Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Creating a copyright policy for your library

One of the questions asked during the April 17 copyright webinar was on creating a copyright policy for an institution or library.   This is an assignment in my copyright class (IST 735: Copyright for Information Professionals).  I want to use that assignment as a way of talking with you about creating a policy.

First, consider why you want to create a policy and who - or what - is the policy for.  Every policy is going to be specific to the organization that created it. Each will be different. Knowing the reason for creating the policy will be important.

After you have done that, you might consider if you want to create a policy or perhaps an FAQ.  A policy can require time to develop and may need to go through an approval process. It could be that in your situation that an FAQ would suit your needs.  In other words, you need to create what is best for your institution and situation. (What is below may help you in thinking about that FAQ.)

Knowing that every policy is different, I have my students create a policy in a specific format, which makes them consider a number of different things and situate the policy in the activities of a specific library.  They must include the sections below, but they also know that a library or institution could create a policy with a different format and with different sections.

In other words, what is below is for an assignment. The sections you might put into your policy will likely be different.

Section of the Policy

  • Name and location of the library.
  • Mission of the library. The policy should relate - implicitly or explicitly - to this mission. 
  • Purpose of the policy.  In other words, why is this policy being put in place?
  • An overview of the relevant sections of copyright law, which affect this library. Include URLs/links to the documents or sections to which you refer.  This is good background information, because many people do not know copyright law and might use this to learn more.  It also demonstrates that your policy is grounded in the law.
  • What general rules does the library use in order to comply with the law and with any licenses?
    • Consider if there are general rules for staff, as well as general rules which might exist for users/patrons.
    • Consider if there are general rules for specific activities that are engaged in inside the library or through its online portals.
  • What specific are used by staff when copying material for (whichever of the following are applicable): 
    • For a patron’s personal use 
    • For delivery of teaching and learning (in classroom or distance learning) 
    • For research purposes 
    • For library internal purposes 
    • For people with disabilities
  • Advice – for users and staff – on seeking copyright clearance 
  • A disclaimer
  • Who to contact about copyright matters. This could be a person's title, rather than a name.
  • An FAQ (frequently asked questions). 
  • Other sections at your discretion
I imagine that you're looking at that and thinking that it is longer than you want. Copyright policies do come in a variety of different lengths, depending on the need and the organization.  In real life, you do what fits you. Again, what is above is for an assignment.

Any policy - or FAQ, if you go that route - should be reviewed by the library director and anybody else who has fiduciary responsibility.  In some organizations, the attorney or legal department may need to review new policies.  Take those as opportunities to assure that everyone understands what you have written.

Once approved, please put your policy on your website and then review it for revisions on a regular basis. For example, some libraries review their policies every three years and make any changes that are warranted.

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