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Section 108 Study Group's Recommendations Released

April 11, 2008
The Section 108 Study Group is a collection of librarians, law professors, and practitioners who convened to recommend changes to Section 108 of the Copyright Code. Section 108 outlines exemptions for libraries and archives when they make copies of materials for research purposes. In large part because of Section 108, you can do things that seem completely routine, like photocopy a journal article, without getting permission from the copyright holder. But by creating the Section 108 Study Group, the Copyright Office has indicated that there's a need in the digital age to develop new strategies to balance the needs of the public with the rights of the copyright holder. According to their press release, some of the group's recommendations include:
* Museums should be included for Section 108 eligibility, as they perform many of the same functions as libraries and archives.
* A new exception should be added to Section 108 to permit certain qualified libraries and archives to make preservation copies of at-risk published works prior to any damage or loss. Access to these "preservation-only" copies will be limited.
* A new exception should be added to Section 108 to permit libraries and archives to capture and reproduce publicly available Web sites and other online content for preservation purposes and to make those copies accessible to users for private study, research or scholarship. Rights holders would be able to opt out of this provision.
* Libraries and archives should be permitted to make a limited number of copies, as reasonably necessary, to create and maintain a single replacement or preservation copy. This alteration to the current three-copy limit would, among other things, enable libraries to more securely preserve digital materials, which often involves making copies.
You can read an executive summary and the full report on the group's homepage. While one of my own interests--digitization of archival materials--is not mentioned, by and large the suggestions are very good. You've got to commend the Copyright Office for soliciting advice from librarians about how best to resolve these matters. After all, Section 108 informs the service that we provide to you.