A copyright office and team are often a key to managing copyright and licensing issues in a for- or nonprofit organization. They also often exist in colleges and universities. It takes much thought, time and discussion to create a copyright office and team that best suits your library or organization.
The term “copyright office” generally refers to the copyright leader, other copyright team members and any supporting infrastructure. It may or may not include physical premises that house the copyright office and team.
Establishing a Copyright Office
Issues to consider when establishing a copyright office include:
- How can you consolidate all your enterprise’s copyright efforts into one person or team?
- Who is the best person to lead your copyright compliance efforts?
- Do you need a part-time or full-time copyright leader and team members?
- Do you need a physical copyright office?
- What budget do you have for your copyright office or team?
- What credentials does your copyright leader need?
What responsibility and authority will your copyright office or team have (e.g., negotiating and/or signing licenses for electronic resources or interpreting fair use)?
- Will the copyright leader be responsible for raising awareness in the organization about copyright and licensing issues, and educating about legal uses of copyright materials and licensed electronic resources?
- What title will the copyright leader have (e.g., Copyright Officer, Copyright Librarian, Copyright and Licensing Manager, Scholarly Communications Librarian)?
- Will the lead person require copyright education and training? What about other copyright team members?
- Will an attorney be part of the copyright office or be accessible on an as-needed basis?
Appointing a Copyright Leader
The copyright leader is generally not a legal advisor and does not provide legal opinions on copyright protection, use of materials and legal advise on license agreements. The role of the officer is to streamline the copyright efforts within the enterprise so all copyright-related matters are organized and administered in a centralized fashion. See Copyright Specialist: Getting Started.
Is there a single person responsible for coordinating copyright issues in your college or corporation or is copyright responsibility decentralized? For example:
- Marketing deals with clearing rights for use of images in publications
- Your resource center addresses photocopying documents for internal distribution
- The web design department handles issues like digitizing works and hyperlinking
It is important that these various departments communicate about their copyright efforts, employ consistent procedures and not duplicate efforts. Such coordination will save your enterprise money in terms of both employee time and paying for copyright permissions.
Your first step in managing copyright is to appoint a copyright leader and perhaps also create a copyright office and team to coordinate copyright efforts in your enterprise.
The copyright leader is generally not a legal advisor and does not provide legal opinions on copyright protection or use of materials. (Sometimes the copyright leader has a law degree but is not in a job position acting as the organization’s attorney.) The role of the officer is to streamline the copyright efforts within the enterprise so all copyright-related matters are organized and administered in a centralized fashion. This may be a part- or full-time position.
Creating a Copyright Team
The copyright leader’s first task is to create a copyright team, whether centralized in the copyright office or a decentralized copyright committee. This team should include people from various sections of your enterprise who currently deal with copyright issues, create copyright-protected materials, and distribute or use such materials. The team may include those who acquire resources and are involved with negotiating and interpreting license agreements for the use of electronic resources such as periodicals, journals and databases.
If you have an in-house counsel, include that person on the team (if they agree). If you do not have in-house counsel, establish a relationship with a copyright lawyer you can consult as necessary. Since copyright issues often involve practical solutions to recurring situations, consult the lawyer periodically and keep the answers available for when situations recur.
Tips for Establishing Your Copyright Office
Below are three tips for establishing your copyright office:
- Designate a senior management champion for copyright issues
- Determine the responsibilities, experience and competencies the position of copyright leader requires and find the best person for this role
- Whether your copyright team is centralized or decentralized, ensure it represents all stakeholder departments and the breadth of copyright expertise in your organization
Our Copyright Leadership Certificate provides a strong foundation in copyright decision making skills.
Students learn copyright principles, with the primary focus on practical skills that can be adapted
to your specific copyright and licensing circumstances. Ask us about how you
and your copyright team can benefit from the Copyright Leadership Certificate.
See Copyrightlaws.com’s roster of current copyright course offerings.