Two actions this week highlight library associations’ commitment to openness and balance amidst developing copyright enforcement efforts.
In a letter sent March 22 to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Ron Kirk from technology companies and public interest organizations, including members of the Library Copyright Alliance — the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the American Library Association (ALA), and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) — called for an open, public discussion of the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The letter responds to a recent leak of the proposed agreement’s text, which the USTR had refused to release publically.
In their comments the groups state:
[the leak] heightens our concern that this negotiation is not primarily about counterfeiting or piracy; nor is at all about trade law … The leaked text reveals detailed substantive attention to core principles of any nation’s intellectual property law … The time for public discussion as to exactly what this document will and won’t do is now.
Additionally, the groups outline their specific concerns with the ACTA negotiations in a separate document.
In another letter sent to the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) on March 24, the ALA, ARL and ACRL purport that public access is an integral part of copyright law. The letter is in response to a request for comments by the Office of Management Budget as it develops its Joint Strategic Plan for enforcement, as required by the PRO IP Act of 2008.
The library associations are concerned about potential enforcement strategies that would unduly burden users and libraries:
We expect that some rightsholders will submit comments seeking new protections for their aging business models, but we encourage you to consider the members of the public and the entities that serve them, such as libraries, before recommending changes that would disturb the delicate balance of copyright law.
On both issues, the stakes for access to information are high. The library associations will continue to monitor both the ACTA negotiations and federal enforcement efforts to ensure the rights of libraries and library users are represented and preserved.