ARCHIVED: New Digital Copyright Rules Seen as a Defeat for Library Users and the American Public

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For Immediate Release:
October 26, 2000

Contact: Frank DiFulvio

New Digital Copyright Rules seen as a defeat for Library Users and the American Public

"The principle of "fair use" in the digital age reduced to nothing more than a hollow promise"

Washington D.C. -- The Librarian of Congress James Billington has ruled against the American public and library users today, by negating fair use in the digital arena. Billington allowed only two exceptions resulting from the rulemaking proceeding by the Library's Copyright Office involving the section 1201 anticircumvention provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

This final rule by the Librarian of Congress will mean that users of digital information will have fewer rights and opportunities than those who use print material, just at a time when we are experiencing an explosion in digital information. Libraries and academic institutions at all levels will find it impossible to provide access to information in this increasingly digital world, denying librarians, students, researchers, and teachers access to important informational material that they so desperately need.

The American Library Association (ALA) and the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) have worked hard to ensure that the longstanding principle of "fair use" continues into the digital age. "As our nation becomes ever more dependent on digital information, we are increasingly concerned in seeing equitable access to information resources in our country," said Nancy Kranich, President of ALA. "This misguided decision by the Copyright Office will do just the opposite, by expanding the digital divide among our citizens, at a time when we all understand how important it is to provide equity of access to information for all Americans -- and not just the privileged few," she concluded.

This ruling is not some narrow legalism. It has real consequences for the American people, because it is a direct threat to public access to information. It appears to give in to the demands of the proprietary community, which seems determined to lock up information -- requiring citizens to pay for glancing at any kind of information in the digital age.

"What the Copyright Office has done is more than a disappointment to library users, scholars, students, and the general public," said Mary Alice Baish, Acting Washington Affairs Representative of AALL. "The Courts and Congress will now be forced to grapple yet again with these issues to assure that the Copyright Law conforms to constitutional requirements of balance, and protects equitable public access to information," she insists.

Related Statements Expressing AALL's Disappointment with the Rulemaking: