Monday, October 07, 2019

#ALISE19 : Copyright and LIS in a Global Context: Current Knowledge and Future Trends


Laura Saunders, Allison Estell, Deborah Charbonneau and Dick Kawooya

Abbreviated session description

Copyright impacts nearly every aspect of an information professional’s job, across all settings. The centrality of copyright to the information professions suggests that LIS professionals need a strong grounding in this topic, and indeed the American Library Association considers knowledge of copyright to be a core competency...Together [four panelists] will share the results of five separate studies to provide a broad overview of the need for copyright knowledge in the field, and discuss the current preparedness of LIS professionals and students. The first panelist will report the results of a study on self-perceived copyright awareness and training needs of academic librarians highlighting copyright, fair use, and intellectual property. The second panelist will discuss the results of a content analysis of job postings for librarians, to examine trends in expectations for copyright knowledge. Finally, two panelists will discuss a series of surveys that put copyright knowledge and literacy in a global context. The first survey gathered current practitioners’ self-reported knowledge of copyright issues in the United States. Data from this study was pooled with data from the same survey distributed across 13 countries for a cross-country analysis. The second survey tested American LIS students’ copyright knowledge and gathered their feedback on actual copyright instruction within their LIS programs. The survey of LIS students has been replicated in 14 countries and while data is still being analyzed, the researchers will share preliminary comparative data. After sharing the results of each of these above-mentioned studies, the panelists will discuss implications for LIS education.


Copyright  librarians - areas/requirements?Because of my focus on copyright, this was a fascinating and important session. I know that many MSLIS courses touch on some portion of copyright and licensing, but that there are few regularly given courses on copyright in MSLIS programs. Given all of the electives a student could take, being able to take a course in copyright is a luxury that not every student can take advantage of.

For me, these things stood out in the session:
  1. Members of our profession believe that copyright is an important topic for them to understand.  People have taken advantage of a number of different ways in order to learn about copyright. Among those, who responded to a survey on this topic, most believed that they felt prepared in terms of copyright.  However, the survey asked for their opinion and did not assess their actual knowledge.
  2. People (including students) turn to library staff when they have copyright questions.  In other words, people count on librarians understanding copyright and being able to answer questions appropriately.
  3. More job ads are asking for copyright (or licensing) related knowledge.  This seems to have exploded since 2013.  It was noted that although copyright knowledge is desired, there is no widespread hiring of people with law (JD) degrees. Rather they expect librarians to have this knowledge.
  4. Members of our profession believe that copyright should be in the LIS curriculum.  Because every MSLIS student needs copyright knowledge, the speakers felt that copyright should be woven into (and across) existing courses. 
  5. Members of our profession also felt that there needs to continuous learning in this area.  Once you learn about copyright, you need to refresh that knowledge, especially given that the courts do set new precedents regularly.
In term of weaving copyright into exist MSLIS courses, this would mean including such topics as:
  • What is intellectual property?
  • What is covered by copyright (Title 17, Sections 102-105) 
  • The rights of the copyright owner (Sections 106-106A)
  • Fair Use (Section 107)
  • Reproduction by libraries and archives (Section 108) 
  • First sale doctrine (within Section 109)
  • TEACH Act (within Section 110)
I've included the specific sections of the law above for two reasons. First, I think it demonstrates that this needs to be more than just a mention of a specific area, but rather what do we mean by "X".  Second, I do think that students should become familiar with the law itself, in addition to using other resources, including articles and textbook.
These topics could be connected to courses such as:
  • Introduction to the profession
  • Reference 
  • Information literacy
  • Library instruction
  • Collection development
  • Information policy 
  • Materials for... (or classes such as Youth services)
However, the program would need to map which topics are being covered (and where), in order to ensure that students are receiving the copyright knowledge they will need as a practitioner.  Of course, it may be impossible for every course to contain a copyright assignment, but courses could have appropriate lectures and readings.  If classes are taken in a specific order, perhaps a later classes (e.g., Information policy) could contain an assessment which would require students to use all of the copyright knowledge that they have gained.

There were other topics at ALISE, where the answer was "this needs to be infused in the curriculum."  Doing all of those changes would be a huge coordinated effort, a task that would not be for the weary.  An alternative would be to take some topics or subtopics and create a way for students to engage in self-education.  A student should know that they cannot learn everything in their MSLIS program; to do so would require much more than 36-42 credits. Therefore, students should be motivated to learn outside of the structure of the curriculum.  In regards to copyright, a program could develop a list of external resources (books, articles, webinars, ecourses, etc.), which the student could engage with in order to learn the topic.  While the program would not assess the student's learning, the student should be ready and willing to discuss what they have learned during an employment interview. Some students may find other ways of demonstrating their knowledge (e.g., articles, blog posts, etc.), which could be seen by prospective employers. Of course, some learning options might have their own built-in assessments.

I left this session very happy, because of my love of teaching copyright.  I hope that others have taken what they heard back to their programs and are thinking of what they might do with this knowledge.  I know that I am!


These are articles I found online and were not mentioned during the session.
  • Allison Estell, Laura Saunders (2016) Librarian Copyright Literacy: Self-Reported Copyright Knowledge Among Information Professionals in the United States, Public Services Quarterly, 12:3, 214-227, DOI: 10.1080/15228959.2016.1184997 
  • Deborah H. Charbonneau, Michael Priehs (2014) Copyright Awareness, Partnerships, and Training Issues in Academic Libraries, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 40, n. 3-4,  228-233, DOI:
  • LeEtta Schmidt, Michael English (2015) Copyright Instruction in LIS Programs: Report of a Survey of Standards in the U.S.A., The Journal of Academic Librarianship, v. 41, n. 6, 736-743, DOI:

Addendum (Nov. 11): As an FYI, ALISE has reported this information about the conference:
A total of 282 people, including 76 first time attendees, traveled from eight countries - USA, Canada, China, Germany, Jamaica, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom - to participate.