Copyright and Libraries – Help! | Not Dead Yet

Copyright’s an issue whose prominence has increased enormously since the long-ago days when I worked in interlibrary loan. Now, although I’m not working in interlibrary loan, I find that copyright raises its head at nearly every turn of my (and others’) library work.
Copyright’s an issue whose prominence has increased enormously since the long-ago days when I worked in interlibrary loan, and we were assiduously keeping track of article requests for in-copyright journal issues. In those days copyright impinged on my daily library life, but in a pretty clear-cut manner: you simply couldn’t exceed the legal number of requests for articles from journal issues under copyright. That was pretty much how I encountered issues of copyright in the old days, and I was, after all, working in interlibrary loan. Now, although I’m not working in interlibrary loan, I find that copyright raises its head at nearly every turn of my (and others’) library work, via ebooks, eresource licensing, digital preservation, course management systems, scanners, new media storage and delivery—just take a look at the ALA Store’s list of titles on Intellectual Freedom and Copyright to see a slice of what’s been published in the library literature about copyright, and how it crops up in library work. I think it’s hugely significant, and a wonderful thing, that Jo Budler, Kansas State Librarian, was named LJ’s 2013 Librarian of the Year, for her successful “struggle to create a workable ebook access model for the users of America’s libraries.” She’s very rightly a library hero—I’m all for putting her up for sainthood and short-listing her for the Nobel Prize—and I think one reason she has become such a hero to so many of us is that she faced, and made it through, a morass of copyright issues in her work. It’s painfully obvious to all, but I have to state it here, that legalese is difficult to interpret if you’re not a lawyer. The legalese about copyright is difficult to interpret even if you are a lawyer. Or a judge. Or a Supreme Court Justice (for example, it’s interesting to watch the proceedings concerning Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley and Sons, Inc.). So where can we get the help we need to sort through such library copyright issues? Well, there are the three pages’ worth of ALA titles referenced above. Or there’s ‘“Copyright for Librarians" (CFL)… an online open curriculum on copyright law that was developed jointly [by eifl] with Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society … [that’s been] re-designed as a brand new textbook, Copyright for Librarians: the essential handbook, [which] can be used as a stand-alone resource or as an adjunct to the online version which contains additional links and references for students who wish to pursue any topic in greater depth.” The handbook was published January 11, and can be downloaded for free here. At my place of work, we are extraordinarily fortunate to have an in-house, library copyright deus ex machina: his name is Kyle K. Courtney, and he works at the Harvard Law School Library (a shout out here for my fabulous colleagues at the Harvard Law School Library—they are, collectively, da bomb!). Kyle is:
“an attorney presently working at Harvard Law School as the manager of Faculty Research and Scholarship. His work at Harvard also includes founding the first Harvard Copyright Working Group, an outgrowth of the Harvard Library Lab grant he was awarded to develop a web-based "Fair Use and Copyright Tool" for use by the Harvard Library community. He currently maintains a dual appointment at Northeastern University: as a Faculty Scholar for the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) at the School of Law, and teaching Cyberlaw: Privacy, Ethics, and Digital Rights for the interdisciplinary Information Assurance program at the College of Computer and Information Science.  For the past six years, Kyle has continued to design and teach seminars in international legal research methods for both PHRGE and the Bringing Human Rights Home Lawyers' Network at Columbia Law.  He holds a J.D. with distinction in Intellectual Property Law. He earned his MLS from Simmons College in Boston. He is a published author and writes a monthly column on research methods for Massachusetts Lawyer's Weekly. Kyle's book, International Human Rights: Research and Process, is forthcoming in 2012.” [from his web site bio]
Kyle has already done a number of workshops around Harvard on copyright, including “Library Copyright 101” for librarians in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (it was very well received, both because it addressed such a pressing need AND because Kyle is a tremendously gifted teacher and presenter), and he’s about to offer a follow-up session for us: “Library Copyright 102,” in which he’ll address a number of issues participants in the first workshop raised as being of high interest. Like I said… our in-house deus ex machina for library copyright. BTW, here’s his Harvard Law School website, and he’s reachable at: I understand he’s available for consulting. I would love to hear from readers, either in Comments here or via email (, how you are meeting your library copyright challenges. We all need all the copyright help we can get.

Large copyright sign made of jigsaw puzzle pieces by Horia Varlan Attribution-NonCommercial License

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