Tuesday, April 18, 2006


The Librarian of Congress has appointed a "Section 108 Study Group" to reexamine the exceptions in the Copyright Act governing library and archival copying in light of the widespread use of digital media. Section 108 is the principal such exception. Here is a link to the group's home page. The group has held a number of public round tables, most recently on April 14th. Here is a link to the transcripts of those round tables. Here is a link to the group's background papers. The Librarian has stated a desire to make recommendations to Congress by mid-2006, so if you're not already involved, now is the time.

There are a number of other, delightful sources to look at on what is an issue of reprography. Thomas Jefferson, who knew a thing or two about libraries and copying machines, wrote the following in a 1791 letter to Ebenezer Hazard:

"Time and accident are committing daily havoc on the journals deposited in our public offices. The late war has done the work of centuries in this business. The lost cannot be recovered; but let us save what remains: not by vaults and locks which fence them from the public eye and use, in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such multiplication of copies, as shall place them beyond the reach of accident."

This is quoted in a wonderful book by Silvio Bedini, Thomas Jefferson and His Copying Machines (1984). It is published, appropriately by the University of Virginia, in what looks like a vanity cover; my copy, from an Amazon.com reseller came with a commemorative 1993 ticket to Monticello, which I visited a number of times when I lived in DC, and got to see first hand the copying machines Jefferson used for his correspondence. Another, more popular style book is David Owen, Copies in Seconds: Chester, Carlson and the Birth of Xerox Machine (2004). Carlson, a patent lawyer who graduated from New York Law School at night, was an amazing figure, born into abject poverty we rarely see. Owen is a New Yorker staff writer and the book is a great read.

Another and truly astonishing book is Barbara Rhodes and William Streeter, Before Photocopying: The Art and History of Mechanical Copying, 1790-1938 (1999). At 498 pages with thousands of illustrations, this latter book is a must for anyone interested in the subject. William Streeter is a Massachusetts book binder with great technological knoweldge of the field. Barbara Rhodes handles ably the social and cultural issues. A final excellent work is Luis Nadeau’s two volume Encyclopedia of Printing, Photographic, and Photochemical Processes (1990).

No comments: