Day 3 Keynote Panel: The Long Arm of the Law

by | Nov 6, 2020 | 0 comments


The very popular Long Arm of the Law session is a tradition on the last day of the Charleston Conference. Once again it lights the Charleston Conference stage! In this year’s presentation (the 11th) we will continue to inform the audience about the latest court cases and rulings that impact us in libraries and the information industry. As always, there are many new legal developments that will intrigue the Charleston audience.

Anne Okerson

Anne Okerson, Sr. Advisor, Center for Research Libraries (CDL) moderated the session. She noted that we are missing Bill Hannay, a long time participant in this session who died earlier this year. A memorial tribute took place after the presentations.

Nancy Kirkpatrick, CEO OhioNet, discussed some of the legal aspects of diversity, equity, and inclusion, which are stated in an Executive Order EO13950.

An Executive Order (EO) is a signed, written, and published directive from the president of the US that manages operations of the federal government. EOs are not legislation, but they have the force of law and are listed in the Federal Register. The only an EO can be overturned is if another sitting president rescinds it.

EO13950 is entitled “Combating race, sex, and stereotyping” and was issued on October 29, 2020. It applies to Executive departments and agencies, US uniformed services, federal contractors, and grant recipients (which includes universities and nonprofit organizations. It seeks to eliminate current best practices and is very confusing. Under this EO, divisive concepts can be discussed in an academic setting (with conditions).There are added additional complexities for contractors. A hotline for complaints causes the person delivering the content to be investigated. Patriotism demands confronting the truth and learning from lessons of our past.

The Delpartment of Labor is investigating Microsoft. ALA responded to the EO and issued a strong statement rejecting the claims of the EO.. This EO is the biggest threat to DEI training. Other relevant cases have addressed pay disparities between men and women, students filing COVID lawsuits seeking refunds from universities, and the election and its implications. One issue is what constitutes training.

How do these things mesh with communities of grace? If values were held properly, you should not need the force of law. You must look at your system and see how everything is set up, which is hard work. We need more high-level people who are willing to do more than just have a conversation. For a thoughtful piece on black life and librarianship click here


  • Academia is run by old white guys who act like the government, for the most part.
  • Maybe we can’t effect the pay equity goal across a broader economy – but let’s try to make this happen within our profession and show leadership.
Pamela Samuelson

Pamela Samuelson, Co-Director, Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, University of California, Berkeley discussed controlled digital lending (CDL) in the context of the lawsuit against the Internet Archive.

For a definition of CDL, click here. Basically, CDL provides for lending a work if the library “exercises care”. If you own a copy of a print book you can only lend the same number of copies as you have in your print collection to one person at a time for a limited time. DRM technology can be used to ensure that no unauthorized copies exist. A number of universities, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), SPARC, and about 115 individuals have endorsed CDL. (You can see the list on the CDL website.) There is also a “CDL implementers Group“. A lot of organizations are doing CDL even though they don’t call it CDL.

The Internet Archive (IA) has operated the “open library” since 2006. It digitizes books and lends them. You can check out the books for 2 weeks. There are about 1.5 million books in the open library. A lawsuit by Hachette was precipitated by the decision of the IA to remove limits on loans of books because of the pandemic emergency. Publishers are claiming willful infringement and are demanding damages, including the destruction of all books under copyright in the library. The case was filed in June 2020 and will not be settled soon. Click here to see the claims. The IA has not stated a Fair Use argument in their responses to the suit. Many of the books are non-fiction which are likely to be under Fair Use. Digital lending does no more harm than lending a physical book from a library. IA is a nonprofit library (under IRS Section 501(c)3) and can make a strong case that they paid the publisher for the value of the books when they bought them. For any state or public library, the 11th amendment to the US Constitution may apply. Even if a court finds for the publishers, it can reduce the damages to $0.

The pandemic has closed libraries so access to most content has to be CDL which has given libraries opportunities to fulfill their mission. CDL allows libraries to serve people. Look at the CDL website, read their whitepaper, and make a decision. Don’t let the IA lawsuit scare you off.

Memorial tribute to Bill Hannay

Bill was known for his summaries of legal cases of relevance to the information industry, and he usually closed his presentations by singing about them. In this tribute, he sings “You don’t own me” You can hear him in the recording of this session on the Charleston Conference YouTube channel. Bill was a strong supporter of the Charleston Conference and will be very much missed.


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ATG Job Bank 4/16/21

Northeast Engineering and Physical Sciences Librarian, University of New Hampshire (UNH) Library, Durham, NH Associate Librarian for Collections, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME Librarian III/Research and Reference Librarian, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ...


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