Once you’ve completed the negotiation process and signed the agreement to use the electronic content your organization needs, you may feel your job is done with respect to the digital license. That’s not the case, however. It’s important to ensure users are using the content in accordance with the terms and conditions of your license. Monitoring use of digital content — both legal and illegal — is an important part of managing your digital licenses.
Your License Agreement is Your First Stop in Monitoring Use of Digital Content
How can your enterprise effectively monitor the use of licensed digital content? Your license agreement is your first stop.
After months of negotiating with a digital content owner, you’ve now signed on the dotted line and everyone in your organization is keen on using this newly acquired content. Now you can do whatever you want with that content, right? Wrong.
You haven’t outright purchased the digital content, but have licensed that content according to certain agreed upon terms and conditions. Hopefully, you’ve understood those terms and conditions to which you’ve agreed, and are now ready to “unleash” the new content, along with the conditions upon which it may be used.
You may be interested in our article Misconceptions About Licensing Electronic Content.
Read Your License
Most everything you need to know about the legal use of your digital content is in your license. Read it. Specifically, examine the sections on who is an authorized user, what are authorized uses, and all the licensee (library or enterprise) obligations with respect to monitoring use of licensed content.
Who May Access the Content?
Your license agreement will set out who’s an “authorized user” of the content. This may be all employees in your enterprise, and it may also include consultants and part-timers. If your organization has its headquarters in one city or country and offices or employees who work remotely in other cities and countries, then it’s likely that these others are authorized users and have been included in your written agreement. If the public accesses content from your enterprise’s website, including licensed content, make sure this is permitted in your license.
Can You Re-distribute Licensed Content?
Can your enterprise create handouts for a conference using the licensed content? How about including articles found in the licensed content in a research paper to be distributed to the public? There are at least three sections in your license that you will want to review to answer these questions.
First, the section of your license on “rights granted” will set out what rights you have in the licensed content. These rights may include the right to:
- Store or save copies
- Forward electronically to others
May you email a copy of a licensed article to yourself? Sometimes this is specifically stated as a right and sometimes you have to examine the general rights as set out above to see if it’s included, for example, as part of the right to reproduce the content.
Second, review the “authorized uses” section of your license. Usage may refer to such things as:
- Noncommercial or commercial
- Review or comment
- Private use or research
- Electronic reserves
- Class package and training courses
- Internal research
Some of these terms may be defined in the license.
Third, examine the section in your license on “usage restrictions” to ensure your use is legal. For example, the license may restrict substantial or systematic copying, or modifying or altering the content. This section should be read in conjunction with the authorized uses section of your license.
After signing a new agreement, it may be helpful to summarize the terms and conditions and post your summary in a place where those accessing the licensed content can easily view it. To go further, you could ask authorized users to sign a notice agreeing to the accepted uses before they can access the content.
As a general precaution, you may want to educate users on how to spot illegal usage. You may ask them to notify those in charge by way of an internal reporting form if they suspect illegal usage.
Monitoring Use of Digital Content
Your enterprise should not be required to police all unauthorized uses of content but merely to have certain mechanisms in place to ensure your uses are within the license terms and conditions. Check your license for your obligations. Are you required to issue passwords to authorized users?
Hopefully you were not asked nor did you agree to track usage of content, as this may be an invasion of privacy. It also requires staff time and equipment to conduct such monitoring.
See our handy Q&A: Digital Licensing Questions.
Monitoring use of digital content involves several steps. Some safeguards include the following:
- Each reproduced article states the content owner’s name and email address along with a copyright notice or warning.
- Whenever an end-user accesses licensed content you should explicitly warn them about copyright law and license agreements. For example, a copyright notice should be posted near a computer terminal. For remote access, a copyright notice should appear prior to granting access to the content.
- Your library should make information on copyright law and license agreements easily available through links to relevant websites and by having an in-house library of relevant sources.
- Where feasible, summaries of license agreements as well as the agreements themselves should be available to authorized users.
See our online course Introduction to Digital Licensing.
For an in-depth understanding of the principles of U.S. and global copyright law, as well as
practical tools and strategies you can customize to your own circumstances, see our fully online
Copyright Leadership Certificate program.