Copyright Office to Modernize Newspaper Archives

Today, we are very pleased that the Copyright Office has published its proposed rules for the transition from microfilm to PDF format for newspaper copyright registrations. These rules will also guide mandatory deposits for preservation with the Library of Congress. Transitioning to PDF submissions will save newspapers valuable resources, and create efficiencies across industry and government.  The proposal will be put out for comments to be received within 30 days, until December 6, 2017.  We then expect a final rule to be adopted shortly thereafter.

The Copyright Office accepts voluntary submissions of periodicals (in most cases simultaneously with deposits with the Library) for registration of the content to be protected under copyright law. News organizations invest significant capital in reporters and newsgathering operations, and as a result, have an interest in protecting their content against unauthorized misappropriation. A necessary first step is registration with the Copyright Office. The transition from microfilm to PDF will facilitate registration, making it easier for newspapers to protect their work and receive increased return on investments.

After years of developing a specification with the Library, it has been determined that the PDF format is a future-proof technology that will allow for history to be captured and preserved. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) published in today’s Federal Register applies to certain types of Copyright Office group registrations. We also expect that these rules will extend to the Library and be acceptable as the “best edition” format permissible under their rules, as well. This proposal represents years-long work with the Library through pilot projects in which a cross-section of newspapers with varying characteristics (large, small, regional, national, etc.) developed the proposed format.

The Library currently identifies over 400 periodicals that must submit copies of their print circulations so that history can be preserved for future generations. Newspapers are currently complying with this mandatory deposit requirement by submitting periodicals in microfilm, the “best edition” as defined by the Library. Microfilm has been far-surpassed by technologies readily available and already in use at most newspapers, including the common PDF format.  There will be a phase-in period where both PDF and microfilm will be accepted until December 31, 2019.

The Alliance will work with the Copyright Office and the Library to create a Webinar, guidance documents, and other materials that will help newspapers — particularly those with limited resources — comply with the new requirements. In the long term, we will see increased submissions and less resources dedicated to compliance with this outdated regulation so that newspapers can focus on their expertise, reporting news and information necessary for an informed democracy and a civil society.


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