Pushing Libraries and Archives to the Edge of the Law

“Pushing Libraries and Archives to the Edge of the Law”

BOBBY GLUSHKO, University of Michigan School of Information, University of California, Berkeley – School of Law

The ability to digitize hard copies, the proliferation of born digital content, and access to online distribution holds the promise of improved access to archival materials. Despite these advances, libraries and archives are increasingly hindered in providing this access by the legal issues surrounding their collections.  However, this unfortunate problem can be resolved with a mixture of good policy, careful action, clarification of uncertain legal implications, and a reliance on the protections afforded to libraries and archives by the law.

This paper explores the legal issues faced by archivists and librarians in digitizing and distributing their materials.  Through a discussion of current archiving practices, this paper walks readers though the relevant sections of the copyright act, as well as other implicated areas of the law.  By showing potential sites of legal conflict, engaging difficulties with seeking permission to use library and archival content, and suggesting areas where archivists can push the boundaries of their rights more aggressively, this paper provides a glimpse of the legal landscape surrounding digital archiving, and offers suggestions on how to successfully navigate it.  It is my sincere hope that this effort can empower librarians and archivists to make full use of their collections, to assert the full scope of their rights under the law, and to become advocates helping to shape the national discussion over the future of digital collections.


Source:  LSN Intellectual Property: Copyright Law eJournal Vol. 1 No. 11, 12/15/2010

U.K. Librarians Loud About Price Increases

“British research libraries are protesting price increases by journal publishers, which come amid severe budget constraints in the U.K.”

From the Marketplace section of today’s Wall Street Journal:

Price Hikes Put U.K. Libraries in a Bind

Publishers Increase Fees for Research Journals as Government Issues Budget Constraints; ‘We Just Don’t Have the Money’

By Paul Sonne

From the report:

The concern among British librarians comes as the model for scholarly-journal pricing is under pressure. Many big education institutions buy huge packages of journals, in both print and digital versions, under bulk pricing deals that are steadily ratcheted up over time. With flat or declining budgets, some institutions are now looking for ways to save money without seriously curtailing access for students and researchers.

. . .
The situation could pose a challenge to publishing companies. “You can’t assume that you are going to raise your prices faster than the budget of your customers forever,” said Claudio Aspesi, senior media analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. “One day or another, this was going to be a problem.” . . .


To that I say:  Here, here.

Omega watches and library books


“A case about pricing timepieces could crimp library lending.”

Fascinating article in today’s Wall Street Journal:

The Wall Street Journal, Friday, July 30, 2010, p. W9

Watch Out For the Omega Copyright Windup


By Eric Felten

Constrain the first-sale doctrine and you throw a wrench into the business of used-book stores . . .  And yes, even public libraries might find themselves facing the challenge of figuring out which books on the stacks were first sold in the U.S., and which were first sold abroad.

Law libraries as innovation centers

Harvard Law Library director John Palfrey is quoted in this story from today’s Boston Globe:

Boston Globe, Monday, May 24, 2010

Home / News / Education  

Harvard’s paper cuts
School library works to maintain stature in the shift to digitalBy Tracy Jan

The thin, tattered book, an 1899 dissertation on Homer, written in French, is tucked into one of the more than 40 shelves devoted to the epic poet in the stacks of Widener Library. Collecting obscure works like this one has helped Harvard amass the world’s largest university library…”Libraries have to think of themselves as innovation centers, and not just repeat what we have done in the past, “said Harvard Law professor John Palfrey, who is a leading a project to shape the future of the school’s libraries.

. . .

Palfrey has added engineers, statisticians, and graphic designers to the law school library staff. His team is working on a Web application that browses a virtual bookshelf with works stacked against one another to re-create the experience of wandering through musty stacks and serendipitously stumbling upon titles.

The library is also planning to build a virtual reference desk, where students who rarely seek the help of librarians can solicit research advice without having to set foot in a library. Librarians would assist students through e-mail, instant messaging, text messaging, and Skype.

. . .

And Harvard Law School is in discussions with other law schools about having each school collect in specialized areas.

. . .

The Eggplant That Ate the Spokane County Law Library


You’d better watch out for the eggplant that ate Chicago,
For he may eat your city soon.
You’d better watch out for the eggplant that ate Chicago,
If he’s still hungry, the whole country’s doomed.


The 3 Geeks and a Law Blog pointed me to a story in the Spokane, Washington newspaper Spokesman-Review.  I won’t rehash what he 3 Geeks blog item “Spokane County Law Library Needs Bailout for Westlaw Bills” opines, but the Spokesman-Review story by reporter John Craig, “Spokane County law library falls behind on bills,”  is disturbing to me on several levels.

The story quotes the librarian as saying that her Westlaw fees “are three times as much as the company was charging Pierce County . . . for the ‘exact same’ service.”  I do not know the details, but I can see how a reader might be led to believe that this poor county law library is being gouged by a huge monopolistic corporation. 

