Good week for libraries and copyright

Ray Lewis via Keith Allison

Ray Lewis via Keith Allison

This week, a federal appeals court upheld the Baltimore Ravens’ fair use of an historic logo created by Frederick Bouchat in an interesting copyright case. A few years ago, attorneys representing the Ravens contacted the ALA to ask for support of their position. They figured that libraries would care about preservation, First Amendment, and fair use, so they gave us a call. The case was an interesting one involving the old logo of the Ravens team (“the flying B”). When the Ravens asked fans to submit ideas for their new logo, Bouchat obliged providing a copy of an original logo he sketched. The Ravens then did something rather stupid and just went  ahead and used the logo  without compensating Bouchat. Soon after, the Ravens changed their logo to the one we see today (a shooting B on a raven’s head) and compensated Bouchat avoiding a expensive court battle.

But Bouchat came back to court asking for more compensation in addition to a thorough scrub of history.  He wanted any image, photograph, or old Baltimore Raven football helmets laying around with the old Ravens logo removed from Baltimore Ravens headquarters and from any film or television footage in which it appeared–essentially make it disappear. This is when ALA with the Library Copyright Alliance ultimately submitted “a friend of the court” brief on behalf of the Ravens arguing that history should be preserved and that a decision on behalf of Bouchat would negatively impact the First Amendment rights of documentary filmmakers and was a fair use.

The other good thing that happened this week occurred in Geneva, where the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is meeting to discuss international copyright. Guess what they are talking about?! Library exceptions to copyright (at this point, preservation). Just thinking about this makes me shake my head in disbelief. WIPO, a United Nations agency, is known for its support of maximalist copyright…  and today they are talking about libraries (and archives). They are actually considering that libraries around the world should have special privileges under international copyright law.  WOW!

Of course, supporters of library exceptions can expect the developed nations of WIPO and representatives from the content industries to be ready with stern rebuttals. Rights holders see these exceptions as slowly clipping away at their exclusive rights. In addition, authors have come to the session, asserting that they do not want WIPO to make decisions that they do not support.

Carrie Russell is the Director of the Program on Public Access to Information in the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP). Her portfolio includes copyright, international copyright, accessibility, e-books and other public policy issues. She has a MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a MA in media arts from the University of Arizona. She can be reached via e-mail at crussell@alawash.org.

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