How important are institutions like DPLA and HathiTrust in the struggle to transfer the benefits of fair use to digital libraries?
As many others have cited, unless institutions (such as DPLA and HathiTrust) stand up and push the boundaries for what is currently accepted under copyright laws, there will not be any progress. Dealing with electronic and digital texts is a whole new terrain that users are still navigating (and that publishers are capitalizing on.) Case in point: last summer I interned at the Minnesota State Library. One of my jobs was working with one of the Librarians to help circulate relevant online journal articles, case publications, and annotated bibliographies of books.
The Librarian, who has been at the Law Library for his entire 30 year career, was still unsure about the restriction of sending out materials electronically to interested parties from the publications; even though the MN State Judicial System was a subscriber to all the materials. He operated under the assumption that was in place when he received the materials in hard-copy, that if you put a “stamp” saying that the materials are protected by copyright law that you are able to distribute them to any interested member of the staff. We had numerous discussions about whether or not this was the ethical way to proceed because there are so many ways of interpreting the current laws.
If a career law librarian is unsure about the protocols and procedures for distributing materials (to staff of a subscribing institution no less!) it is not hard to imagine an assistant English professor (to borrow Stevie’s example) at a University having doubts about what is protected by copyright laws. We need organizations fighting for fair use for digital works, because ultimately they will help give voice to those people who will benefit the most.