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posted by cmn32480 on Monday July 27 2015, @08:16AM   Printer-friendly
from the dewey-decimal-system dept.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is agitating for a new Librarian of Congress that will loosen restrictions on fair use and appreciate how content use has evolved in the digital age. The current Librarian, Dr. James Billington, has been criticized by EFF and others for failure to modernize the institution, being slow to grant exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and reportedly communicating with staff by fax. Now that Billington is retiring, the EFF hopes that a fresh face will speed up digitization of LoC public domain works, do a better job of overseeing the Copyright Office, and improve access to the Congressional Research Service.

Jessamyn West, the librarian whose Librarian of PROgress campaign has become a focal point for this discussion, has been a leading voice on what we can hope for in, to use her term, the #nextLoC. In a post last week, she laid out a wishlist of what she and other members of the library community would like to see.

As she notes, these priorities could certainly match those of somebody who already works in a library—perhaps unsurprisingly, the American Library Association too has advocated that President Obama nominate a professional librarian for the position. But they could also come from somebody who is simply passionate about users rights. Free speech, privacy, and intellectual freedom are core values of both EFF and librarians everywhere, and we can always use another well-placed advocate. We urge the president to choose one.

The Atlantic also has a discussion about the next Librarian of Congress:

"A lot of people are very happy that Billington finally stepped down, so we can get some better technology infrastructure for both the Copyright Office and the Library," said Samuelson. The previous Librarian of Congress did not hire a permanent chief information officer—despite being exhorted to do so by the Government Accountability Office—and has instead churned through five IT chiefs in the last three years alone.

A new Librarian could also shape copyright policy, Band said, just by communicating to libraries that they should take advantage of recent changes to fair use. The 2012 HathiTrust decision, for instance, found that searching ebooks and making them accessible to the disabled is covered by fair use. The Copyright Office "is very troubled by the evolution of fair use," Band told me. "A different Librarian who is more involved with these issues should say, 'No, libraries can take more advantage of fair use than the Copyright Office feels.'"


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