The intellectual property and copyright issues inherent to news content can present significant preservation challenges, particularly when permissions are not carefully negotiated and recorded as content is created or acquired. Understanding the implications of reproducing and/or providing access to newspaper content requires deeper legal knowledge than can be conveyed in these brief Guidelines.
Most institutions working with digital news content have collections (digitized and/or born-digital) that are not in the public domain and for which there may be explicit access and/or reproduction restrictions. Institutions should seek out expert legal advice regarding any risks that might be involved in replicating digital news content for preservation purposes and/or broadening the chain of custody for these objects by working with external preservation vendors or preservation networks.
With (and sometimes without) full clearance for copyright permissions and the proper partner agreements in place, institutions can and do partner with one another and with external service providers to preserve copies of their digital newspapers. The current U.S. Copyright Act does not have explicit provisions in place to guide the use of reproduction as a preservation strategy for published digital works. Currently, it permits the creation and management of three copies under specific conditions for unpublished works. The U.S. Copyright Act was implemented in an analog era, and updating portions of it (especially Section 108) to address digital content has already been the subject of much debate. In 2008, the Section 108 Study Group made a series of recommendations for reforming the current copyright law that would grant libraries and archives the legal rights to make multiple copies of digital content for preservation purposes. In April 2013, the House Judiciary Committee announced plans to hold a series of comprehensive hearings to determine how the current U.S. Copyright Act should be amended for the digital age.