The internet changed everything
Everyone can copy others' works with incredible ease, become publishers, and use others' works as the basis for new works, incorporating things here and there. These potential creators and publishers work for or attend our universities so we and they need to understand copyright law. But, if copyright law was hard to understand in the print environment, it now borders on inscrutable because we must identify copyright issues, apply 200 year old law to cutting edge technologies and create guidelines that real people will follow. No small order.
Institutional copyright to-do list
It is important to work from a comprehensive copyright management policy, one that not only addresses use of others' works involving licensing, fair use and performance rights, but also addresses questions of ownership and copyright management so that we take care to protect and exploit that which we help to create. Failure to take action can result in catastrophic liability. A thoughtful policy that is widely disseminated will go a long way towards establishing the good faith requisite to the most effective defenses available to universities under copyright law.
In order to comply with copyright law, we must identify, as closely as we can, what our future needs will be so our policies meet those needs and not just the needs we have today. In addition, a policy developed 10 or 20 years ago will not serve us well now.
Understanding the long-term impact of any policy decision is also complicated by the following facts:
Education: distinguishing what's fair use from what needs permission
There is considerable online help for determining fair use. The charge to administrators, however, is more difficult than that. You must figure out how to get people who need the information to look for it, and make it easy to get permission when fair use is not enough. A thoughtful, realistic and widely disseminated copyright policy is the most important first step in this undertaking. Putting information online is a good first step, but it is not enough. The Copyright Crash Course has been online for almost three decades and there is still a need for copyright education on campus.
The easiest thing to understand is that fair use does not cover all our activities. These are examples of the kinds of activities that probably require permissions of some sort on most campuses:
In today's environment, institutions are responsible for the copying our employees do; thus, this copying is "institutional copying." Most people would agree that fair use is insufficient to cover all the copying that a university user might need to perform to fully utilize library materials. Our potential liability should give us all the incentive we need to address these issues directly.
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