A written copyright compliance document such as a copyright policy or guidelines can help keep your copyright infringement risks to a minimum. Here are some tips on how to draft the best copyright policy, so it’s as focused and effective as possible.
Consider Why You Need a Copyright Policy or Guidelines
More and more for- and nonprofit organizations are drafting and implementing copyright compliance policies or guidelines (we call them copyright documents). This isn’t a simple task, as it involves various components that build upon one another. At the outset, it’s vital to spend much time contemplating why you’re creating a copyright compliance policy or guidelines. This allows you to then concentrate on what’s important in your written document.
Some situations that may arise in your library or organization that justify creating a copyright compliance document include:
- Your compliance department has asked you to prepare a policy or guidelines on copyright law
- A recent lawsuit has got you thinking that a policy or guidelines would help your organization avoid a similar lawsuit
- A change in the copyright law means you need to change your procedures when using copyright materials
- New technology is changing the way your company uses content and “rules” need to be set out in a written compliance document
- Employees are asking for clarification on fair use or fair dealing and how to apply these copyright law principles to their work situations
- This written document will act as course material for a seminar on copyright or licensing for your staff
What’s the Purpose of Your Copyright Policy or Guidelines?
How to draft the best copyright policy or guidelines begins with its purpose.
What’s the purpose of your copyright document? Taking the time to answer this question is your crucial first step to drafting the best copyright policy or guidelines for your organization. Don’t rush through this process. Research all you can, consult with others and focus your purpose so you can write it out in one or two sentences.
A written purpose statement can guide you through the development process. Revisit the purpose often throughout the various stages of creating your document to ensure you’ve remained true to it.
Determining the purpose of your policy or guidelines isn’t something that can be done in isolation. You’ll need to consult with others in your library or organization. You need to get answers to questions such as:
- Why would they want a copyright document?
- How would they use that document?
- What information would be most useful to them in that document?
Sample Wording to State Your Purpose
The following are examples of wording I’ve used when preparing policies or guidelines for copyright compliance.
The purpose of this Policy is to provide a summary of U.S. Copyright Law particularly as it relates to electronic courses. This Policy is necessary because copyright laws are not always straightforward and because the application of copyright laws can be frustrating.
The purpose of this Policy is to provide the Board and employees of the XYZ Library with a summary of Canadian copyright law as it relates to internal and patron copying of non-digital (e.g., print) and digital materials.
The purpose of these Copyright Guidelines is to provide general information on how global copyright law works and to provide answers (through FAQs) to simpler scenarios so that employees have a consistent approach to deal with copyright issues.
The purpose of these Copyright guidelines is to ensure that all employees of Company Y have a minimum knowledge of copyright law and that they can follow the procedures in these guidelines when using third-party content. Third-party content is copyright materials not owned by Company Y.
Updating Your Copyright Policy or Guidelines
If you already have a written copyright document, keep in mind that these documents should be “live” (evergreen, or always current), and therefore need to be revisited from time to time. When it’s time to amend your copyright document, you may need to re-examine and compare the purpose of the initial document as opposed to the purpose of the revised copyright document.
Has the underlying purpose remained the same, or do you need to adjust it? If your purpose has now changed, can you support that purpose with an amended copyright policy or guidelines or is it best to start from scratch?
Remember, how to draft the best copyright policy or guidelines (whether the initial version or the fifth revision of your existing copyright document) begins with understanding why you need a copyright compliance document and drafting a clear statement of its purpose.
For more assistance with drafting your copyright policy or guidelines,
see our article Tips for Developing a Copyright Policy.
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For a guided approach to drafting your copyright policy, see our eTutorial
Developing a Copyright Policy or Guidelines.