The Next Great Copyright Act — Librarians, Listen Up!

From guest blogger Lesley Ellen Harris, copyright lawyer and Certificate in Copyright Management instructor:

U.S. Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante recently gave a paper entitled The Next Great Copyright Act. The paper included some historical analysis of U.S. copyright law including the following facts:

•    The 1976 Copyright Act codified the fair use doctrine (previously fair use was a concept in court cases)
•    The 1976 Act created specific exceptions for libraries and archives
•    Congress (then) intentionally deferred any specific exception for educational use concluding that it was not justified.

Jump ahead to March 2013. In Pallante’s paper and in testimony on 20 March before a Congressional Committee, she asked for a dialogue to begin on a general revision of the U.S. Copyright Act. Pallante states that the next copyright act should be forward thinking and flexible at the same time. Congress has to examine what does and does not belong under a copyright owner’s control, and also has to consider exceptions and limitations, enforcement tools, licensing schemes and a registration system that matches today’s world.

Pallante believes that the new copyright act will require many discussions relating to exceptions and limitations, including updating baseline standards for libraries and archives, addressing the ecosystem of higher education institutions and markets and even clarity in personal use activities. She sees all of these issues as complements to fair use. She notes that library exceptions and orphan works have already been the subject of many discussions by the Copyright Office and in Congress.

Libraries and Future Copyright Law

Pallante has opened the door for discussions; it is now up to Congress to move ahead. A general revision of the Copyright Act could take years; the last one took twenty years! Since many library issues are on the table, this is an excellent opportunity to participate and help formulate the provisions that most affect librarians.

How to begin? Librarians need to understand what uses of copyright materials they are making, how the current law works, and what the issues closest to them are. Exceptions, fair use and orphan works are a few of the many issues discussed in CCM500 Library and Special Library Copyright Issues, which begins April 10. Join this online course to learn the most relevant copyright issues in your library today.  If you have questions about the course or about the Certificate in Copyright Management program, please contact Click University at

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