Imagine that you bought a new jacket on Amazon.com and received an email a month later from the manufacturer telling you that you paid the wrong amount for the jacket and that you owe the company several hundred dollars more. This may seem implausible, but for academic libraries that buy DVDs through distributors like Amazon.com, it is a recurring problem: after buying DVDs at retail prices, they get an official-looking email saying they owe more.
Copyright and Fair Use
The U.S Department of Commerce (DoC) has been collecting public comment on the topic of the first sale doctrine and digital files in recent weeks; the agency was scheduled to meet about the issue on December 12 in Washington, DC. First sale doctrine is a set of exemptions to U.S. copyright law that permit consumers to resell used books or DVDs and libraries to loan books without seeking permission from publishers. Yet for reasons examined in more detail below, first sale exemptions have not translated well for digital content. The DoC’s call for public comment could mark the beginning of a campaign to reassess what copyright and first sale mean in the modern digital era, notes one expert.
Black Elk Speaks has been published by three different publishers in the U.S. The rarity that this movement creates is the availability of different editions of the book from different publishers. That is, there is a semblance of competition in the publishing of Black Elk Speaks. This anomaly brings into relief the normal effects of the copyright monopoly. It offers an opportunity to reflect on what alternatives to the strict publishing monopoly might look like.
Citing concerns about the privacy of employees and the security of their networks, both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and nonprofit JSTOR have filed motions intervening in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit that seeks to obtain Secret Service documents regarding internet activist Aaron Swartz.
Having written a column a couple of weeks ago expressing skepticism, even cynicism, about the prospect of the international diplomatic conference sponsored in Marrakesh by the World Intellectual Property Organization actually producing a treaty on copyright exceptions for the blind and visually impaired, I was both pleased and surprised to hear that such a treaty was agreed to by the delegates in the wee hours of June 25.
The HathiTrust Digital Library will become The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)’s single largest content hub, the two institutions announced on June 18. The metadata records associated with some 3,384,638 volumes (and growing daily) held by the HathiTrust will be accessible on the web at dp.la, and through the DPLA application programming interface (API). (The digitized volumes themselves will continue to reside in HathiTrust.)
During these last two weeks of June, delegates to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) are meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco, to negotiate around a proposed treaty on Limitations and Exceptions for Visually Impaired Persons. Such a treaty would require that each country allow copies of copyrighted materials that are compatible with assistive software to be made.. Such an exception would be very limited, and would serve a very laudable purpose. So it is fair to ask why it has taken so long, seen several reversals on the part of the U.S. administration, and remains controversial.
What would happen to our libraries if the following statement became a reality: “If you can buy a book, you can’t borrow it?” What if I told you that it’s on the verge of happening internationally, and in a way that is pretty despicable? For years, international negotiations have been moving forward on a treaty is to make it possible for people who are blind, or have other print disabilities like dyslexia, to get access to the books they need. At first, private interests were supportive. Then, they realized they could squeeze something out of this treaty that would greatly benefit them—stricter international copyright law.