Section 108 Revision: Nothing New Under the Sun

  • Brandon Butler Directory of Information Policy University of Virginia
  • Carrie Russell American Library Association Director of the Program on Public Access to Information

Abstract

Section 108 of the Copyright Act lays out a series of specific protections for reproduction and distribution of copyrighted works by libraries and archives. Disagreement has always been associated with Section 108 as it strikes a balance between the needs of libraries and the market prerogatives of copyright holders, especially publishers. It is also part of a larger balance in the Copyright Act between specific ex-ceptions and flexible users’ rights embodied in Section 107, which cov-ers fair use. In the summer of 2016, the Copyright Office announced it was putting the finishing touches on a substantial rewrite of Section 108. To inform discussion of Section 108 revision, this article explores the history of Section 108 and of proposed Section 108 revisions, argu-ing that Section 108 has served libraries well in its current form, and that “reform” in the current political climate is unlikely to yield any worthwhile improvements to the statute. Instead, history shows that any revision process is likely to be a vehicle for restricting the activi-ties of libraries and raising the cost of access to information. Libraries should maintain the position that has guided them for more than half a century: vigilant defense of fair use and skepticism of negotiated specific exceptions. As this piece went to press, the Copyright Office re-leased its draft rewrite of the law, and a brief appendix reflects on how the draft stands up to the concerns we raise.
Published
2018-02-08
Section
Articles