I'm hoping we have some library-policy experts here that can point me to some answers.
Can a library -- not a big institution or university, just a local community library -- circulate
single copies of out-of-print CD's and DVD's they have in their collections? I did a quick Google
and couldn't find a definitive answer. I thought Stanford had a simple-to-understand "yes and no"
guide to fair for libraries use but I couldn't find it this morning. If I recall that web page,
which I read some time ago, it is fair use to take out of circulation and circulate a single copy of
an item that is either non-replaceable or replaceable at great cost (ie out of print).
Further, what about circulating single copies of ALL CD and DVD media given the proven fragile
nature of the media? My local library head tells me that she gets DVD failure reports after 10 or
fewer circulations in some cases, and most older CD's in the library system are badly scratched and
sometimes gouged. Books on CD are bigger problems because some publishers do limited dupe runs onto
CDR media and that wears out quickly from typical in-car handling. Audiobook publishers vary on
replacement policies, the library lady told me. Some do it for the cost of postage if you send back
the damaged disc. Some charge as much as $20 per disc. The librarian told me that local libraries
are in a big bind with all of this because printed books are just not their bread and butter
anymore. DVD's are a huge circulation item, as are kids' computer software and games. Music CD's are
a somewhat popular circulation item. But the big one is audiobooks, she said.
When I was a kid, if I went to the local library and wanted to borrow a kiddie-sound thing that was
on a cassette, the library would run off a copy and circulate the copy with me. When I brought the
tape back, they'd put it in a pile to be re-copied with something else and re-circulated. The
librarian explained to me that the albums were expensive to replace and kids had a habit of mangling
cassette tapes. I'm not sure how strict they were about only having one copy in circulation but I
think that requirement may have been tightened up with a law made after I was a kid. I grew up in a
town that had plenty of lawyers living in it, so I doubt this procedure was patently illegal back
Has the ARSC published any articles previously that bring some clarity to all of this fair-use
thing? I think it would be a very helpful resource, one version for local libraries and small
circulating collections, one version for big institutions like university libraries and one version
of individual collectors (ie do we pose any risk of arrest if we choose to back up our personal
collections to hard drive? -- there seem to be many different opinions on this, from the
ultra-paranoid to the "what me worry".
-- Tom Fine