Copyright Question

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  • We have several books in our school library that have cassetttes that go with them. Children checking out books this year have lost three of the cassettes. I was wondering if it would be legal to copy the cassettees, and then put the backup cassette in the check out bag.
  • Libraries can make preservation copies of items under certain conditions (see Sec. 108), but unfortunately they cannot circulate outside the library. I am going to quote from Complete Copyright pg. 35 here:
    Q. Is it lawful for libraries to make back-up copies of materials in case the circulating copy is damaged or stolen?
    A. Libraries should not copy materials 'just in case' those materials may be lost, stolen or damaged. Back-u copies can be made for preservation and archival purposes under certain conditions. When purchasing materials such as viodetaped, ask the vendor if he will offer discounted replacement prices if a tape is lost or stolen.

    I would either look into replacing the item with a cd version if available, or asking about purchasing or obtaining a copy from another library if the vendor is agreeable (they may no longer offer the product). It never hurts to ask.
  • The preservation copies made pursuant to the sec. 108 exemption for libraries and archives that LWilliamson mentions cannot circulate outside the library if those copies are in DIGITAL format. Sec. 108(b), the subsection that pertains to preservation copying by libraries, is also limited to unpublished works.

    I'm interpreting your question the same way that LWilliamson did -- you're asking if the library can anticipate such losses by making a "just in case" backup copy to circulate. I agree with her that the law doesn't allow you to make such copies of entire works without authorization.

    However, sec. 108(c) contains exemptions for libraries looking to replace damaged, deteriorating, lost, or stolen materials, or of works in obsolete formats. You can't use this to make "just in case" copies, but you can use it to replace the cassettes AFTER they have been lost.

    Sec. 108(c) places two conditions on the ability of libraries to make such copies: 1) the library must determine after a reasonable effort that an unused replacement cannot be obtained at a fair price; and 2) if the replacement copy is made in a digital format, it cannot be made available outside the library premises.

    So I would take LWilliamson's suggestion and first check with the vendor to see if a replacement for the lost cassette is available at a fair price (or for free?). If not, you can then borrow the cassette from another library and make your own replacement copy -- and you don't need to get permission to do so. However, I would make the replacement an analog cassette, not a digital CD, since that would mean you could continue to circulate the cassette with its accompanying book.

    I know that this is fairly common practice with things like music scores, where you can have a piano score with multiple accompanying parts for each instrument. If one library loses their violin part, for instance, and an unused replacement copy of that part is not available at a reasonable price, the library can legally borrow the part through ILL and photocopy it.

    Here's a link to sec. 108 of U.S. copyright law:

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