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Digital Rights Management: A Guide for Librarians

.: The Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) of ALA has released a new 44-page document, prepared by Michael Godwin, called Digital Rights Management: A Guide for Librarians. Excerpt from the opening:

Not long ago, digital technologies were regarded as being entirely beneficial to the work of librarians, because such technologies were already enabling greater access to collected materials, greater ease and searching or organizing such materials, and greater ability to reproduce and archive creative works, historical documents, scholarly research, and other important resources. At its heart, this early perception of the usefulness of digital tools remains essentially correct. Nevertheless, the digital revolution has also inspired the development of a range of technological tools and strategies aimed at restricting the ease with which the resources collected and maintained by libraries can be used, circulated, excerpted, and reproduced.

These technological tools and strategies are generally referred to as “digital rights management”-- a term commonly reduced to the acronym “DRM.” To put the matter another way: “digital rights management” is a collective name for technologies that prevent you from using a copyrighted digital work beyond the degree to which the copyright owner (or a publisher who may not actually hold a copyright) wishes to allow you to use it. The primary purpose of this paper is to familiarize librarians, archivists, and others with DRM and how it works. Secondarily, this paper will outline certain legal and policy issues that are raised by DRM -- issues that will continue to have an increasing impact on the ways in which librarians and libraries perform their functions. To put the matter bluntly -- understanding the basics of DRM is becoming a necessary part of the work of librarians.

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