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Report on Copyright and Digital Distance Education

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U.S. Copyright Office, Report on Copyright and Digital Distance Education (May 1999) (full-text).


On October 28, 1998, H.R. 2281, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was enacted into law. Section 403 requires that the Copyright Office consult with representatives of copyright owners, nonprofit educational institutions, and nonprofit libraries and archives, and thereafter submit to Congress recommendations on how to promote distance education through digital technologies, including interactive digital networks, while maintaining an appropriate balance between the rights of copyright owners and the interests of users. Such recommendations could include legislative changes.

Section 403 required the Copyright Office to submit its recommendations to Congress no later than April 28, 1999. This is the report containing those recommendations.

This report gives an overview of the nature of distance education; describes current licensing practices in distance education, including problems and future trends; describes the status of the technologies available or in development relating to distance education courses and the protection of their content; and discusses prior initiatives to address the copyright issues through negotiation of guidelines or the enactment of legislation. It also provides an analysis of the application of current copyright law to digital distance education and an assessment of whether the law should be changed, and if so, how. It concludes by recommending several amendments to Sections 110(2) and 112 of the Copyright Act, as well as the clarification of aspects of the law in legislative history, and further discussion and review of certain specific issues.

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