Copyright rules have a key impact on the work of libraries, shaping how we acquire, manage, and enable people to use knowledge. It is also an evolving issue, with new laws and regulation always under discussion, in response to technological, political and economic change.

We therefore asked the members of our Advisory Committee on Copyright and other Legal Matters to share their perspectives on what aspects of copyright they felt would be the biggest issue in 2024. The answers are below:

Ramika Bansi (South Africa)

With the increase of AI tools such as ChatGPT, new and compound legal questions about copyright are emerging. As technology advances, it is crucial to adapt legal frameworks to keep up. Current debates in the South African Parliament offer a timely opportunity to bring laws up-to-date.

In particular, the spread of general-purpose AI for new refined applications can give the impression of making copyright laws appear outdated. ChatGPT provides resources as if written by well-informed humans – they are so realistic and convincing that some have been cited as co-authors in in-depth research.

This raises a few issues: i) should resources produced by AI models be protected by copyright? ii) Do AI models infringe on human authors’ copyright? iii) Can resources produced by AI output be considered creative/inventive and new? iv) Should these outputs be considered creative and permissible for legal purposes?

Amanda Wakaruk (Canada)

Libraries are under pressure to negotiate licensing agreements that represent the needs of users and communal access to cultural works more broadly. Publishers and collective societies often maximize copyright controls that prevent libraries from exercising statutory rights related to access and preservation. Terms of use specific to restricting TDM and other AI applications will exacerbate these tensions in 2024.

Ibrahim Farah (Lebanon)

In my opinion, two major topics will dominate the copyright environment in the coming years. First is the public domain, especially since 2024 marked the year an iconic copyright figure (Mickey Mouse) moved to the public domain. There will be more discussion about the application of the public domain, and in particular  what we can and cannot do with works. I assume that we will see some lawsuits that will provide clarity on some aspects.

The second major topic is AI and licensing.  AI is a very broad term that has been used for a while, yet the breakthrough of generative AI has left us wondering how it will affect the information field. Europe has already introduced legislation to organize the use of AI, and there is recognition that non-generative AI (text-and-data mining) is very beneficial in some research methodologies.

On the other hand, publishers are concerned that AI will infringe on their copyrighted materials and are trying to introduce clauses to licenses related to AI use. They have greater possibility to do so from the absence of AI legislation in the country, and in particular when there are no protections against contract override.

Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe (US)

Organizationally, contract override of fair use, fair dealing, etc. will accelerate in the light of the rise of AI in particular. Professionally/personally, librarians risk having less and less support to protect fair use, fair dealing, etc. in the light of risk-adverse administrations.

Denise Nicholson (South Africa)

The restrictive licences on ebooks and reluctance and/or refusal by many publishers to sell ebooks to libraries are major issues for libraries and users in 2024.  There is also a conflict between licences and copyright with regard to usage and sharing of ebooks.  Licence conditions often override copyright exceptions.

Sara Benson (United States)

To me, the biggest issue copyright facing libraries in 2024 is a lack of contractual override provisions in Section 108 of the US Copyright Act. It is just too easy for publishers to license away basic copyright exceptions such as inter-library loan provisions and copyright limitations such as fair use. Until Congress addresses this issue it will remain the “hidden” copyright issue for libraries.

Rodney Malesi (Kenya)

There will be the need for libraries (and library consortia) globally to reassess their publisher and vendor licenses and renegotiate their terms. This is firstly because libraries will scrutinize publishers’ policies regarding AI-authored articles and push for more affordable eResources licenses in a climate a growing opposition to the idea that publishers (especially of journals) should be allowed to hold onto works that rightfully belong to authors under creative commons licenses.

Secondly, text and data mining is becoming more and more common in many disciplines. A number of publishers and vendors are already looking to sell Data Mining Studios to libraries, but this risks impeding access to information and fair use. A future position statement on this matter may be worthwhile as 2024 unfolds.

Finally, in some regions globally, educating researchers and users about copyright and licensing will remain a key ongoing activity in many libraries.