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Copyright Act - Public Law 104-197

On August 1, the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill was passed by the House of Representatives in its final form. It was then agreed to by the Senate on September 4. President Clinton signed the bill as Public Law 104-197 on September 16. The copyright amendments are included in this law as section 316. The provisions in this section make permanent changes in the copyright act and have taken effect upon enactment. This means the following:

(1) The permission of publishers or copyright owners is now not required if an authorized entity reproduces or distributes a nondramatic literary work in a specialized format for the exclusive use of blind persons or others with physical disabilities.

(2) An “authorized entity” refers to a nonprofit organization or governmental agency whose primary mission is to provide specialized services relating to training, education, or adaptive reading or information access needs of blind or other persons with disabilities.

(3) “Specialized formats” include Braille, audio, or digital text exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities.

(4) “Blind or other persons with disabilities” means individuals who are eligible for or can qualify to receive specialized library services under existing definitions used by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress and its network of cooperating libraries. Permission is no longer required from the copyright holder if reading matter is reproduced or distributed in a specialized format exclusively to members of this population.

(5) Every work which is reproduced in a specialized format must include a notice that further reproduction without permission of the copyright holder is prohibited unless the reproduction is in a specialized format. The notice must identify the copyright owner and the date of the original publication.

(6) Two types of materials—standardized tests and certain portions of computer programs—cannot be reproduced without permission. The exact language of this exception says: “The provisions of this section shall not apply to standardized, secure, or norm-referenced tests and related testing material, or to computer programs, except the portions thereof that are in conventional human language (including descriptions of pictorial works) and displayed to users in the ordinary course of using the computer programs.”

The text of section 316 of Public Law 104-197 follows:

EXCERPT FROM H.R. 3754 FISCAL YEAR 1997,
LEGISLATIVE BRANCH APPROPRIATIONS ACT

SECTION 316.

LIMITATION ON EXCLUSIVE COPYRIGHTS FOR LITERARY WORKS IN SPECIALIZED FORMAT FOR THE BLIND AND DISABLED.

(A) IN GENERAL.—Chapter 1 of title 17, United States Code, is amended by adding after section 120 the following new section:

— 121. Limitation on exclusive rights: reproduction for blind or other people with disabilities.

(a) Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 710, it is not an infringement of copyright for an authorized entity to reproduce or to distribute copies or phonorecords of a previously published, non-dramatic, literary work if such copies or phonorecords are reproduced or distributed in specialized formats exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities.

(b)(1) Copies or phonorecords to which this section applies shall—

(A) not be reproduced or distributed in a format other than a specialized format exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities;

(B) bear a notice that any further reproduction or distribution in a format other than a specialized format is an infringement; and

(C) include a copyright notice identifying the copyright owner and the date of the original publication.

(2) The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to standardized, secure, or norm-referenced tests and related testing material, or to computer programs, except they shall apply to portions thereof that are in conventional human language (including descriptions of pictorial works) and displayed to users in the ordinary course of using the computer programs.

(c) For purposes of this section, the term—

(1) 'authorized entity' means a nonprofit organization or a governmental agency that has a primary mission to provide specialized services relating to training, education, or adaptive reading or information access needs of blind or other persons with disabilities;

(2) 'blind or other persons with disabilities' means individuals who are eligible or who may qualify in accordance with the Act entitled "An Act to provide books for the adult blind", approved March 3, 1931 (2 U.S.C. 135a; 46 Stat. 1487) to receive books and other publications produced in specialized formats; and

(3) 'specialized formats' means Braille, audio, or digital text which is exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities."

(b) TECHNICAL AND CONFORMING AMENDMENT.—The table of sections for chapter 1 of title 17, United States Code, is amended by adding after the item relating to section 120 the following:

“121. Limitations on exclusive rights; reproduction for blind or other people with disabilities.”