Get To Know Our Members: Medical Library Association

Re:Create’s Get to Know Our Members blog series helps others better understand the different ways Re:Create members work to support balanced copyright laws and why they are so motivated by copyright issues. For this post, we heard from Andy Hickner, Co-Chair of the Medical Library Association Governmental Relations Committee.

1: What is your organization’s mission? The Medical Library Association (MLA) is a nonprofit, educational organization with 3,500 health sciences information professional members worldwide. Founded in 1898, MLA provides lifelong educational opportunities, supports a knowledgebase of health information research, and works with a global network of partners to promote the importance of quality information for improved health to the health care community and the public.

2: What types of people/organizations/businesses do you represent?
Health sciences librarians support the information needs of health care professionals, researchers, educators, students, and the public.

3: Why are balanced copyright policies so important to your organization? 
Health sciences librarians are deeply embedded in education and research. Balanced copyright helps us and the communities we serve by enabling fair use of copyrighted materials, and advances learning and scholarship by lowering barriers to learning materials, data, and knowledge.

4: What role does the DMCA play in supporting the work of your stakeholders?
Most of our stakeholders work in non-commercial organizations – e.g. hospitals, universities, or the federal government – and our professional ethos is highly collaborative and cooperative. The work we produce usually holds either a Creative Commons attribution, or the copyright is held by someone else (e.g. a publisher or our employer).

DMCA helps ensure that we can continue to leverage the “fair use” doctrine in our educational activities. It also enables us to digitally preserve eligible copyrighted works, and to share them in a controlled and regulated manner with other libraries through interlibrary loan services (ILL). ILL is an essential tool for helping meet our users’ diverse information needs while making the most of our limited collection development budgets. 

Finally, DMCA includes provisions on promoting distance education through digital technologies. As we all know, the pandemic of 2020 has led to a near-instantaneous adoption of remote learning, which makes this element of DMCA more salient than ever.

5: What concerns you most about proposals to make the DMCA more restrictive? Complying with existing copyright law in the US already poses a significant burden to educators, researchers, healthcare providers, and librarians. Making the DMCA more restrictive would not benefit our communities, it would only create new targets for litigation by copyright trolls and large entertainment companies.

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?
Fair use is essential to our work and that of the clinicians, scientists, teachers, and students we serve. COVID-19 has forced a rapid transition to remote learning, but copyright law has not caught up to this reality. Teaching and learning that was designed for face-to-face is now taking place on platforms such as Zoom. It is crucial that US copyright law facilitates the transition to online learning, rather than impeding it.