Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, June 19, 2008

OA to '76 Copyright Act report

Tim Armstrong, An Open Access Success Story, Just in Time for CALI, Info/Law, June 17, 2008.

... The open-access project I blogged about here last October has yielded some impressive results. The project involved scanning and proofreading the House Judiciary Committeeís Report on the landmark Copyright Act of 1976. To my knowledge, the House Report has never been freely available online ó a keenly felt omission, given how frequently United States courts in copyright cases rely on the Report ...

That problem has now been remedied.

Working in irregular bursts over the last eight months, volunteers at the English-language Wikisource project (a sister site of the much better known Wikipedia encyclopedia) have proofread all 370 page scans from the original House report, and the results have been stitched together to form a single document: Copyright Law Revision (House Report No. 94-1476). As the accompanying color-coded chart reveals, most pages of the report have been proofread by at least two different users, and the rest should be finished within a few weeks if current trends continue.

Here are just a few reasons why the Wikisource version of the House Report is the best now available anywhere.

  • Itís free. Like all U.S. government works, the text is in the public domain. And Wikisource, unlike proprietary database vendors, doesnít purport to limit your freedom to copy or reuse the public-domain texts that are hosted on the site. ...
  • Itís complete. Other online versions of the Report, as well as most hard-copy reprints ... omit certain portions. ... Wikisource, in keeping with its general editorial philosophy, reproduces the complete text in its entirety; the siteís editors donít substitute their own judgments about which portions of the document will be useful to you.
  • Itís pinpoint-hyperlink-able (Iím sure Iím overlooking a more technologically correct way of saying that). Did you spot those hyperlinks in the preceding paragraph? Mitigating the potential unwieldiness of posting a 370-page document as a single Web page is the fact that anchor elements are included to take you directly to any page within the document. So if you want to jump straight to the Committeeís discussion of fair use, for example, you can.
  • Itís (optionally) annotated. Wikisource reproduces original texts as published, warts and all. But the architecture of the site makes it easy to offer an alternative annotated version of the text where errors are marked and corrections offered. ...