Our cultural heritage is in danger. Not only are digital files decaying, the software that was created to access older files is often out of print and in need of preservation. There are limits, however, to what institutions like UVA can legally do to preserve software that’s protected by copyright.
To ensure that older forms of software will continue to exist and future generations will be able to experience electronic media as it was at the beginning of the digital age, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has awarded $315,000 to the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) for the purpose of developing and disseminating a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Software Preservation.
UVA Library’s Director of Information Policy, Brandon Butler, is part of the team that’s developing the Code to establish clear guidelines guaranteeing that cultural heritage institutions will not have to spend time and money seeking unnecessary permission to preserve and archive copyrighted software, either for its own sake or to support fair use of other electronic holdings.
The team is researching and consulting with software preservation experts and other stakeholders this fall and plans to release a report on the effects of copyright uncertainty in winter of 2017–2018. The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Software Preservation will be published the following fall, and will be supported throughout 2018 and into 2019 by webinars, workshops, online discussions, and educational materials.