Friday, February 20, 2009

Bookshare’s Status as an Authorized Entity under Section 121

Section 121 of the Copyright Act, also known as the Chafee Amendment (17 U.S.C. Section 121), defines a special class of organizations known as authorized entities. Quoting from the statute:
"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
Bookshare represents that it is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that has a primary mission to provide the specialized services defined in Section 121. Bookshare is in continual contact with the Association of American Publishers to maintain the publishing industry’s input into its activities as an authorized entity, routinely submits copies of its standard user licenses, policies and conditions to AAP’s General Counsel for comment, whenever there is any significant change in them, and works closely with the publishing industry to ensure continuing compliance with Section 121 and the regulations thereunder. Dozens of publishers and authors have signed contracts with Bookshare that confirm and support its work as an authorized entity as well.

Bookshare actively cooperates with the Library of Congress in the provision of Bookshare’s services to people with disabilities, through its National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress (NLS). NLS provides Bookshare with confirmation of qualification for Section 121 services for people already registered with the Library of Congress. In addition, the Library of Congress is the agency responsible for issuing regulations supporting Section 121.

Finally, the Office of the General Counsel of the Department of Education reviewed Bookshare’s status as an authorized entity as part of the awards process for the Bookshare for Education project. The Request for Proposal specified that only an authorized entity could receive an award in that competition. The subsequent cooperative agreement award by the Office of Special Education Programs is a confirmation of Bookshare’s authorized entity status.

Together, these facts should be helpful for educational institutions and their legal counsel in permitting institutions to avail themselves of the services funded by the Department of Education, and to be comfortable with the legality of those services under copyright law.

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