ALA co-founds major new coalition to recalibrate copyright

Today, the American Library Association joined nine fellow founding national groups from both the private and public sectors to unveil Re:Create, a new copyright coalition formed to articulate and fight for the perspectives and rights of library users, educators, innovators and creators of every kind.

Librarians know that copyright has a broad purpose—to advance learning and creativity for all people—but, too often, policy and law makers focus on the needs and interests of entertainment companies and other industry players who are determined to preserve old business models through enforcement rather than by innovating in the new economy. An important purpose of Re:Create is to ensure that the copyright debate respects and reflects the full range of legitimate views and needs of every part of our economy and society.

ReCreate Logo

As ALA President Courtney Young said in Re:Create’s inaugural press release: “The Supreme Court has held that the primary objective of copyright is to ‘promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.’ We must be careful that efforts to reduce copyright infringement do not prevent legitimate uses, free expression, new innovations, or bring unnecessary harm to the public.”

Re:Create is comprised of both longtime ALA allies in seeking a copyright system that both incentivizes creativity and maximizes public access to information and new groups from across the policy and political spectrum. Expected to significantly expand its membership in the coming months, the new group will benefit from ALA’s long experience and grassroots commitment to balanced copyright law and policy. Re:Create also will help amplify ALA’s own positions and messages in this critical sphere more forcefully and effectively. Today’s launch comes just as Congress is poised to conclude a multi-year review of America’s copyright law and to consider potential legislative changes to it.

Much as it was almost exactly 20 years ago, before the WIPO Copyright Treaty that gave rise to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) had yet been drafted, copyright is again on the front burner in Congress…. and it’s about to get very hot. Congress must take care not to heed those who mistakenly believe that ever more restrictive copyright laws necessarily are better copyright laws.

ALA thus was delighted to co-found and launch Re:Create at this critical time—to help copyright reflect its true constitutional purpose to “promote progress in science and the useful arts.” Make no mistake, certain aspects of copyright in the digital age have gone awry (remember the “1201” rulemakings?). Perhaps most egregiously, statutory damages for copyright infringement vastly exceed remedies in other laws and the current length of copyright (life plus 70 years, or 95 years for corporations) has no public interest justifica­tion.

ALA’s most fundamental view of copyright is simple and clear: libraries, library users and the general public are entitled to be treated fairly, reasonably and as the Framersof the Constitution intended. Libraries’ annual investment of more than $4 billion in copyrighted works partly justifies that conviction, but library users and the public at large have important rights too. Making sure those rights don’t get short shrift under copyright law benefits us all. Study after study now has shown that the flexibility accorded by fair use and other access-friendly provisions of the copyright law enable discoverability, creativity and innovation.  They are, without exaggeration, engines of our economy, our society and — truly — our democracy.

That is perhaps the most fundamental and universal message that ALA and the other members of Re:Create have come together to convince Congress and other policy makers to design into whatever new fabric of copyright law may next be woven. The coalition’s members are diverse, but all are committed to promoting: an open Internet; creativity and innovation; robust copyright limitations, exceptions, and safe harbors; and curbing copyright enforcement measures that threaten free expression.

ALA also will continue to work with and through the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), the coalition that works on behalf of libraries and library users. LCA, with its able counsel Jonathan Band, has made many important contributions to the interests of the library community during the past years. Re:Create will help leverage our work in LCA.

In addition to ALA, the Re:Create coalition members include: the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), Consumer Electronics Association, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Media Democracy Fund, New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI), Public Knowledge (PK), and the R Street Institute.

Please be sure to follow ALA’s work with Re:Create on social media. The coalition’s Twitter feed is @recreateco and you’ll also find it on Facebook, Instagram and Google Plus.

For more information, please also see these new Re:Create documents:

Press Release

Frequently Asked Questions

Who, What, When, Where, Why

ALA Office for Information Technology Policy Director Alan Inouye and ALA Office of Government Relations Managing Director Adam Eisgrau also contributed to this article.

About Carrie Russell

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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