Library exceptions

Section 108 of U.S. Copyright Law limits the exclusive rights of copyright owners to enable libraries and archives to reproduce copyrighted work under certain circumstances without requesting the copyright owner’s permission.  The Copyright Office acknowledges significant problems with Section 108 arising from the law’s failure to keep pace with digital media and technologies that have fundamentally changed how copyrighted works are made, distributed, preserved, and accessed. 

In April 2005 the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office assembled the Section 108 Study Group with representatives from relevant stakeholder groups, and charged the Group to examine in light of digital technologies the exceptions and limitations applicable to libraries and archives under the Copyright Act.  The Group convened public roundtables in March 2006 and January 2007 to discuss the issues and recommend changes to Section 108. 

The Study Group issued its report in March 2008.  The report concluded that Section 108 fails to meet the needs of libraries, archives, and their users.  The report recommended extensive changes to Section 108 to address born-digital works, digital preservation and conversion issues, and identified problems in Section 108 for which the Study Group could recommend no solution because stakeholders could not reach consensus. 

The Copyright Office did not present the agreed-upon recommendations to Congress because the proposed Settlement to the Google Books Search litigation, if approved, would have serious implications for Section 108.  The Google Books Settlement was not approved.  According to the Priorities and Special Projects of the United States Copyright Office 2011-2013, addressing problems in Section 108 is a high priority for the Copyright Office.  

The University Libraries participated in efforts to update Section 108 for the digital age:

  • June 2006 – Denise Troll Covey, Scholarly Communications Librarian, participated in an advisory group convened by the American Library Association Office of Information Technology Policy to formulate the library community’s response to proposed changes to Section 108. 
  • January 2007 – Ms. Troll Covey applied to the Library of Congress and upon acceptance participated in the roundtable convened by the Section 108 Study Group.
  • March 2007 – Ms. Troll Covey responded to the Library of Congress Request for Comment on specific issues in Section 108.