The Library Copyright Alliance, an industry group representing more than 139,000 American libraries employing approximately 350,000 workers, recently wrote Congressional officials to express concerns over proposed copyright legislation.
The controversy surrounds several provisions within the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill proposed late last month in the House of Representatives. While supporters in Congress view the bill as a crucial step toward expanding domestic intellectual property protections, LCA officials fear portions of SOPA may endanger library and educational priorities.
According to LCA spokesman Brandon Butler, the language of the bill fails to make adequate distinction between innocent, ordinary and willful copyright infringement.
"[The proposed legislation] could have the effect of collapsing the three levels of intent into two: willful infringement and innocent infringement," Butler explained. "The willful infringement level would swallow the ordinary infringement level, thereby significantly broadening the range of activities subject to criminal sanctions."
For example, a non-commercial public performance of a copyrighted work could potentially be interpreted as willful infringement and subject a library to felony charges.
Butler concluded his remarks by referencing the "growing tensions between rights holders and libraries" seen in ongoing litigation and noted a belligerence in copyright enforcement strategies employed by content owners.