Legislative Update October 2015

Against a backdrop of criticism against the Library, James Billington stepped down from his role as Librarian of Congress after 28 years of service. On October 7th, days after his September 30th departure, the Senate unanimously approved the “Librarian of Congress Succession Modernization Act of 2015”. The act will instate a 10-year limit on the post, renewable by the President with Senate approval. Previous Librarians (13 since the post was established in 1800) were appointed life terms. Similar House legislation is expected, but has not yet been introduced.

The President is expected to nominate the next Librarian by year’s end, with Deputy Librarian David Mao serving as Acting Librarian in the meantime.

President Obama has been urged to nominate a professional librarian to the position by ALA president Courtney Young, as well as many state library organizations


Since 2004, Google has partnered with university and public libraries in digitizing their print book collections. Soon after the project’s initiation, two lawsuits citing copyright infringement were filed against Google; one a class action suit representing authors (Authors Guild v. Google), the other a civil suit filed by 5 large publishers in conjunction with the Association of American Publishers (McGraw Hill v. Google). Legal rulings, rejections, and appeals have spanned the last decade, with the most recent action (October 2015) ruling in favor of Google.

After print books are scanned, users are able to keyword search the full text. For some works (e.g. public domain texts) the entirety of the text is accessible. For others, only a small amount of text surrounding the searched term is viewable. On October 16th, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Google, claiming that Google’s use falls within transformative Fair Use.

 

About John Pell

John Pell is an assistant professor and librarian at Hunter College in New York City.

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