New Report Underscores Urgency of Adopting a Fair Use Code for Software Preservation

Last fall, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation announced it was awarding a grant to the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) to develop a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Software Preservation. The code is necessary because without clarification of what steps institutions may legally take to preserve older forms of copyrighted software, some early digital formats may become unusable and a significant part of the world’s cultural record will be lost.

A team of experts that includes UVA Library Director of Information Policy Brandon Butler announced it would release a report on the effects of copyright uncertainty in the winter of 2017–2018. The report has been released, and according to the ARL article, “Study Examines Copyright Permissions Culture in Software Preservation, Implications for Cultural Record” by Krita Cox, the report shows worry among professionals that “seeking permission to archive software is time-consuming and usually fruitless,” that “preserving and providing access without express authorization is risky,” and that digital materials continue to “languish” without adequate protection.

The increasing amount of the cultural record that’s available only from digital sources underscores the urgency of adopting A Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Software Preservation. According to Cox, the code will “overcome legal uncertainty by documenting a consensus view of how fair use—the legal doctrine that allows many value-added uses of copyrighted materials—applies to core, recurring situations in software preservation.”

Read the ARL report, The Copyright Permissions Culture in Software Preservation and Its Implications for the Cultural Record, by Patricia Aufderheide of the American University School of Communication, Brandon Butler of the University of Virginia Library, Krista Cox of the Association of Research Libraries, and copyright scholar Peter Jaszi.

Follow the issue on the ARL website, on Facebook and Twitter, or subscribe to ARL’s email news lists. For more information, contact Krista Cox,

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