Get to Know Our Members: American Library Association

ALA Blog

Re:Create has launched a blog series, Get to Know Our Members, to help others better understand the type of work Re:Create members do and why they are so motivated by copyright issues. For this post, we heard from Carrie Russell, director of public policy and advocacy at the American Library Association.

1: What is your organization’s mission?

Our mission is to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

2: What types of people/organizations/businesses do you represent?

We represent libraries, librarians and their users. Our Public Policy & Advocacy Office’s priorities include library funding, telecommunication including the e-rate program, government information, copyright and licensing, and e-books.

3: Why are balanced copyright policies so important to your organization?

Librarians are central to the purpose of copyright – to advance learning. We purchase the books and digital resources that authors write and rights holders sell, we provide access to these resources, including library lending, we work to ensure that the public can use these resources to their fullest extent, and we curate and preserve works for the cultural heritage. All these functions are dependent on copyright law – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

4: What role does the DMCA play in supporting the work of your stakeholders?

Section 512 provides third party liability protection for libraries that offer public access computing. We have participated in 1201 rulemakings since 1999 and gained exemptions for people with disabilities and preservation. But the DMCA does not provide any additional rights for libraries or our users.

5: What concerns you most about proposals to make the DMCA more restrictive?

Proposals such as “three strikes, you’re out” or “take down and stay down” would threaten the first amendment and the intellectual freedom of our users including students, educators, and faculty — people who want to teach and people who want to learn.  

6: What key fact or stat about will help readers better understand how important balanced copyright policies are to American creativity, innovation and economic growth?

The benefits of balanced copyright policy for libraries are made obvious when the only choice for acquiring digital content is licensing instead of copyright law. Licensing for digital resources sidesteps the copyright exceptions that libraries and the public are ensured in balanced copyright policy.  Nearly all digital resources purchased by libraries are through license agreements – increasingly there is no analog equivalent where the rights of libraries and users apply.  Business models for consumer facing content, like streaming, can leave the library as a buyer completely left out of the equation.  Moreover, because streamed content can be fleeting and occasionally gone altogether, preservation of these resources is impossible.