Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Copyright statements on digitization projects

When you mount a digitization project on the Internet, you will want to put a copyright statement on the web site. But what should it say? Many groups use the copyright statement posted by the Library of Congress on its American Memory web site as a template (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/copyrit2.html). This copyright statement covers areas that may be important to include. For example:

"Some materials in these collections may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) and/or by the copyright or neighboring-rights laws of other nations. "

"Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners."

"The Library of Congress is eager to hear from any copyright owners who are not properly identified so that appropriate information may be provided in the future."

The text also explains that using the materials appropriately rests with the user, not with the Library of Congress. In other words, if the user downloads an item, distributes copies of it and is found to be violation of copyright, it is the user that is at fault and not the Library. (This also points subtly to the often forgotten fact that even though you can do something, it may not be appropriate or legal.)

The idea that the Library of Congress wants to hear from copyright owners who are not properly identified is a good one. It means that the Library is willing to correct any inappropriate use of copyrighted materials that it has done. Although that statement may not be enough to keep a copyright owner from suing the Library of Congress for inappropriate use, it does demonstrate a willingness to be fair, which is often all that someone wants.

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