October 19, 2017. The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has been awarded a $315,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to develop and disseminate a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Software Preservation. This code will give individuals and institutions clear guidance on the legality of archiving software, in order to ensure continued access to digital files of all kinds and to offer hands-on understanding of the history of technology. The code will help cultural heritage institutions, collectors, and others save the digital record as well as advance research, discovery, and learning through the use of archived software.
Libraries, archives, and museums hold countless software titles that they do not have clear authorization to preserve or make available for access. They also hold scores of electronic files that are inaccessible without appropriate software. Some individuals and institutions are concerned that preserving and providing long-term access to software without permission is legally uncertain. At the same time, holders and users of software collections cannot afford to waste time, energy, and money seeking unnecessary permissions.
A Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Software Preservation will help ensure that the subjects, products, and tools of scholarship will continue to be accessible despite evolving technology. The code will express a consensus view of how fair use—the legal doctrine allowing the use of copyrighted materials without permission from the copyright holder under certain circumstances—applies to core, recurring situations in software preservation. Fair use has become an increasingly vital tool for permitting cultural heritage institutions and their users to make scholarly and pedagogical uses of their collections with due respect for the interests of copyright holders.
"ARL is energized to develop clear, expert guidance around copyright and fair use for software preservation," said Mary Ann Mavrinac, president of ARL and vice provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly dean of the University of Rochester Libraries. "Software preservation is important for two key reasons. First, software itself is a part of our cultural heritage, so we need to ensure future access to older versions. Second, software is required in order to access cultural artifacts and experience them as they were experienced by their original creators and consumers."
The project team includes Krista Cox and Prue Adler of ARL, Brandon Butler of the University of Virginia Library, Peter Jaszi of American University's Washington College of Law, Patricia Aufderheide of the School of Communication at American University, and attorney Jonathan Band. Many of the team members helped to develop ARL's 2012 Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries and all are authorities on fair use.
The team is conducting research and interviews with software preservation experts and other stakeholders this fall and plans to release a report on this research in winter 2017–2018. The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Software Preservation will be published in fall 2018, supported by webinars, workshops, online discussions, and educational materials through spring 2019. To stay up to date on news about this project, watch the ARL website, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or subscribe to our email news lists.
About the Association of Research Libraries
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 123 research libraries in the US and Canada. ARL's mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at ARL.org.