Does your library or organization have a Copyright Compliance Policy or Guidelines? If not, read below for the many reasons to create that copyright document. If you do have a policy or guidelines, now may the time to update it.
Purpose of a Copyright Policy or Guidelines
A copyright compliance policy or guidelines can serve a variety of functions:
- explain your licenses for the use of digital content
- establish a procedure for clearing permissions in copyright-protected works
- summarize copyright management procedures for your organization
- educate about copyright protection and complying with the law
- summarize your license agreements
- provide a bibliography of vetted copyright resources
- provide a single, consistent approach to copyright issues
A copyright policy or guidelines should always be “live” and be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect changes in copyright law, technology, organizational policies, and the way in which you use copyright-protected materials in your organization.
I recommend that you write your policy or guidelines using plain, straightforward language, not “legalese.” Keep in mind that this is a document for management, staff and librarians in your organization, not for your lawyers.
What Should Your Copyright Policy or Guidelines Look Like?
Copyright policies exist in a variety of forms, styles and lengths, and writing one may seem like a daunting task. Where do you begin? First, read copyright policies from other organizations. Next, prepare an outline of the important issues. Gather all those in your organization who deal with copyright issues, whether it’s permissions, protection, digital licenses or other matters, and obtain their input. Then, pick a section and start writing. Be patient—copyright policies and guidelines are not created overnight, and writing one may take many hours of hard (and perhaps frustrating) work.
Content for Your Copyright Policy or Guidelines
Before you begin writing your policy, think of the different headings that may be relevant to your organization. Headings for a policy may include the following:
- Purpose of this policy
- A primer on U.S. copyright law and international copyright law (or the copyright law in your country)
- Permissions procedure
- Protecting copyright-protected works created in your enterprise
- Questions and answers about copyright
- Updating your policy: Timing and procedure
- Reference section
- Internal contacts for copyright matters