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Tuesday, March 18, 2003
College Media Group Cautions That 2 Copyright Laws Could
By ANDREA L. FOSTER
A group representing college media centers is warning the U.S.
Copyright Office about a possible conflict between two federal
laws, one meant to limit electronic access to copyrighted
material and the other designed to broaden access to the same
material for online education.
At issue are the Technology Education and Copyright
Harmonization Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
The first measure is known as the Teach Act and was signed
into law in November. It amended copyright law to allow
college instructors to use nondramatic works, such as news
articles and novels, and portions of dramatic works, such as
movies, in online courses without paying fees and without
seeking the copyright holder's permission.
The second law, which took effect in 1998, has a section that
makes it illegal to bypass technologies that block access to
copyrighted material. In a letter sent last month to the
Copyright Office, the Consortium of College and University
Media Centers says it wants clarification of that section of
the digital-copyright law, known as the anti-circumvention
What worries the media centers is that colleges might not be
allowed to bypass copying protections even when they need to
do so to use materials from CDs and DVDs for distance
education, as permitted by the Teach Act in certain
circumstances. The problem arises when digital materials are
not also released in non-digital formats that the colleges can
fall back on, such as print.
The group represents 312 college media centers, many of which
are responsible for helping faculty members create online
The group's letter was among dozens sent to the copyright
office. It is considering exceptions to the anti-circumvention
provision, as it is legally required to do every three years.
Noting that colleges have barely begun to apply the provisions
of the Teach Act, the group says that given the law's "great
promise and its expected wholesale adoption by nonprofit
higher education ... we cannot wait another three years to
deal with the impact of this conflict after the fact."
Jeff Clark, the chairman of the college media group's
government regulations and public-policy committee, wrote the
letter. He says he knows of no specific cases in which
colleges have felt constrained from taking advantage of the
Teach Act because of the anti-circumvention provision.
"It was more a proactive measure," he says.
Allan R. Adler, vice president for legal and governmental
affairs for the Association of American Publishers, which
helped draft the Teach Act, says the kind of conflict that Mr.
Clark's letter describes would be "very rare." Publishers of
books and journals almost always have analog versions of
digital material. Those that do not often market digital
material specifically for educational purposes, he says.
Later this year, the Copyright Office is expected to reveal
its opinions on the comments it has received during hearings
on the issue.
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