What is also disturbing to me is the report that the library is averaging $ 12,000 a month for Westlaw service, while its annual budget is only $ 220,000.  The library’s total labor costs are reported to be $ 78,236, which means that the county is paying Westlaw roughly twice what it’s paying its staff.   At the Stanford Law Library the total we spend for our staff is roughly twice what we spend for all materials (online and print), and that seems right to me — it’s the staff that is our most valuable resource.

The third disturbing element to the story is the suggestion that perhaps the county law library is a “relic” and should be shuttered for more “cost effective approaches” such as having public libraries (and not specialized law libraries) serve the legal information needs of the public.  To me this is short-sighted on so many levels that I could go on and on for pages about why this is a bad direction.

If this story does not help build a case for Law.gov, I don’t know what would.

Many states have discontinued publishing official state reports and rely upon West instead.  Appendix D of Fundamentals of Legal Research, 9th Edition, by Steven M. Barkan, Roy M. Mersky and Donald J. Dunn, includes a table “States That Have Discontinued Publishing Official State Reports” (excerpted below) showing what states have adopted West’s National Reporter System as the official publisher.

Washington is not one of these states.   It appears that Washington is one of the more progressive states in providing decisional law to the public for free.  The Washington State Court website contains free opinions from the last 90 days, and then links to www.legalWA.org ; the LegalWA site links directly to the Municipal Research Services Center of Washington, a nonprofit dedicated to providing free legal resources for Washington where case law from 1854 forward can be found.

There is definitely a place for expensive LexisNexis and Westlaw bills — in the high stakes world of Biglaw litigation (with clients to bill back) for certain, but in a county public law library?  There has got to be a better way.

Here’s an excerpt from that table I mentioned above:


Except for Louisiana, all states have discontinued their official reports have adopted West’s National Reporter System, or an offprint of the National Reporter System, as official.  Alaska has used the Pacific Reporter as its official reporter since it became a state.

[Copied below are the states listed in this table, next to the “Year of Last Case”]

Alabama                            1976

Ala. App.                           1976

Colorado                           1980

Colo. App.                        1980

Delaware                           1966

Florida                               1948

Indiana                              1981

Ind. App.                          1979

Iowa                                   1968

Kentucky                         1951

Louisiana                        1972

Maine                               1965

Minnesota                      1977

Mississippi                    1966

Missouri                        1956

Mo. App.                       1952

North Dakota              1953

Oklahoma                    1953

Okla. Crim.                  1953

Rhode Island             1980

South Dakota             1976

Tennessee                   1971

Tenn. App.                  1972

Tenn. Crim. App.      1970

Texas                            1962

Tex. Crim. App.       1963

Utah 2d                        1974

Wyoming                    1959

John Palfrey on libraries in the age of “Digital-Plus”

John Palfrey is a most gifted writer.  I admired his book (with Urs Gasser) Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives as much for its artful use of language and clear writing style as its fascinating content.   Read it and I’m sure you’ll see what I mean.

John just posted an equally well-written article to the Legal Scholarship Network, an article that should be of great interest to all librarians.  It is:  “Cornerstones of Law Libraries for an Era of Digital-Plus.”  Here’s the brief abstract:

Law librarians would be well served by sharing a vision for the future of legal information, one that is informed by the methods of multiple disciplines and that will promote democratic ideals.  This shared vision could guide us as we continue to lay the cornerstones for law libraries in a “digital-plus” era.

From Papyrus to PDF: the Rebirth of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina

The Newsletter of Japan’s National Diet Library published an interview with the director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina of Egypt. Interview was conducted by Makoto Nagao, Librarian of the National Diet Library.

From Papyrus to PDF: the Rebirth of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Lecture and Discussion by Dr. Ismail Serageldin.

National Diet Library Newsletter, No.171 February 2010.


Excerpts from the interview:

Dr. Nagao: I think access to digitized library materials must be provided within a framework in which publishers and authors do not lose out. I proposed a business model to protect their interest two years ago. Is this the direction Egypt is looking at?

Dr. Serageldin: Yes, it is. I also know an alternative which is the Norwegian approach; the government levies a tax and pays the sum to authors, thereby making a number of books free. There is another model deserving to be looked at on translation. There is a provision in Egyptian law which enables unpermitted translation of a material following three years of refusal by copyright holders. The U.S. is pressing us to change it. But I had debates on the matter and found that it is publishers, not authors, who are objecting it. But then, we give them 3 years to do it themselves.

Dr. Nagao: We cannot introduce lending of digitized data from the NDL to public libraries and schools because of copyright law. Is it possible to digitally transmit copyrighted materials in Egypt?

Dr. Serageldin: No. Our current arrangement is that out of 125,000 materials available on the Internet, out-of-copyright materials are available fully, 5% of non-out-of-copyright ones can be read and the rest can be ordered to be copied. We will print it by the Espresso Book Machine. I have an agreement with publishers, printers and authors. My vision of the future is that we should have everything available online but people must pay for download, either to a personal reader or into a printed copy.
Ideally printing machines will be as ubiquitous as ATMs for banks, with pre-approved arrangements to benefit author, publisher and other stakeholders. But at present, I am having a tough time in reaching an agreement with publisher after publisher.

Now we embrace the future by defending our values against obscurantism, fanaticism and xenophobia. We strengthen the role of women wherever we can, and we link people together by the Arab Info Mall.

But we need to reach further, hence the mass media. We have two weekly TV programs: one is a discussion program that I do, and the other is a weekly program on what’s new at the Library. We decided that the BA needs its own TV Studio and now it is under construction.
(Update on the matter: BA has been able to set-up a full-fledged cutting-edge studio in a record time. The studio is now successfully operating to screen, edit and produce many episodes of the library’s weekly programs. BA is now preparing for a new TV Science Series which will focus on tracing the development of different fields of science throughout the years as well as on highlighting most influential scientists throughout history and their main contributions to science. The new TV Science Series named “Horizons” will be fully produced in the new studio facility at the BA.)

Librarians’ obituaries as inspiration

I became interested in librarians while researching my first book, about obituaries.  With the exception of a few showy eccentrics, . . . , the most engaging obit subjects were librarians.  An obituary of a librarian could be about anything under the sun, a woman with a phenomenal memory, who recalled the books of her aging patrons read as children — and was also, incidentally, the best sailor on her stretch of the Maine coast — or a man obsessed with maps, who helped automate the Library of Congress’s map catalog and paved the way for wonders like Google Maps.

There were visionaries like Frederick Kilgour, the first to combine libraries’ catalogs in one computerized database back in the early seventies.  This was a great act in the history of knowledge — its efficient and useful multiplication.  Under Kilgour’s direction, what began as a few dozen college libraries in Ohio sharing their catalogs soon snowballed into a world catalog, the Online Computer Library Center.  Now anyone can go to WorldCat.org, the OCLC’s catalog of a gazillion library records, and find many libraries that carry the item you need; WorldCat has made very computer a portal to institutions from the Library of Congress to the Tauranga (New Zealand) District Library.  Kilgour lived to an age of ninety-two and taught until he was ninety. . . .

I met Judith Krug, another visionary librarian, in the course of my research.  Krug fought censorship for four decades while running the Office for Intellectual Freedom in the Chicago headquarters of the American Library Association (ALA).  She was tiny, beautifully turned out, and ferociously clear about the librarian’s role in fighting censorship.  I didn’t realize until I read her untimely obituary that Krug had launched Banned Books Week back in the eighties, a bold and pointed celebration of everything from Huckleberry Finn to trash and political incitement.  The banners flying in my public library the last week of September each year had been dreamed up by her.

But the first in a long list of memorialized librarians who made me want to inhabit this world was Henriette Avram.  She beckoned from the obits page, with her mysterious, knowing smile, the chain-smoking systems analyst who automated the library records of the Library of Congress and wrote the first code for computerized catalogs (MARC — Machine Readable Cataloging), a form of which is still used today.  She inspired a generation of women to combine library work and computers.  Her intellectual daughters and sons met after she died to pay her tribute, wearing giant buttons edged in black ribbon, bearing the image of their gray-haired heroine and the legend Mother of MARC.

Whether the subject was a community librarian or a prophet, almost every librarian obituary contained some version of this sentence:  “Under her watch, the library changed from a collection of books into an automated research center.”  I began to get the idea that libraries were where it was happening — wide open territory for innovators, activists, and pioneers.


Author: Johnson, Marilyn, 1954-
Title: This book is overdue! : how librarians and cybrarians can  save us all / Johnson, Marilyn.
Edition: 1st ed.
Imprint: New York : Harper, c2010.
  Physical Description: xii, 272 p. ; 22 cm.
                  Note: Includes bibliographical references (p. [267]-272).
              Contents: The frontier — Information sickness — On the ground
                        — The blog people — Big brother and the holdout
                        company — How to change the world — To the ramparts!
                        — Follow that tattoed librarian — Wizards of odd —
                        Gotham city — What’s worth saving? — The best day.
          Subject (LC): Librarians–Anecdotes.
          Subject (LC): Libraries and society.
          Subject (LC): Library science.
                  ISBN: 9780061431609 : $24.99
                  ISBN: 0061431605 : $24.99

LAW CALL NUMBER                                               
   1)Z682 .J63 2009        

Librarians have always been my heroes.

Law Librarians: “No more sacred cows”

Law Librarians: “No more sacred cows”

By Alan Cohen
The American Lawyer
September 3, 2009

“Doing more with less” has long been a goal, even a mandate, for law librarians, but now it’s “do much more with far less.” Money is part of the story according to The American Lawyer’s 14th annual survey of law firm library directors. And “Nothing is a sacred cow anymore.”

Academic Library of the Future

The Hanover Research Council has just released (August 2009) a report entitled “Academic Library of the Future.”  From the cover:

In the following report, The Hanover Research Council investigates issues relevant to strategic planning for the “academic library of the future.”  After providing an overview of key trends, we detail how the academic library is undergoing profound transformation with regard to new technologies, user expectations, library staff roles, space design, and ownership issues.  The report concludes with examples of cost-effective innovations addressing a wide range of challenges and solutions at four different institutions.