All the News That’s . . . Huh?

No doubt ACRLog’s readers noted publicity about Cornell’s copyright policy when it was covered late last month in the Chron. A new fair use checklist was drafted after the Association of American Publishers complained that professors were behaving badly, putting things online in ways that violated copyright. I read it. No big deal. Nothing we haven’t already thought about at our library.

So, the other day I got a “news alert” from the Copyright Clearance Center that breathlessly announced:

Faculty must obtain rightsholder permission for the use of electronic course materials just as they would for print content. That message was delivered to Cornell University faculty and students earlier this month in a new set of copyright guidelines jointly drafted by officials from Cornell and the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

E-reserves are covered by copyright? This is news?

Of course copyright applies to e-reserves, and it’s disingenuous to suggest it never occured to us (or to Cornell) until publishers showed up with lawyers. It’s also disingenuous to suggest that by providing faculty with a checklist on fair use, the AAP and Cornell have set new legal precedent. As Carrie Russell, Copyright Specialist at ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy, recently pointed out to readers of COLLIB-L, Congress sets law, and courts interpret it. Not publishing organizations. Meanwhile, between the text of the law and the court opinions, we do our best. What libraries don’t do, and never have done, is routinely and knowingly violate the law.

Check out the Copyright Advisory Network or sign on to the Digital Copyright list from the University of Maryland’s Center for Intellectual Property to keep up with copyright news. Just don’t assume that what publishers say is the final word on copyright.

Author: Barbara Fister

I'm an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Like all librarians at our small, liberal arts institution I am involved in reference, collection development, and shared management of the library. My area of specialization is instruction, with research interests also in media literacy, popular literacy, publishing, and assessment.

5 thoughts on “All the News That’s . . . Huh?”

  1. Where I work, we are extremely careful when it comes to copyright permissioning of stuff we want to make available online to students. When in doubt (if we aren’t sure if it would be considered fair use, which is most of the time) we seek permission via the CCC or directly from the rightsholder. It’s time-consuming and expensive, but we certainly don’t want to put the University into legal hot water.

    I’ve read listservs in the past where librarians have written things like “it’s Fair Use to make it available online if the professor purchased a single copy of it” or “it’s Fair Use to make a journal article available online for a educational purposes” or “we seek permission after the initial semester it’s used”. It seems like every school (or every professor in some cases) has a very different view of Fair Use.

    It’s surprising more schools aren’t getting sued over this stuff.

  2. Good points to remind us about Barbara. Cornell’s policy is not law. Still, I am wondering if this is just the first salvo in a new push by publishers to put pressure on academic libraries to bend to their will – with implied threats of litigation. Our ongoing concern is not so much faculty who work with us to put their materials on e-reserve in a way that allows us to meet fair use guidelines, but the mavericks who are just scanning whatever the heck they want and just throwing it up on their course site. We are trying to get the word out about the hazards of that approach. Another point I got from the Cornell policy – we have to do more to get faculty to link to existing articles in our library databases. That’s one way to avoid e-reserve copyright problems.

  3. It’s not actually the first – publishers have already fired a shot across the bows at U of CA. I’m sure a lawsuit will come that works its ways throught courts that may have the impact of the Kinko’s or the Sony decision.

    Meanwhile, I think it’s our responsibility to defend fair use (and, of course, educate facutly who are not honoring that principle). I also think we need to consider our symbiotic relationship with publishers such as university presses, and support them too – information

  4. It’s not actually the first – publishers have already fired a shot across the bow at U of CA. I’m sure a lawsuit will come that works its ways throught courts that may have the impact of the Kinko’s or the Sony decision.

    Meanwhile, I think it’s our responsibility to defend fair use (and, of course, educate facutly who are not honoring that principle). I also think we need to consider our symbiotic relationship with publishers such as university presses, and support them too – there is an ecology of information, and we need to make sure we don’t hurt the very institutions that help us spread knowledge.

  5. I think what really happened here is that Cornell blinked first. I am ashamed of my alma mater. I owuld like to hear from some Cornell librarians on this topic. I am beginning to despise the Copyright Clearance Center. It is inthe hip pocket of the AAP.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.