Formulating a Scalable Approach to Patron-Requested Digitization in Archives
The novel coronavirus of 2019 (COVID-19) crisis has forced archives to rethink their modes of providing access to physical collections. Whereas difficult copyright questions raised by reproducing items could previously be skirted by requiring researchers to work with materials in person, the long-term closure of reading rooms and decrease in long-distance travel mean that archives need a workflow for handling user digitization requests that is scalable and requires consulting only easily identifiable information and, assuming full reproduction is off the table, reproducing items in a collection under 17 U.S.C. § 108 or through a strategy of rapid risk assessment. There is a challenge in creating a policy that will work across different formats and genres of archival materials, so this article offers some suggestions for how to think about these parameters according to US copyright law and calls for a committee of experts to work out a model policy that could serve remote users of archival collections even after the COVID-19 crisis has passed.
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