Three Key Public Policies
for Research Libraries:
Net Neutrality, Fair Use,
Open and Public Access
Prudence S. Adler, Associate Executive Director,
Federal Relations and Information Policy, ARL
he research, teaching, and learning enterprise and the Internet share
several critical attributes: providing access to research resources;
free speech; and fostering openness, innovation, and
transparency. For public policy issues of primary importance to the research
library community—such as balanced copyright and intellectual property law
and effectively implemented open and public access policies—the Internet
must permit access to research resources and must do so in an open and
affordable manner. Thus these policy debates are inextricably linked to one
another and to the ability of research libraries and academic institutions to
manage copyrighted and public domain materials and to adopt policies that
embrace greater sharing of research resources. This issue of RLI explores three
leading public policies of interest to research libraries: net neutrality, fair use,
and open and public access.
Net Neutrality
The Internet was designed to have a largely agnostic, neutral “core” whose
job was to pass packets back and forth. This design allowed most of the
“intelligence” in the network (the programs that read, write, and respond to
the packets’ contents) to be at the edge; that is, in the hands of the user. Anyone
who used standard protocols (which were freely available) could send and
receive packets to or from anyone else on the network. Users could experiment
with new programs, applications, and devices at the edge of the network,
confident that the network would treat all packets alike and with no need to
seek permission from any network provider or ISP. This design sparked
phenomenal innovation and growth in countless sectors, resulted in
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