Funder: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Duration: 2017 – 2019

Awardee: Association of Research Libraries

Co-Principle Investigators: Krista Cox (Association of Research Libraries), Patricia Aufderheide (American University), Peter Jaszi (American University), Brandon Butler (University of Virginia)

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The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) was awarded a $315,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to develop and disseminate a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Software Preservation. This code gives individuals and institutions clear guidance on the application of fair use to common practices in software preservation, in order to ensure continued access to digital files of all kinds and to offer hands-on understanding of the history of technology. The code helps cultural heritage institutions, collectors, and others save the digital record as well as advance research, discovery, and learning through the use of archived software.

Libraries, archives, and museums hold countless software titles that are protected by copyright and which they do not have clear permission to preserve or make available for access. They also hold scores of electronic files that are inaccessible without appropriate software. Some individuals and institutions are concerned that preserving and providing long-term access to software without permission is legally uncertain. At the same time, holders and users of software collections cannot afford to waste time, energy, and money seeking unnecessary permissions.

The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Software Preservation helps ensure that the subjects, products, and tools of scholarship will continue to be accessible despite evolving technology. The code will express a consensus view of how fair use—the legal doctrine allowing the use of copyrighted materials without permission from the copyright holder under certain circumstances—applies to core, recurring situations in software preservation. Fair use has become an increasingly vital tool for permitting cultural heritage institutions and their users to make scholarly and pedagogical uses of their collections with due respect for the interests of copyright holders.

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