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Libraries again oppose unneeded, risky Section 108 update

U.S. Copyright Office SealAs reported last month, ALA and the other members of the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) have been scrutinizing the Copyright Office’s extensive new analysis of and recommendations for statutory changes to Section 108 of the Copyright Act. Section 108 (a.k.a. “the library exception”) allows libraries to make copies for preservation and other purposes, including interlibrary loan. The report was released on September 15.

In a statement released last Friday, LCA commended the Copyright Office for a thorough report and its balanced and well-reasoned legislative suggestions for updating section 108. Of special note was the Copyright Office’s strong, unequivocal rejection of arguments long made by some commercial stakeholders that libraries may not rely on both section 108 and fair use to undertake section 108-related activities. The Office couldn’t have been clearer in its conclusion that “it is essential that the fair use savings clause stay in section 108.”

That said, LCA nevertheless reiterated its prior calls on Congress not to take up section 108 reform and instead address other, more pressing copyright matters. In support of its position, LCA again cited strong fair use court decisions and the uncertainties inherent in a political legislative process that ultimately could weaken libraries’ rights. Notwithstanding LCA’s objections, many in Washington consider it probable that section 108 (and possibly other targeted) copyright reform legislation will be introduced later this year. If and when it is, the help of library supporters may be needed to remind Congress of libraries’ “thanks, but no thanks” perspective on section 108.

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