“The failure of the Google Book settlement, however, has not killed the dream of a comprehensive digital library accessible to the public. Indeed, it has inspired an alternative that would avoid the risks of monopoly control. A coalition of nonprofit libraries, archives, and universities has formed to create a Digital Public Library of America, which is scheduled to launch its services in April 2013. The San Francisco Public Library recently sponsored a second major planning session for the DPLA, which drew 400 participants. Major foundations, as well as private donors, are providing financial support. The DPLA aims to be a portal through which the public can access vast stores of knowledge online. Free, forever.
“Initially the DPLA will focus only on making digitized copies of millions of public-domain works available online. These include works published in the United States before 1923, those published between 1923 and 1963 whose copyrights were not renewed, as well as those published before 1989 without proper copyright notices, and virtually all U.S.-government works.
“One of the key problems for digital libraries such as the DPLA is the extraordinarily long terms of copyright today: 70 years past an author’s death or 95 years from first publication for works made for hire. Had Congress not bowed to pressure from industries with a stake in copyright, especially Hollywood, to extend existing copyright terms several times in the past 40 years, all works published before 1956 would now be in the public domain and available for inclusion in the DPLA.
“The fastest way to achieve a more comprehensive digital library is for Congress to create a license so that digital libraries could provide public access to copyrighted works no longer commercially available. This approach would make it unnecessary to engage in costly work-by-work searches for rights holders and would free up orphan works. A digital library such as the DPLA could pay a fee for a license to display such works to the public for noncommercial uses. Rights-holders could come forward to get compensation for the uses of their works, or they could opt out. Works whose rights-holders failed to show up within a certain period of time (perhaps five or 10 years) could be presumed to be orphans and made available on an open-access basis.”
From Pamela Samuelson’s article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Reforming Copyright Is Possible: And it’s the only way to create a national digital library