ARCHIVED: Digital Copyright Clarification and Technology Act (S. 1146)

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December 15, 1997

The Honorable Charles S. Robb
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510-4603
[FAX: 202/224-8689]

Dear Senator Robb:

As Director of the Law Library and Professor of Law at the Marshall-Wythe Law Library at the College of William and Mary, I write to you today to urge you to co-sponsor the "Digital Copyright Clarification and Technology Act" (S. 1146) introduced by Rep. John Ashcroft. This bill is of critical importance to schools and libraries in every community of Virginia, and to your constituents who increasingly are using electronic technologies to meet their information needs whether in a school or library setting, or at home.

In addition to my position here at the College of William and Mary, I am the Vice President/President-Elect of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), a nonprofit educational organization with over 5,000 members nationwide. As the immediate past chair of AALL's Copyright Committee, I have a fairly good understanding of the Copyright Act. I strongly believe that Congress must update copyright law to preserve the balance between copyright owners and users in the electronic age, and I solicit your support in this important effort.

Each year, millions of researchers, students, and members of the public benefit from access to library collections in Virginia, relying upon these collections and services to meet their information needs. The Ashcroft bill, while protecting intellectual property on the Internet, will extend the balance of the Copyright Act to the electronic age by updating selected privileges granted to libraries, researchers, and educational institutions.

S. 1146 fosters the growth of the Internet and at the same time presents the best approach to updating the Copyright Act to meet the challenges of the digital environment. It includes provisions that allow:


  • teachers, librarians and users to make "fair use" copies of parts of electronic copyrighted works;
  • libraries to make three copies of endangered works for preservation purposes;
  • teachers to use computers in the classroom for distance learning, just as they use televisions today.

These protections are essential to libraries if we are to effectively serve our patrons, scholars, researchers, and students in the networked environment.

Senator Robb, I thank you for recognizing the critical role that libraries play in communities across Virginia, and for your strong commitment to public access. I urge you to co-sponsor S. 1146, a bill that has the strong support, not only of the library and educational communities, but also of a broad coalition of other groups who share our desire to enhance educational opportunities and support new technologies. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns about this important piece of legislation. Thank you very much for you consideration in this matter.


James S. Heller
Director of the Law Library and Professor of Law
College of William and Mary