June 17, 2024

Legislation Round-Up

Congress has been introducing legislation that may impact the library community. This post will provide a bird’s-eye view of the most relevant bills. 

First up, the Pro Codes Act was introduced to extend copyright to professional and industry codes and standards that have been incorporated into law, directly opposing the recent court decision in ASTM v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc.(D.C. Cir. 2023). If passed, the law would essentially lock up information essential to the safety and functioning of society. ARL released a letter advocating against the act that Library Futures has endorsed and signed.

Next, the NO FAKES Act, which stands for “Nurture Originals, Foster Art, and Keep Entertainment Safe” Act, would create a property right in the voice and visual likenesses of all individuals, preventing unauthorized recreations using generative AI, regardless of whether the person commercialized their likeness during their life. This act would create a right that survives the death of the relevant person and could be inherited or licensed. For example, after Tom Cruise dies, Suri could inherit the right to use his likeness and could license it to a movie production company to make an AI-generated Tom for a movie. While the bill has noble intentions of protecting the legacies of deceased celebrities by allowing their descendants to control their depictions, not all families have the best of intentions and this bill could lead to some rights holders wielding the right for their own financial gain at the cost of free expression. While the bill text carves out exceptions to accommodate the First Amendment, it could stifle large amounts of creativity that should be considered fair use. Additionally, the bill may also effect § 230 protections, which protect internet service providers from copyright liability as long as they follow certain protocols, including a notice and take down procedure. The NO FAKES Act aims to hold platforms liable for hosting unauthorized digital replicas, regardless of whether they offer a notice and takedown option. 

Congress has also been discussing a Site Blocking Bill, another in a long line of previous attempts to restrict the internet by age, which would require age verification to access certain websites, posing a significant issue for libraries. In past attempts to do something similar, concerns about over-policing, subjecting children to surveillance, and blocking them from information they have a legal right to know arose. There is no text yet, but regardless of the actual language, there is always the risk of overblocking, preventing large swathes of the population from accessing important information. And depending on how the sites to block are determined, there are also due process concerns. 

The Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act of 2024 would require all persons who create a training dataset to disclose all the underlying copyrighted works. Such an onerous requirement could stifle academic research and scholarship, although the bill purports to focus only on AI systems which serve “consumers.” 

In the privacy arena, the American Privacy Rights Act includes specific treatments for data in library collections. There are exceptions for data that may appear in a library’s collections from the bill’s requirements, so it is somewhat unclear how exactly library data will be treated. The bill’s future is further uncertain, as a federal privacy bill seems unlikely to pass. 

And finally, my personal favorite, the BIRDIE Bill (“Bolstering Intellectual Rights against Digital Infringement Enhancement”) aims to extend copyright protection to golf courses by claiming them as architectural designs. While this has little effect on the library community, we here at Library Futures appreciate a good acronym and are always keeping our eyes open for bills that attempt to extend copyright maximalism.

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