Copyright Questions Answered Live – 13 June 2011 in Philadelphia

What copyright and licensing questions are on the minds of librarians? At the 2010 SLA (Special Library Association) Annual Conference in New Orleans, I acted like Lucy from the “Peanuts” comics – I sat behind a booth and answered questions. For nearly three hours, I remained in my booth to ensure that everyone waiting in line had an opportunity to ask their question.  I’ll be back on June 13, 2011 in Philadelphia from 11 am to 1 pm – it is recommended that you arrive early if you have a question to ask.

Following are some of the questions I was asked in 2010:

I bought an article online directly from a publisher; the terms governing the use of the article state that it is for “individual use.” Is it considered individual use if I obtained the article on behalf of a fellow employee who is the end user?

Use of an electronic article is governed by the agreement that allows you access to that article. What does individual use mean in the context of the agreement? Does it exclude a third person from obtaining a copy of the article? Review all portions of the agreement to ensure that obtaining the article on behalf of another person is not prohibited. Bottom line: read all agreements carefully.

We hired a consultant to prepare a research document for us. The research document contains several tables and charts that were created by a third party. Is this legal?

You must examine the circumstances to determine this answer. It’s best to assume that the tables and charts are protected by copyright (unless you learn otherwise.) Ask the consultant whether he received permission from the copyright owners of the tables and charts; if so, you may want to obtain a copy of the permission forms.

Whenever you hire a consultant, include a clause in your agreement to the effect that the consultant warrants that all of his work is original and does not infringe copyright. The clause should state that if the consultant’s warranty is false, the consultant will indemnify you for any costs arising out of this false warranty Also, add a clause stating that for any use of third party material, the consultant will obtain written permission and provide you with copies of the permission forms.

Is it legal to keep an e-file of interesting electronic articles found various places online, such as newspaper and magazine sites?

You should always assume that online content is protected by copyright until and unless you determine otherwise. Each copyright owner can set its own terms of use, so you should read the copyright and terms-of-use notices on each site from which you obtain articles.

Can I make a copy of a printed book so that I can change the format of the book to make it is easier to read and carry with me?

Reproducing an entire book generally requires the permission of the copyright owner of the book. Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act is an exception to this general rule, but it only applies to qualifying libraries “if the format of a work has become obsolete.”

Should we post signs near our photocopiers warning patrons about copyright laws?

Yes, posting signs, posters, copyright warnings and the like near any sort of machinery that can reproduce copyright-protected materials—such as photocopiers, printers, computers, and scanners—is a good idea. Section 108(f)(1) of the U.S. Copyright Act protects libraries from infringements by patrons using unsupervised copier machines in the library, provided the library displays a notice informing users that making copies may be governed by copyright law. The patron is responsible for any infringing acts. Note that section 108 applies to most academic and public libraries and also some private or corporate libraries if outside researchers are permitted to use the library.

If you have a copyright question, visit Copyright Questions & Answers. There are 16 categories in which you can ask questions, including permission to use copyright materials, fair use/dealing and limitations on copyright, and international copyright issues.  Please do not consider the answers as legal advice; consult an attorney for such advice.

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