Copyright Principles Endorsed

National Humanities Alliance Seeks Further Support

The boards of the College Art Association and the Association of Research Libraries recently voted to endorse the National Humanities Alliance's "Basic Principles for Managing Intellectual Property in the Digital Environment." This brings the total of endorsees to six organizations, including the NHA's own sponsorship.

The principles were developed in the spring by a committee of the National Humanities Alliance from a draft document, "University of California Copyright Legislation and Scholarly Communication Basic Principles," in an effort to build consensus within the educational community on the uses of copyrighted works in the digital environment.

The principles have been developed to assert the basic beliefs of the educational community so as to assure the continuation of the principle of balance between creators, copyright holders and the users of intellectual property from the present print environment into the electronic world. As the introduction to the principles states:

As they revolutionize the means by which information is recorded, disseminated, accessed, and stored, digital technologies are eliminating the technical limits that have supplemented the legal framework of balance between ownership and public dissemination: Unlimited technological capacity to disseminate by transmission in ways that can violate the rights of copyright holders confronts equally unlimited technological capacity to prevent works from being used in ways contemplated by law. Carried to its logical extreme, either trend would destroy the balance, with results that would likely undermine core educational functions as well as radically transform the information marketplace.
A list of the principles themselves, without introduction or commentary, together with a list of those organizations currently endorsing them, follows:
1. Copyright law provisions for digital works should maintain a balance between the interests of creators and copyright owners and the public that is equivalent to that embodied in current statute. The existing legal balance is consonant with the educational ethic of responsible use of intellectual properties, promotes the free exchange of ideas, and protects the economic interests of copyright holders.

2. Copyright law should foster the maintenance of a viable economic framework of relations between owners and users of copyrighted works.

3. Copyright laws should encourage enhanced ease of compliance rather than increasingly punitive enforcement measures.

4. Copyright law should promote the maintenance of a robust public domain for intellectual properties as a necessary condition for maintaining our intellectual and cultural heritage.

5. Facts should be treated as belonging to the public domain as they are under current law.

6. Copyright law should assure that respect for personal privacy is incorporated into access and rights management systems.

7. Copyright law should uphold the principle that liability for infringing activity rests with the infringing party rather than with third parties. Institutions should accept responsibility for acts undertaken at their behest by individuals but should not be held liable for the acts of individuals—whether or not associated with the institution—acting independently. This principle is an essential underpinning for academic freedom. framework of relations between owners and users of copyrighted works.

8. Educational institutions should foster a climate of institutional respect for intellectual property rights by providing appropriate information to all members of the community and assuring that appropriate resources are available for clearing rights attached to materials to be used by the institution, e.g., in support of distance learning.

9. New rights and protections should be created cautiously and only so far as experience proves necessary to meet the Constitutional provision for a limited monopoly to promote the "Progress of Science and useful Arts."

10. Copyright enforcement provisions should not hinder research simply because the products of a line of inquiry might be used in support of infringing activity.

The National Humanities Alliance is an umbrella organization representing nearly 90 organizations concerned with federal policy affecting work in the humanities. The National Humanities Alliance encourages as many organizations as possible in the broadly defined educational community to consider signing on to these principles. Endorsements should be sent to John Hammer [jhammer@cni.org], Executive Director, National Humanities Alliance, 21 Dupont Circle, 6th floor, Washington, DC 20036; tel: 202/296-4994; fax: 202/872-0884.


KAIROS Kairos: A Journal for Teachers of Writing in Webbed Environments.
Vol. 2 No. 2 Fall 1997