Judith Thomas does a masterful job of explaining best practices and challenges in creating a digital motion media collection in this article, Digital Video, the Final Frontier - 1/15/2004 - netConnect. I'm studying digitizing video right now at the iSchool, and this was an optional reading. I found it most inspiring because there's not one mention of copyright or rights or permissions in the entire article. It's simply not on the table. Wow. That's like a dream, isn't it?
Several years ago I was invited by the Library of Congress to participate in a 3 day discussion about digital archiving. The setting was in gorgeous Berkeley, CA at a fabulous hotel. The other invitees were a glittering array, including the Register of Copyrights, MaryBeth Peters. I gladly accepted, and I felt honored to be invited. But, a curious thing happened at the very beginning of the gathering. All the participants agreed that they would define the copyright issues out of the discussion. I don't know how the Register felt about this, but it made me feel a little under-utilized, to say the least (useless, puts it more bluntly). I was absolutely amazed at the quantity of ideas entertained, the quality of the solutions proffered, the creativity of the group. If copyright had been on the table, the group might just was well have sat around the pool gossiping. It would have been, in effect, a nonstarter.
Since that meeting, I've begun more and more to believe that for some things libraries need to do for the future, they just need to be done without much concern for what the law says today. The very idea that anyone who's job it is, or I should say who's mission in life it is, to preserve for posterity, simply cannot stand by and watch important pieces of the 20th century just crumble before their eyes because of fear of getting sued, more often than not, by someone who could care less what you're doing, or who's actually dead, or who's descendants could care less, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.
I noticed earlier today a post at Michael Geist's blog about a remarkable speech by Bruce Lehman, former Commissioner of Patents and architect of the DMCA, notably including the anti-circumvention provisions, in which he suggests that we're entering a post-copyright era. He also admits that the DMCA as an approach has failed...
This idea that copyright is becoming irrelevant is actually one of the things that contributed considerably to my decision to get a degree in information studies and refocus, away from copyright. It's just terribly out of sync right now and as much as I hate to admit it, I truly feel that it just has to be ignored in some of its more egregiously out of sync aspects. (I'm waiting to be struck dead by a lightening bolt... waiting... waiting...) This is like the moral dilemma of our time (for those of us who think about things like this), like civil disobedience. Defiant preservation, organization, indexing, and access. Will wrong-headed and failed laws go quietly into the night at some point, or do we just turn away and embrace new paradigms created on their ruins, such as Creative Commons licenses and new business models that rely on something other than artificial scarcity to motivate creativity? And will libraries just quietly do what has to be done?