Librarians are worried that the rapid rise of digital rights management technology is threatening their ability to archive copyrighted works and lend them to multiple patrons. The British Library told the BBC they are concerned that excessive use of DRM could cause several problems.
For one, without legal exceptions for libraries, some DRM restrictions can limit their ability to lend digital media to users. Libraries currently have privileges that allow them to copy and distribute copyrighted items. But unless publishers produce unrestricted versions of digital material for libraries, they won't be able to exercise those privileges. Another concern is that, as technology advances and various software formats eventually become obsolete, copyrighted works can be lost if the technology is rendered useless before art moves into the public domain.
The British Library predicts that by 2020, 90 percent of newly published work will be available digitally--twice the amount that is printed. If that prediction is realized, it will force the issue in a few short years. Not surprisingly, bloggers--a relatively technology-friendly group--have sided with the libraries. As the world rapidly moves toward consuming their media digitally, will governments adapt old laws to keep up with the times? Or will libraries become a thing of the past?
Blog community response:
"One of the great advances of humans has been our ability to preserve our history and communicate it to following generations. This has been accomplished by means of transcribing, print, mass publications, and more. DRM as it is currently conceived disturbs this system and in fact, could wreck it completely."
"Fair use allowed libraries to exist. In the new world, fair use doesn't seem to protect us. We are unable to purchase permanent collections, only transient access. Who controls the access at all times? the database or ebook vendors... It's as though the publishers set up camp in our libraries and made sure that everyone who came to borrow books from us was - to their eyes - using the items appropriately (that they were residents of our town, etc., etc.). And we're facilitating this by agreeing to the terms - not that we have a choice, but maybe we should be a little more vocal about protecting our readers' rights and a little less concerned about protecting the vendors' rights."
--Tales of an Outreach Coordinator
"Surely the best solution here is a modification to the law such that any protected digital work must have an unencumbered version of the data lodged with the copyright libraries? This copy is for archive use only until the work falls into the public domain, at which point it is made freely available. Artists are protected, execs still get the most important part of their wet dream, and most importantly, the public gets it's dues."
--lisaparratt on Slashdot