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Library group statement proposes copyright reform

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The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) has released a statement describing the key features that it believes copyright reform proposals should include in order to give significant improvements over current law for libraries and their users.

The statement, which follows the recent rejection in the US courts of the Google Books Settlement, comments on the copyright issues affecting libraries, including the mass digitisation of books, the use of orphan works, and the issue of preservation.

The statement acknowledges the complexity of the issues around copyright and says that the orphan works bill that had been considered in the USA 'would have provided little practical relief to libraries with respect to large scale digitisation projects.'

According to LCA, fair-use rulings over the past 25 years suggest that libraries can already 'undertake large scale digitisation, orphan works, and preservation projects with increased confidence that they would not incur significant liability for copyright damages' and that 'libraries would support an effort to amend the Copyright Act to benefit libraries only if it offered significant benefits over the status quo.'

Currently, believes LCA, libraries can be deterred from doing digitisation initiatives because of fears of incurring damages. 

To address this concern, says the statement, a proposal to reform copyright should contain at least the following features:
• That the non-commercial use would not be subject to statutory damages; would not be subject to actual damages if the use ceases when the library or archives receives an objection from the copyright owner of the work; and would be subject to injunctive relief only to the extent that the use continues after the library or archives receives an objection from the copyright owner of the work.
• This limitation on remedies would apply to the employees of the library or archives, as well as to a consortium that includes the library or archives.
• Copyright owner objections would have no effect on a library’s rights under fair use.

The Library Copyright Alliance includes the American Library Association (ALA), the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Association of Research ibraries (ARL).