8 Tips for Managing Copyright Issues

For most librarians and other nonlawyers who deal with copyright questions on a daily basis, copyright compliance is all about managing copyright issues. This means going through a process of identifying all the facts, background information and issues related to a question, then applying the law, and finally making a judgment call. The answers to your copyright questions will vary from situation to situation and will depend on all of the particular circumstances in each situation as well as your organization’s tolerance for risk.

8 Tips for Managing Copyright Issues

Copyright Management

Copyright Management = Copyright Compliance

If copyright were straightforward, you could simply answer questions and apply copyright law as issues arise. However, copyright is more nuanced and dependent on circumstances; the answer to questions is often, “It depends.” Eight points for engaging in that process are below. Personalize this list and use it as a guide in managing your own copyright issues.

Tips for Managing Copyright Issues

1. Understand domestic and global copyright law and be able to debunk copyright misinformation and myths. In your role as the copyright go-to person you’ll often encounter incorrect views and opinions about copyright. How many people have said something to you like, “Well, there was no copyright symbol on this document, so that means it was free to use.”? A good grasp of the fundamentals will help you identify and debunk misinformation and myths. Seek out copyright courses, conferences, webinars and books to provide yourself with a solid basic understanding of copyright law.2. Get senior management support. Your job will be easier if your role as a copyright leader or manager is formally recognized and supported by senior management. Does your enterprise have a copyright policy that references your role? Is there a member of senior management responsible for intellectual property matters with whom you can consult on thorny issues or instances of willful noncompliance?3. Make copyright education and awareness available and fun. Avoid being seen as the copyright police. Instead, find ways to share copyright information formally and informally. People learn better when information is provided on an ongoing basis and in different formats. Make it fun whenever you can — copyright may be a serious matter, but learning about it doesn’t always have to be!

For practical training on copyright law, see the Copyright Leadership Certificate program.

4. Make copyright an organization-wide issue (and not just yours). Make sure that everyone in your organization understands their role in copyright compliance, through policy and education. If you don’t have an advisory committee of copyright stakeholders representing different areas and roles within your organization, now could be the time to establish one. Work with this group to identify copyright issues facing different parts of the enterprise, and develop some tools to guide staff on how to respond to real-life issues they could face.5. Provide tools such as LibGuides,Guidelines, FAQs. Make it easy for people to be aware of issues and to find answers to their questions. Consider posters in your library and near photocopiers throughout your facilities. If you don’t have a copyright resource area on your intranet, why not establish one now? How about pop-up information when staff access the Internet? Make it difficult for people to say, “I didn’t know where to find the information.”6. Vet resources for obtaining copyright answers. It’s fairly easy to find copyright resources, especially online, but how do you know if they’re reliable? If you’re looking for online resources, check the websites of your government’s copyright office. Make sure all your favorite resources, whether digital or traditional, are up-to-date. Does your organization have in-house or external legal counsel who can advise you on copyright issues? If not, it’s a good idea to identify what firms and/or lawyers could assist you before you urgently need help one day.7. Let colleagues know you can answer their copyright questions. Do members of management and employees know they can bring their copyright questions to you? Get the word out! Consider emails of introduction to management (make sure you let them know how you can help them with their copyright responsibilities!), and emails and handshakes to other fellow employees. Add your title and/or name and contact information to posted copyright information, and host periodic copyright information sessions that include time for Q&As.8.Build your own copyright network. As a copyright leader, whether the role is informal or formal, it’s important that you build your own copyright support network. As you take copyright courses or attend conferences, identify other copyright professionals such as peers in other organizations in your field that you can call upon to discuss copyright issues that arise and how to respond to them.

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Need to learn more about copyright and licensing? See our online copyright courses.

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