Saturday, April 19, 2014

State of America's Libraries Report 2014: Ebooks and Copyright Issues

Cover photo from "American Libraries"
The American Library Association released the 2014 State of America’s Libraries Report this week, which is National Library Week (April 13– 19). Yesterday I commented on the Academic Libraries section.  Today I want to look at the section on ebooks and copyright, which reminds us of what we already know.  Ebooks are gaining in popularity, yet it is difficult for libraries to acquire and circulate them.  Jeannette Woodward, who has authored books on this topics, suggests that libraries work together to negotiate with publishers, rather than acting like islands unto themselves.

This section of the report also reminds of us copyright news from 2013, such as:
And in November 2013, after eight years of litigation, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York upheld the fair use doctrine when it dismissed Authors Guild v. Google, a case that questioned the legality of Google’s searchable book database. U.S. District Judge Denny Chin’s decision protects the Google database that allows the public to search more than 20 million books.
When this case began in 2005, it garnered a lot of attention including news articles, podcasts, blog posts, and more.  I don't think as many people noticed its conclusion.  Forbes noted that this decision is a big deal because:
  • It adds to the small body of search engine law.
  • The case rejects concerns about analog-to-digital conversion.
  • Google Books is great. 
  • The ruling extends Google’s market leadership.

However, a number of reasons also point to it not be a big deal, including that this decision is likely not going to help anyone except Google.  And...of course, it might be appealed.

This section of the report also notes two victories for those with visual impairments.  First, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) finalized the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled.  Second, the ability of those who are blind, visually impaired, or have a physical disability to be able to download audio and braille books to their mobile devices, if they are registered with the LoC’s National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). Ensuring that people with visual impairments have the same access to books and other materials, as the rest of us, is a big deal. They should be able to access the same information as the rest of us.

Finally, I'm sure that others are looking at this report and writing about it.  My colleague, Paul Signorelli, wrote these two posts, which you may find of interest:
If you find other blog posts, that are delving into the sections of this report, please let me know.

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