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The Copyright Register’s Roadmap

Last week new Register of Copyright Maria Pallante issued the U.S. Copyright Office’s policy priorities for the next two years.  Several of these priorities, as will be realized through published studies and legislative support, are relevant to the work of academic libraries, including orphan works status, mass digitization projects, and the § 108 exception for libraries.

Just a couple days after Pallante issued her report, the Copyright Office released one of the studies, referenced in the report, on mass book digitization. The study notes that mass digitization projects, whether involving a few titles or millions, implicates several sections of the existing copyright law.  Acknowledging the expertise of entities such as Google and Internet Archive who have been actively involved in mass digitization and the diverse interests of the various stakeholders, the study suggests that federal cultural institutions involved in preservation, such as the Smithsonian and the National Archives, should also be consulted by Congress in determining the best framework for mass digitization projects. The study also notes issues to be addressed, including questions already raised in the Google Book Search case, and queries whether these issues are of sufficient national importance to warrant changes to the existing copyright law, namely sections 107 and 108 of the Copyright Act, which the study points out do not presently contemplate or adequately cover these types of projects.

After defining the research studies to be released, the report turns to the Copyright Office’s legislative priorities for the coming two years. Though, as the report suggests, the Google Book Search litigation has stymied legislative progress on orphan works and on the § 108 library exception, Pallante urges Congress and pledges support for resumption of discussion on these two important issues. To that end, the report sets forth a plan to proactively partner with members of the academic community for discussions and research on these issues. The scholarship produced as a result of these partnerships will be instructive not only to Congress but also to those navigating the current framework in efforts to preserve our intellectual history and make it available for personal study and academic pursuits. Also detailed is a plan to increase the public’s awareness of copyright law through outreach and education. This endeavor hopefully will serve as a balanced and unbiased presentation as compared to the alternatives presently available from both sides of the copyright and fair use debate.

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