ARCHIVED: Marketing of CCC's Annual Authorization Service to Law Firms

  • Bookmark and Share

April 4, 2000

Joseph S. Alen
President and Chief Executive Officer
Copyright Clearance Center, Inc.
222 Rosewood Drive
Danvers, MA 01923

Dear Mr. Alen :

On behalf of the more than 4700 members of the American Association of Law Libraries, I write to you today to bring to your attention the growing number of complaints that we have received in recent months from law firm librarians who believe that they are being unduly pressured to subscribe to the Copyright Clearance Center's Annual Authorization Service (AAS). CCC appears to be engaging in a comprehensive and systematic effort to target law firms as potential subscribers to your service. That in itself is not objectionable, but the manner in which it is done very much concerns our Association.

Over the past year many of our law firm members have received letters from the CCC that they believe overstep normal marketing practices. Indeed, our members find the letters not only misleading, but even threatening. Your letters-two of which are attached-suggest that there is little or no right to reproduce copyrighted works in the for-profit sector. They fail to mention the fair use and library exemption sections of the United States Code (17 U.S.C. sections 107 and 108). In addition, many other firm librarians have received what they view to be overly persistent phone calls from CCC employees marketing the AAS.

The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) was founded in 1906 to promote and enhance the value of law libraries to the legal and public communities, to foster the profession of law librarianship, and to provide leadership in the field of legal information. The Association represents law librarians and related professionals who are affiliated with a wide range of institutions: law firms; law schools; corporate legal departments; courts; and local, state and federal government agencies.

We understand that many of our law firm members, when they are contacted by the CCC, inform your employees that their firms have developed formal copyright compliance plans and they adhere strictly to them. We have heard as well from our firm members certain allegations made by some CCC employees that a law firm cannot enforce in-house compliance. Such allegations are not based on fact and represent an aggressive marketing scheme many of our members find offensive.

The CCC website similarly implies-and arguably states directly-that copyright compliance in a law firm requires that a firm use the CCC, and that such participation insures the firm against a lawsuit.

According to your website,

If you are a U.S.-based corporation with more than 750 employees, or a law firm, and you want to make photocopies of copyrighted materials, and be copyright compliant, CCC's AAS is for you....A license from the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) is the easiest and most cost-effective mechanism available to organizations interested in voluntarily complying with U.S. copyright law and avoiding possible litigation.

Our association has long provided education and guidance on copyright issues to our membership, particularly as changes in recent years have been made to federal copyright law to accommodate the growing shift to digital information. We educate our members through guidelines we have prepared; through national, regional and local conference programs; through workshops and video conferences; and through other publications. We help our members understand-and appreciate-the rights of copyright owners. But our members also understand that sections 107 and 108 of the Copyright Act are not non-existent in the private sector, as the CCC suggests. Furthermore, our members inform and train those who use their libraries to understand the rights of copyright owners.

For example, in October 1996 AALL's Copyright Committee issued a report on Model Law Firm Copyright Policy that provides guidance specific to law firms in developing their own copyright compliance plans. Please note the FIRM STATEMENT:

[FIRM] does not condone the unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted materials, in any format. Unauthorized reproduction includes copying done beyond that which is permitted under the Copyright Act that is done without permission and/or payment of royalties.

Please note as well the RESPONSIBILITY STATEMENT:

Compliance with the Copyright Act is the individual responsibility of every employee, including partners, associates, paralegals, and staff members.

Additionally, in May 1997 AALL's Electronic Fair Use Committee issued AALL Guidelines on the Fair Use of Copyrighted Works by Law Librarians to provide guidance on copying by the library and its users under fair use, rather than by authorization from the copyright owners. These guidelines cover the reproduction, distribution, and display of copyrighted works whether published in print or available in digital format. Copies of both reports are attached.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss with you the CCC's marketing efforts to our law firm institutions and the concerns that our law firm members have raised. I hope that together we can reach an understanding that will alleviate our members' concern over your current program so that it is helpful, rather than intimidating. Please contact me at your earliest convenience.


Robert L. Oakley
Washington Affairs Representative
American Association of Law Libraries


cc: Ms. Liz Johnson, Vice President, Marketing, Copyright Clearance Center, Inc.