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Librarians Acting as Copyright Managers

[Cross-posted please excuse duplication]

How many librarians have not dealt with a copyright issue?  I am 
posting an article on the role of librarians vis-a-vis copyright 
law, on behalf of Lesley Ellen Harris (http://copyrightlaws.com). 
The article is published in SLA Information Outlook, January 




*Librarians Without Lawyers
Librarians Acting as Copyright Managers

Copyright Law Affects Us All*

Copyright law is complicated - even for lawyers - and even for 
copyright lawyers who deal with copyright issues on a daily 
basis.  Yet because of the application of the law in a broad 
variety of sectors, individuals with no legal backgrounds must 
learn about copyright law to protect their own works, negotiate 
permissions for others to use their content, interpret licenses 
for the use of online content, work within a regime governed by 
copyright law, and generally manage a variety of copyright 
issues.  Visual artists, writers, photographers and filmmakers 
are all in professions where their income is based on copyright 
law.  Educators, librarians, archivists and other information 
professionals are involved in daily activities which must be 
undertaken within the confines of copyright law.  With the 
Internet, often all of these non-lawyers must understand 
international copyright treaties and foreign copyright laws as 
well as the copyright laws in their own countries - at least on a 
practical level.

*Interpreting Fair Use/Dealing*

In fact, certain provisions in copyright statutes like the U.S. 
fair use, or fair dealing, are intended for individuals to 
interpret.  Therefore, if an artist wants to create an artistic 
work incorporating works of others, that artist must determine 
whether her use is fair use/dealing as if a judge in a court were 
deciding that same issue based on those particular circumstances. 
The same is true for a librarian or educator photocopying print 
material for use for her patrons or colleagues, or trying to 
explain to someone why free content obtained on the Internet is 
not necessarily free to forward (as opposed to forwarding a link 
to access that same content).

*Non-Lawyers Interpreting the Law*

Of course, some individuals may be able to benefit from in-house 
legal advice.  Authors of books may sometimes rely upon the 
advice of their publishers' attorneys.  However, many author 
agreements put the burden on the individual author to ensure that 
an author's work does not infringe upon the rights of others and 
that all proper copyright permissions have been obtained.  Those 
who work in universities or larger organizations may have access 
to their in-house attorneys for advice on copyright issues.  But 
even with such access, many individuals complain that the advice 
or answers take too long to obtain and that they must analyze the 
copyright issues themselves in order to get on with their work.

There are many librarians and content owners who continually are 
negotiating permissions and licenses to copyright-protected works 
and who have much more practical experience than any attorney. 
These are often our colleagues with whom we can gain much 

*Copyright Manager*

The reality in copyright-based industries is that individuals 
must understand copyright law, contract law, litigation issues, 
risk management and be effective negotiators.  Many enterprises 
now have positions occupied by non-lawyers that relate to 
copyright.  Often, these positions are filled by information 
professionals.  For instance, a Copyright Officer may be 
responsible for copyright management issues.  A Licensing Officer 
may be responsible for negotiating digital licenses, and 
explaining the legal uses of digital content within their 
enterprise.  Non-lawyers who are put in a "copyright management" 
position should take some comfort from the recognition that they 
are not alone.