One of the issues that CNI has been tracking for decades is the implications of the gradual shift to entirely born-digital content in various markets. This is critical because at present the majority of this content is made available under a license regime, unlike physical objects (books, sound recordings, etc) where the doctrine of first sale applies. Under a license regime, rights holders can refuse to do business with specific institutions such as libraries at all (though there is legislation in place or under discussion in a few states to try to address this at a state level), or price material for libraries much higher than the same material offered to the general public, or only make materials available under restrictive conditions (for example, no ability for libraries to preserve for the long term).
The rapid transition of a great deal of video material to streaming services (and in many cases, newer materials are exclusively streaming) has placed the use of this material for teaching and research under serious stress, and also made it impossible to ensure the preservation of these materials for future researchers. When the pandemic forced the physical closure of many libraries and a move to online instruction and research, academic libraries found that they would have to pay substantially more for digital versions of materials that they had had in physical formats (VHS or DVD, for example). They also found that in many cases, digital versions were either totally unavailable, or unavailable to libraries. There’s a good deal of anecdotal evidence that I’ve heard suggesting this has been a major pain point for research libraries in the pandemic, and while older materials in physical formats are now accessible again as our campus libraries reopen, which helps a good
deal, it’s clear that there are major problems ahead for libraries as markets shift to more and more digital only content.
With this as context, I was delighted to see the announcement today that Ithaka S+R is undertaking a major, systematic look at the landscape for streaming media in collaboration with a group of academic and research libraries. I think this is badly needed. You can find details on this at:
I note that Ithaka S+R is inviting participation from additional libraries in this work; information is towards the end of the blog posting above.
We’ll certainly be reaching out to Ithaka to share what it’s learning with the CNI community as this work moves ahead.