Copyright librarians are often leaders and managers when it comes to copyright compliance in their organizations.This article discusses the role of librarians and other non lawyers who deal with daily copyright issues. They are often called Copyright Librarians, Copyright Officers or Copyright Specialists though their position titles do not always have the word copyright in it. They
Are you the copyright officer, copyright librarian or copyright specialist?
Copyright law is complicated. It’s complicated even for lawyers, and even for copyright lawyers who deal with copyright issues all the time. What makes it particularly challenging is that it’s the kind of law that individuals with no legal backgrounds must understand an apply to their own situations. Think about all of the issues a nonlawyer must deal with in the area of intellectual property, particularly copyright law:
- protecting content they create and distribute (often online)
- negotiating permissions with others to permit the use of their content
- interpreting licenses for the use of online content owned by third parties
- applying fair use to a variety of situations
- understanding exceptions set out in the copyright law
- determining and researching when a work is in the public domain
- teaching others about complying with copyright law
- answering a variety of copyright questions
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.
Copyright Librarians Often Apply Fair Use
Certain provisions in copyright statutes like the U.S. fair use, or fair dealing in the United Kingdom or Canada, are intended for individuals to interpret and to apply to their particular situations. The Copyright Librarian must determine whether their use is fair use or fair dealing as if a judge in a court were deciding that same issue based on those particular circumstances. Questions asked of copyright librarians include:
- can I share an image I found online with a co-worked?
- can I post an article to a shared drive for purposes of a discussion group
- can I use a third-party study as part of a hand-out for a conference presentation?
Copyright Librarians 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 insight.
Copyright Specialist or 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 and copyright educators.
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 Librarian or Copyright Officer or Copyright Specialist may be responsible for copyright management and fair use issues. A Licensing Librarian 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.
Go-To Copyright people, our Copyright Certificate programs are designed to empower you with the copyright confidence you need to lead the way when it comes to copyright issues.
If you like this article, you may like Copyright Facts for Librarians.