Pamela Samuelson Advocates for a Universal Digital Library

By TAP Staff Blogger
In an op-ed piece for The Los Angeles Times, Professor Pamela Samuelson weighs the value of creating a digital collection of all the world’s books against the challenges of overcoming copyright law expenses and barriers. In “A Universal Digital Library Is Within Reach,” Professor Samuelson examines the issues inherent with books in public domain (books published before 1923 are free from copyright constraints), out-of-print books, and orphan works (that is, works whose rights-holders are unknown or cannot be found). Below are a few excerpts from her piece.
 
Copyright law poses considerable challenges, but any barriers to mass digitization of the world's books can — and should be — overcome.
 
Digital libraries containing millions of out-of-print and public domain works would vastly expand the scope of research and education worldwide, extending access to millions of people in undeveloped countries who don't have it now. It would also open up amazing opportunities for discovery of new knowledge. Being able to conduct searches over a corpus of millions of books allows researchers to learn things never before possible.
 
There are three promising strategies for removing barriers to a universal digital library: First, it should be considered "fair use" in copyright law for nonprofit libraries to circulate orphan works for their patrons for noncommercial purposes. Second, Congress should pass legislation to limit damages and injunctions for other reuses of orphan works. Third, the Copyright Office should explore a collective licensing program under which all in-copyright but out-of-print works could be made available, as some countries are now trying.
 
Read the entire piece: “A Universal Digital Library Is Within Reach.”
 
Pamela Samuelson is recognized as a pioneer in digital copyright law, intellectual property, cyberlaw and information policy. She has written and spoken extensively about the challenges that new information technologies are posing for traditional legal regimes.