It can be a bit unsettling the first time a library administrator receives a scary looking notice pertaining to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that the library’s internet resources may have been used in the transmission or exchange of copyrighted materials. My advice? DON’T PANIC!
Keep the notice on file, but don’t worry about it. No action in direct response to the notice should be necessary. Browse the ALA resource Public Access Computers in Libraries and Liability Concerns created by Carrie Russell at the Washington ALA office.
The longer answer:
The longer answer is a bit messy, but we’re here to help, and can offer a bit of guidance there. Several years ago we corresponded with Carrie Russell at the Washington ALA office about this issue as there was limited documentation from a library-specific perspective. The ALA had some general overviews of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) language and subsequent updates, but nothing in plain-language narrative to guide library administrators.
After our discussions, Carrie drafted what became this resource:
Public Access Computers in Libraries and Liability Concerns– ALA
… which is still updated every so often (most recently this past March). It prescribes the steps any institution operating a publicly accessible network with internet access (like a library) should take in order to be as fully protected from liability as possible, at least in regards to DMCA.
We encourage your library to explore those recommendations for implementation. For the most part, the way Wisconsin Library Systems and member Public Libraries operate networks and internet access fits right in with the requirements. So IFLS, WVLS, and most (all?) other member libraries of Wisconsin Library System are fairly well covered by default. One action that requires a bit of time and a nominal fee (“$6.00 per designation, amendment, or re-submission”) is registering an OSP agent with the US Copyright Office. Register an OSP agent for your library.
We hope that gives you enough information to feel a bit less uncomfortable if your library ever receives a DMCA copyright infringement letter. Again, we encourage you to explore and implement the precautionary measures prescribed on the ALA resource linked above to ensure your library is in as durable a position as possible in the future.
If you’d like to discuss this further, please send a request to the Libraries Win Help Desk or contact Carrie Russell at ALA (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Whenever there are any concerns about issues of legality or litigation, we recommend consulting with legal counsel for more thorough and specific advice to cover all your bases.
Submitted by Joshua Klingbeil.