January 17, 2022

Copyright Laws Slow Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)

From The Harvard Crimson:

The “magic date” is 1923, said David O’Brien, senior project coordinator at the Berkman Center—anything published before that year is fair game to be made public.

For other copyrighted works, protection extends for 70 years after the death of the author. Consequently, when the DPLA—which can only include works in the public domain—launches in April, its collections will lack the bulk of literature written in the 20th century.

“There is certainly a desire that at some point the DPLA should have in-copyright works,” O’Brien said. “The question is how to accomplish that in a sustainable fashion.”


The DPLA is “exploring the possibility of adapting the fair use provision” to make digitized works available, Darnton said. “We are doing this for the public good.”


Yet Darnton does not see a conflict between these authors’ interests and DPLA’s mission. As a potential solution, he proposes a “moving wall” of digitization that would only provide free online access to material that was published more than 10 or 15 years ago.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.