The main impediment to the DPLA’s growth is legal, not financial. Copyright laws could exclude everything published after 1964, most works published after 1923, and some that go back as far as 1873. Court cases during the last few months have opened up the possibility that the fair use provision of the copyright act of 1976 could be extended to make more recent books available for certain purposes, such as service to the visually impaired and some forms of teaching. And if, as expected, the DPLA excludes books that are still selling on the market (most exhaust their commercial viability within a few years), authors and publishers might grant the exercise of their rights to the DPLA.
In any case, we cannot wait for courts to untangle legalities before creating an effective administration. The informal secretariat at Harvard is being replaced by a nonprofit corporation organized according to the 501(c)3 provisions of the tax code. The steering committee has been succeeded by a board of directors. And the six groups will evolve into a committee system with carefully defined functions, such as outreach to public libraries and community colleges. The choice of an executive director, Daniel Cohen, a superb historian and Internet expert from George Mason University, was announced on March 5; the first staff members have already been hired; and administrative headquarters are being set up in Boston.