Librarians and Copyright: We’d Rather “Know” Than Say “No”

August 22, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Posted in Continuing Education, Professional Development | Leave a comment

[Submitted by Barbara Ingrassia, Head, Copyright and Licensing, Lamar Soutter Library, UMass Medical School]

Thank you for enabling me to attend the CIP Biennial 2012 Symposium in Baltimore June 6-8.  The theme: “Adventures in Copyright: Navigating Your Way Through Intellectual Property.” And isn’t it an “adventure!!” One of our speakers observed: “It’s an exciting time to be a Copyright Practitioner.” Copyright is certainly a “hot topic” now; there’s something in the news almost every day about something that involves CR.

The symposium afforded so many wonderful opportunities to network, share, and learn from one another. So many breakout choices, but I focused on outreach and education.

Some of these points aren’t new to us, but there were some helpful suggestions for approaching the topic of copyright with our various patron communities.

We want to help our patrons do what they want to do with information—legally..

We don’t want to be the “NO Librarians;” we want to be the “KNOW Librarians” who can help our patrons use information to meet their goals.  We want to get to YES. “Yes you can achieve your goals, and the library is here to help.  We want to be your partner. Here are some ways that could work within the parameters of copyright.”

Food for thought from the Symposium—more positive approaches:

  • NOT “Gotcha” …. We are not Copyright Cops. We are not attorneys. We are not the ultimate “deciders.” We are librarians who know something about copyright.  We are Partners.
  • Avoid “thou shalt not” à here’s what you can do.
  • Focus on what you Can do.
  • “Education” is a more positive approach..  That often means taking advantage of “teachable moments” at the point of need.  “Consultation on the fly.”
  • There are Effective and Less Effective ways to use Information Resources.
  • “Manage your copyright—don’t let it manage you.”
  • “Know your copy-rights and use them.”
  • We are all CREATORS of content AND USERS of Content. (If we want our work to be respected—not “stolen” — we need to respect the work of others.)

In the health sciences, we may work with a variety of patrons, with a variety of needs: (alphabetically)

  • Administrators—Academic
  • Administrators –Hospital
  • Clinicians
  • Faculty
  • Families
  • Patients
  • Researchers
  • Students
  • Etc.

We’ll need to take a different approach with each.

Our patrons are in a hurry—especially in a clinical setting. They want answers—let’s face it, they want to hear “YES, you can do this.”  They don’t want to hear “IT DEPENDS”

  • “I want the library to make copies of this article for my journal club.”
  • “I want the library to scan this book and put it on the web site.”
  • “Don’t worry; I know it’s OK to make copies of this newsletter for all staff.”
  • “But I’ve always done this.”
  • “This is an educational institution, so this is Fair Use.”
  • “We have more important things to worry about. No one will know.”
  • “These TV hospital shows are great for CME.”
  • “We need to play these DVDs in the waiting room to give people something to do.”
  • “HOW MANY pages, images, etc. from this book/article can I use?”

They want THE ANSWER that will apply in EVERY SITUATION.  They want CONSISTENCY.

We know that there is no ONE ANSWER FITS ALL.—for every situation or for every institution. The copyright law is purposely ambiguous…flexible…frustrating.

What can we do?

  • Assess the status quo in our institution.
  • Know the Terms of Use in the licenses for our electronic resources.  Take full advantage of the “Permitted Uses” in those licenses.
  • Model copyright compliance in our work
  • Tie in to the Strategic Plan and the requirements of accreditation and funding agencies
  • Identify our advocates/stakeholders and plan the appropriate approach. (What will “speak” to them about copyright?
    • Ethics—It’s the “right thing to do.”
    • Legal ramifications of non-compliance
    • Financial risks
    • Potential damage to the reputation of the organization (Bad PR)
    • Help patrons get things done/Make things happen. Position ourselves as a Helper on their Team.
    • Ask: “Are you planning to sell this work?”—to other schools, to other hospitals, to other doctors
    • Debunk the myths/misinformation about Copyright at every opportunity (in a positive manner)
    • Keep tutorials relevant, attractive, modern, and BRIEF.
    • Promote a “Link Culture.”
    • Especially in an academic setting:
      • Use relevant examples and case studies; draw from culture, music, movies, social media that will speak to your patron(s)
      • Do not lecture—because there are few definite answers. Promote co-investigation: “Let’s explore this together” through case studies.  It’s less about getting to “one answer;” it’s more about the thought process.
      • An interesting idea from one session: Invest time and energy in reaching graduate students who are writing dissertations and may be teaching. They can reach their faculty advisors AND the students they now (or may in the future) teach. We can get the “biggest bang for our copyright outreach buck” by targeting grad students; they are the “linchpin for change.” (P.S. “Don’t let faculty teach students about copyright.”)

Focused outreach… Educate; Grab “Teachable Moments.”… Celebrate Baby StepsRinse and Repeat.

A few points from our keynote speakers: (NOT direct quotations)

Lawrence Lessig (JD., MA, Director, Edmond J. SafraCenter for Ethics, Harvard Univ)

A very small percentage of Americans with Deep Pockets (and special interests) are, in effect, making our laws. “The few” can push through or stop “change” in almost any area of American life—including copyright and public access to the results of taxpayer-funded research.  We will not make progress in serving/advancing the “public good” with easier access to information—or in any other matter in our country—until the campaign funding model is changed. Lessig challenged us to speak up and push this issue back into the consciousness of the public; we need to put advocacy for that change on our personal priority lists—at least in the Top Two.   His latest book is Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress- and a Plan to Stop It

Peggy Hoon  (JD., Scholarly Communications Librarian, Univ of North Carolina-Charlotte)

It’s not “news” that copyright law is not keeping up with technology.  Hoon asserted that we can’t let the copyright law stand in our way.  We can’t wait for Congress to enact meaningful changes—and the law will never catch up to the technology. Life must go on; we must forge ahead, in this case, with digitation projects. The items themselves are too fragile and people need access to these resources. She was a consultant for U.C. Santa Cruz’s project to digitize the Grateful Dead collection. She was surprised to find that there was very little in the way of published guidelines/criteria for dealing with the “intellectual property” aspect of digitization projects. Exercising “due diligence” prior to beginning the project was key: Planning, sorting the huge collection into categories, evaluating the IP status /risks/liability associated with digitizing each category, choosing the category for which “Fair Use” would most likely be a successful defense, evaluating the IP status/risks associated with digitizing each object in that category, then moving forward with digitizing only those objects for which “Fair Use” would most likely be a successful defense.  You can see the results thus far at:   which was released to the public on June 29, 2012.

Karyn Temple Claggett (JD., Senior Counsel for Policy and International Affairs-US Copyright Office)

TempleClaggert agreed that the laws re: copyright are lagging far behind the technology.  It took 10 years to pass the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1998). She pointed out that in 1998: a tablet was a pill or notepad of paper, a tweet was the sound a bird makes, and social networking usually meant meeting people at a bar. And now, 14 years later…

In October 2011, Registrar of Copyright Maria A. Pallante   released a document summarizing 17 priorities and 10 special projects for the next 2 years (ending October 2013) re: copyright policy and administrative practice with the goal of improving “the quality and efficiency of its services in the twenty-first century.”

These include addressing such issues as: online piracy, orphan works, the possibility of allowing small copyright infringement cases to be handled in a type of “small claims court,” a revamped copyright registration system, engaging and educating the public, etc. The CR Office is actively reaching out to librarians for feedback, so take advantage of the opportunity at

(Registration fees are likely to change. See:

Again, thank you for making it possible for me to attend this conference!


Leave a Comment »

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: