, the brief points out that GBS did not affect the market because libraries would not have paid licensing fees to digitize books in their collections; libraries do not have the budgets to pay for digitization licenses for legacy materials nor is there an efficient mechanism to pay for such licensing. The brief emphasizes that a potential market for extended collective licensing agreements are speculative and do not constitute existing or potential traditional markets.

35 Organizations Write to TPP Ministers Opposing Lengthy Copyright Terms

On July 9, 2014, ARL joined thirty-four other organizations in sending a letter to ministers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiating parties opposing the copyright term of life plus seventy years proposed by the United States. These organizations, representing libraries, archives, authors, educators, students, digital rights advocacy groups, and technological innovators, note that this extended copyright term threatens the public domain. The letter notes that “the extension of the copyright term results in a net welfare loss to society, and effectively amounts to a transfer of wealth to a small number of multinational copyright-holding companies … This transfer of welfare in favor of large corporate copyright owners will come at the cost of those who depend upon access to copyright works that would otherwise be in the public domain—libraries, students, artists, writers, and millions of other people.”

TPP negotiators are currently meeting behind closed doors in Ottawa, Canada, in an effort to finalize negotiations for the large regional trade agreement which now has twelve negotiating parties: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States.

Jonathan Band’s Analysis of the Second Circuit’s HathiTrust Decision and What It Means for Libraries

Jonathan Band of policybandwidth recently released an analysis of the Second Circuit’s opinion in Authors Guild v. Hathitrust and what the decision means for libraries. His analysis is available here.

The library community welcomed the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust, __ F. 3d __, 2014 WL 2576342 (2nd Cir. 2014). The decision has implications for libraries that go far beyond the specific facts of the case. This paper offers some preliminary thoughts on what these implications may be.

India First to Ratify the Marrakesh Treaty for the Blind; 79 Total Signatories to the Treaty

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled now has seventy-nine signatories. This treaty, also known as the “Marrakesh Treaty” or “Treaty for the Blind” was a significant achievement as the first WIPO treaty dedicated to limitations and exceptions, focusing on the rights of users rather than increasing the rights of rightholders. Significantly, India became the first country to ratify the treaty on June 24, 2014 (deposit with WIPO on June 30, 2014).

The treaty sets forth minimum standards for limitations and exceptions designed to facilitate access to accessible format works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. It would also permit cross-border sharing of these accessible format works, allowing countries to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts in the creation of accessible format works and also facilitate the importation of works in other languages. For example, a popular title would not have to be created in accessible format work in the United States, then again in Canada, then again in the United Kingdom, then again in Australia, and so forth. It could be created in one English speaking country then shared for the benefit of persons who are visually impaired in other English speaking countries. Persons in the United States could also benefit from this treaty through the importation of accessible format works in languages other than English, either to benefit those residing in the United States whose native language is not English, or to benefit those who are learning a foreign language. Tiflolibros in Argentina, for example, has a large library of Spanish language accessible format works that could be shared with beneficiaries in the United States if the treaty entered into force. More detailed information about the treaty is available in the “Users Guide to the Marrakesh Treaty.”

There was a recent flurry of signing activity due to Article 17 of the Marrakesh Treaty, which closed the treaty to signing one year after adoption of the treaty; June 27, 2014 was the last date for a country to sign. Signing the treaty signals that a country agrees with the treaty and essentially constitutes an endorsement of the instrument. While it does not create binding legal obligations to adhere to the requirements of the treaty, it does oblige the signatory from undermining the treaty’s objectives. Countries that have signed still need to ratify the treaty in order to be bound by it, and twenty ratifications are required before the Marrakesh Treaty will enter into force. Although the treaty is now closed to new signatures, other countries may join the treaty through a one-step process acceding to the treaty (rather than the two-step process of signing then ratifying).

A round of applause should be given to India for being the first (and currently only) country to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty, though it is expected that Kenya will soon follow. India’s swift ratification, within one year after the treaty’s adoption, is a record for any WIPO treaty and signals the importance of the objectives of the treaty.

In addition to the excellent news of the first ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty, there have also been nineteen new signatories over the last two months, twelve of which occurred over the last week. Notably, the EU signed the Marrakesh Treaty on April 30, 2014, and a number of EU member countries followed suit. The new signatories include: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, the European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, India, Iran, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Poland, South Korea and Slovenia. The United States signed last year on October 2, 2013.

The treaty initially opened for signature at the adoption and signing ceremony of the diplomatic conference on June 28, 2013. Fifty-one countries signed at the adoption and signing ceremony, a record number of signatories on opening day for any WIPO treaty. The full list of the seventy-nine signatories is available here. While this large number of signatories demonstrates the overwhelming support for the Marrakesh Treaty and is a reason for celebration, at least twenty of these signatories must take the next step and sign the treaty so that it may enter into force.

With India depositing its instrument of ratification, only nineteen more are needed. The United States, which already has robust limitations and exceptions to benefit persons who are visually impaired, should demonstrate leadership in this area and be one of the first twenty ratifications.

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.