Unlocking the Future of Public Libraries: Digital Licensing that Preserves Access

Article in The University of Baltimore Intellectual Property Law Journal
Article title: UNLOCKING THE FUTURE OF PUBLIC LIBRARIES: DIGITAL LICENSING THAT PRESERVES ACCESS
Cite: 16 U. Balt. Intell. Prop. L.J. 29
Author: Kristen M. Cichocki

Abstract: The traditional role of the public library as a content intermediary is being altered by recent changes in contract practice between publishers and libraries, alterations to copyright law, and new applications of technology to digital content.

This article will examine how licensing contracts for digital content, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the application of digital rights management are all calling into question the role of the public library in the digital future. The article will then discuss possible approaches to reframing publisher-public library licensing agreements in order to mitigate the negative impact of certain contractual terms and promote uses of content expected by libraries, keeping in mind the difference in scale and distribution between real and digital space.

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Excerpt

Excerpt: Digital technology and the dramatic changes in scale and use it brings to the
distribution of works present obvious challenges to our current legal framework
of copyright. Real space is not the same as digital space and what works
in real space today may not work in digital space. And what's more, what
is working in digital space today may not work in the digital world of tomorrow.
The notions underlying our current copyright laws are based on our
understanding of what it means to interact in real space. The bundle of
rights prescribed by these laws, "the rights to reproduce, publicly perform,
publicly display, publicly distribute, and make derivative works," are all
rights determined by our understandings of what it means to own physical
property. It is important to recall that in real space, "copyright law has
never granted producers the right to control all uses of their works."
There is no reason why it should suddenly do so in digital space. Yet rights
beyond those traditionally accorded to owners of copyrighted works, in the form
of restrictions on users of content, are just what are being asserted by some
publishers today in the realm of digital works.

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