30 Days of DRM – Day 22: Libraries (Circumvention Rights)

Early in the series, I discussed the need for DRM-free library deposits as part of the legislated library deposit program that seeks to preserve Canadian heritage.  There are additional library issues, however, that merit discussion.  Section 30.1 of the Copyright Act grants libraries (as well as archives and museums) special rights to copy works in order to preserve or manage their collections.  These are important rights and any anti-circumvention legislation must not be permitted to render them ineffective.

Section 30.1(1) provides that, under certain circumstances:

It is not an infringement of copyright for a library, archive or museum or a person acting under the authority of a library, archive or museum to make, for the maintenance or management of its permanent collection or the permanent collection of another library, archive or museum, a copy of a work or other subject-matter, whether published or unpublished, in its permanent collection

The circumstances that permit such copying include a copy that is:

(c) in an alternative format if the original is currently in an obsolete format or the technology required to use the original is unavailable;
(d) for the purposes of internal record-keeping and cataloguing;
(e) for insurance purposes or police investigations; or
(f) if necessary for restoration.

It is easy to see how each of these could apply in a DRM context, where the DRM becomes obsolete, the library needs to address the record-keeping or insurance purposes issue, or the physical version of the electronic copy becomes damaged and must be restored.  In each of these instances, without a library right of circumvention that mirrors Section 30.1, anti-circumvention legislation could block the use of these provisions.

Moreover, Section 30.2 of the Copyright Act grants a further list of rights to libraries to facilitate research or private study on behalf of their patrons.  This provision expressly excludes digital copies, however, a condition that makes little sense in the current environment and an issue that must surely be corrected as part of any "modernization" of the Copyright Act.  Bill C-60 contained provisions that purported to allow for digital copies, yet they were so restrictive that they actually required libraries to employ digital rights management systems to limit the use of the digital copies.  As I noted at the time, legislation that turns librarians into digital locksmiths is not a step in the right direction.  Librarians should be able to stand in the shoes of their patrons unencumbered by the restrictive conditions contemplated in Bill C-60 and, consistent with the Supreme Court of Canada's CCH decision, any new copyright reform should grant broad rights in that regard.

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