Not Fit For Purpose: Libraries Explain How Copyright Failed Libraries During The Pandemic
from the and-it's-still-failing dept
It’s no secret that copyright and libraries are often in conflict with one another. We’ve pointed out repeatedly how modern publishers would never allow libraries to come into existence if they weren’t here already. The publishers have made that clear by trying to sue out of existence all sorts of things that appear to be indistinguishable from libraries, including the Internet Archive.
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) recently released a research report based on a survey of over 100 libraries worldwide, exploring whether or not copyright laws got in the way of libraries being libraries during the pandemic, and the answer was a resounding “yes!”
In short, it appears that libraries repeatedly found copyright getting in the way of doing basic, fundamental, library-related tasks, in part because attempts to go online during the pandemic were blocked by publishers who want to believe everything digital must be licensed at all times. 83% of libraries surveyed pointed out that they had “copyright-related challenges” during the pandemic.
One of the most troubling parts of this was that libraries that serve schools found that they could not do what they would have had every right to do in person, because of the publishers’ views of how the internet and licensing works.
Libraries supporting online classrooms faced legal issues around communicating content at a distance. These included whether it was allowed to play music or films in online class settings, as would have been done during in-person classes, or to record lectures that involved copyrighted material. Technical restrictions on conferencing and streaming platforms designed to limit unauthorized sharing of audio & video content restricted uses allowed under copyright. Licenses that allowed material to be accessed on-site only were not useful during closures, and were not necessarily re-negotiated to allow off-site access.
Also more than half of libraries surveyed found that they were unable to serve people online even though they would have been able to serve them in person… but thanks to the pandemic, that was not an option:
In particular, 52% of libraries that had copyright challenges indicated challenges with providing access internationally, as students and faculty returned to their home countries where differences in licenses and technological infrastructure created difficulties. In other cases, libraries had difficulty providing articles and books to patrons who were not institutionally affiliated, but who would have otherwise been served as ‘walk-ins’ on-site.
Given that the purpose of copyright is supposed to be to provide the public with more access to content, this seems like a real problem.
Of course, this is the kind of thing that Congress could fix, and the Copyright Office could help in that effort, but instead, both are simply looking to come up with more ways to make it even more difficult for people to access content online.