Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Section 108 Study Group Report

I am spending a fair amount of my time these days immersed in copyright issues. While that statement is probably true for librarians in general, I have found myself particularly engaged with copyright as our seminary has begun teaching its first distance courses and, several years after initial experiments, has started offering online courses again. My primary interest is how this affects course reserves, an issue that many larger institutions have already resolved via course packs and CCC licenses. There are many other issues relevant to campus copyright policy, not the least of which are faculty rights to online course content, but coming up with a standardized, hopefully not too time-consuming, and preferably not too expensive way of managing e-reserves is my focus at present.

Thus I was disappointed to see that the 3-years-in-the-making Section 108 Study Group Report has little to say about e-reserves. From the Executive Summary:

"The Study Group discussed whether to recommend any changes to the copyright law specifically to address e-reserves and determined not to recommend any changes at the present time."

For all of its 212 pages, the Section 108 Study Group Report is disappointing in its other recommendations as well. Most of the recommendations have at least as much ambiguity as Section 108. (For some reason, this feels a lot like dealing with biblical commentary. The actual text of Section 108 is a little over 1400 words long -- around three pages. Yet the amount of falderol and legal discourse on Section 108 are seemingly endless.) I agree with Library Journal's 4/1/08 Academic Newswire, "Overall, the report reflects significant work and discussion on a range of issues relating to libraries and copyright -- but also deep, ongoing tension between publishers and libraries in the digital age."

Note that the Academic Newswire article also provides a link to the AAP's written comments on the Section 108 Study Group's report. Of making many books there is no end, nor of disputing the copyrighting thereof.

1 comment:

Jenny Vitti said...

I experienced the same disappointment with the Section 108 Study Group. I'm struggling to compose some useful policies concerning reserve items for our three distant campuses and for our online students, and I had hoped that the new document would have provided more insight.

We are a small instruction-based institution, and our professors generally don't believe that copyright restrictions should apply to them at all, because they are educators. All of our legal procedures seem restrictive and unnecessary to them, so I am doing my best to make as many resources available to them as possible -- legally, of course. It is indeed a tense situation.

Your comparison to bible commentary was hilarious. :-)