Friday, December 28, 2018

Library Copyright Policies

3D Broken Copyright from ccPixs.comThere is the saying that "fences make good neighbors."  Well, I think policies make good work (or learning) environments.  Like fences, policies help you understand what is acceptable.  They act as landmarks, showing what is "in bounds" and what is not.  Like a fence, a policy can be made flexible in the moment (I'm thinking of wire fences that I've bent in the past, so I could climb over).  Also like a fence, a policy can be changed (like a wire fence becoming a stockade fence).

Libraries write and enforce many policies and some libraries have policies regarding copyright. Sadly, there are libraries which do not have any sort of copyright policy in place.  While a library might think that it isn't necessary, having a policy that defines responsibilities of the library and its users can create a useful "fence" which can inform everyone's actions.  This might be especially helpful for library staff, who may not be copyright experts, but who do need to use the law responsibly.

In my graduate class entitled Copyright for Information Professionals, I had students construct a copyright policy for the library of their choice. I have them consider several sections, knowing that this policy is likely longer than one they might construct for an actual library.  However, I want them to consider - and demonstrate proficiency - in several areas.  The elements of the policy are (in brief):
  • Name and location of the library
  • Mission of the library
  • Purpose of the policy
  • A list or overview of the relevant sections of copyright law, which affect this library 
  • General  copyright rules which the library follows
  • Specific rules or guidelines used by staff  in their work for the library or for patrons
  • Advice – for users and staff – on seeking / copyright clearance
  • A disclaimer
  • Who to contact about copyright matters
  • An FAQ (frequently asked questions) 
I can imagine you are looking at that list and yelling, "you don't need all of that!"  As I said, this is an assignment and what you would do in an actual library would undoubtedly be different.  However, as you look at that list, the important questions for you to ask are:
  • Does my library have a copyright policy?
  • Does it provide information that creates the guidance which staff and users need?
  • Does the policy reflect good copyright practices?
  • Is the policy being followed?
Perhaps your library has some work to do.


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