Earlier we reported that the Copyright Clearance Center was funding litigation against university libraries. It seemed odd to me at the time that the CCC was promoting cooperation in various copyright matters but, in truth, was actively funding litigation against the very parties they wanted to cooperate with.
Now, Publishers Weekly is reporting that the Association of Research Libraries is complaining about this.
A contentious copyright case over e-reserves in university libraries has grown a little more tense. PW has learned that the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has sent a letter to the Copyright Clearance Center protesting its role in funding an ongoing publisher lawsuit against four individuals at Georgia State University over the use of electronic course content. In a letter addressed to CCC CEO Tracey Armstrong, ARL director Charles Lowry expressed “deep disappointment with the decision by the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) to underwrite 50% of the plaintiffs’ costs in the litigation.” Lowry noted that the library community only learned of CCC’s key role in the action after it was revealed in a footnote in a recent ruling by Judge Orinda Evans of the Federal District Court in Atlanta.
In the letter, Lowry pointed out that CCC was founded as “a collaboration of content creators, content publishers, and content users.” Indeed, a sizable portion of the nonprofit CCC’s revenues come from academic libraries. Since learning of CCC’s role in the GSU e-reserve case, some librarians have bristled at the idea that their fees have helped fund a lawsuit against them, especially during a time of extreme budget pressure.
While Lowry conceded that “balancing the interests” of publishers and users “can be a challenging task,” he suggested that CCC, given its central role as a facilitator, should support “collaboration,” rather than litigation. “This action by the CCC signals to the content user community that the CCC no longer seeks to serve the interests of all of the partners in the scholarly communications enterprise.” Lowry urged the CCC to “reconsider its role in funding the litigation going forward.”
In response the CCC says that it was trying to help clarify fair use. This argument, of course, is specious. CCC is funding a litigation brought by a major publisher. If they really meant what they said why didn’t they fund the other side – cash-strapped libraries. The result, a clarification of fair use, would still be the same. Instead they chose the route that would make the possibility of the libraries’ success smaller.
It makes one think about the relationship of the CCC to publishers. Clearly they are in the publishers’ pockets and all their talk of “facilitating licensing” is bunkum. What they really want to do is become an enforcement agency. As a corporate lawyer (now retired) I would certainly advise my clients to, from this point forward, treat the CCC as an adversary and suggest that they be very careful in any future dealings with the Center. “Anything you say can and will be used against you” is the maxim to keep in mind now that the CCC has revealed its true bias.