Posts Tagged ‘Libraries

HathiTrust Decision Summary

In September 2011, the Authors Guild, various international authors’ rights organizations and one dozen individual authors sued HathiTrust, Cornell, and the presidents of the universities of Michigan, California, Wisconsin and Indiana, claiming that HathiTrust’s online storage, searchability and public availability of a digital corpus developed as part of the Google Books scanning project constituted copyright infringement. More than three-quarters of the books that Google scanned as part of the Books project remain subject to copyright protection.

In June 2011, Michigan announced it would share with the public “orphan works” — works to presumed to be subject to copyright protection, but for whom a copyright owner cannot be found.

On October 10, 2012, Judge Harold Baer issued a 23-page decision that held, among other things, that HathiTrust’s activities are consistent with the fair use provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976.

The remainder of this post summarizes the key holdings from the decision.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. K Matthew Dames

10/11/2012 at 14:24

Libraries & E-Book Lending

Pull Quote #1

As the digital era unfolds, the role of libraries in the distribution of e-books has emerged as a significant issue of contention.

This misses the broader issue. In a piracy paradigm environment, ANY use by ANY consumer or organization that cannot be metered, measured and monetized is, de facto, “a significant issue of contention.” Former AAP executive director Patricia Schroeder made this apparent a decade ago when she made now infamous remarks about libraries expecting publishers to give their content away. The “digital era” was in full swing when Schroeder made her remarks in 2001, and libraries’ role in the [free] distribution of books was “a significant issue of contention” for publishers even then.

What has changed, though, is the corporate publishing industry realizes it finally is facing the same issues the recording industry faced in the late 1990s. Corporate publishing executives know they can’t stop it, and they don’t even know how to contain it. Unlike the recording industry, though, publishing cannot fall back on a lucrative format shift market to bail them out, and Amazon is viable enough an option for writers and self-publishers that both groups can opt out of standard contracts that, if signed, would make them indentured servants.

Now the smart libraries will figure out a way to pull an Amazon and connect writers (both for trade and scholarly publishing) with readers — and do so in a way that doesn’t compete with Amazon, and which doesn’t rely on advertising. Hard work, yes, but it’s not like libraries can afford to wait on municipal or institutional funding.

There’s another way to go for librarians and library executives: forget about being super smart and competing with Instead, just be professional: know what is in your electronic content contracts, and learn how to negotiate better terms and conditions for your institution and patrons. Or connect with someone or some institution that does.

Connecting writers and readers as I imagine above requires extraordinary resources and access to extraordinary talent. Those things may not be within reach for every library. On the other hand, every time a librarian signs a license agreement without understanding its terms and conditions, he or she is committing professional malpractice. It is inexcusable, especially when tens of millions of dollars are at stake each year. Turn in your MLS and find another line of work.

Written by Dr. K Matthew Dames

12/15/2011 at 08:25

Library Schools and the Copyright Knowledge Gap

Years from now, once we gain the benefit of perspective fostered by temporal separation, those of us who are concerned about libraries may look back at 2005 and declare it a watershed year. Certainly, epochal change has been discussed for some time, but last year a series of events occurred that ensured the dominant information format irrevocably changed from analog to digital. Consider the following:

  • In September, a consortium of publishers and writers sued Google, alleging the search giant’s Book Search digitization project infringes several of the publishers’ exclusive copyright rights.
  • In November, the Library of Congress announced it is creating the World Digital Library, an online collection of rare books, manuscripts, and other materials that would be freely accessible for viewing by anyone, anywhere with Internet access.
  • Inspired by Project Gutenberg, the Web’s first and largest collection of e-books, Hugh McGuire creates LibriVox, a project whereby volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain, then transfer those recordings into .mp3 files that are made freely available on the Web.
  • In May, an associate university librarian at the UCLA Library announced that library would discontinue buying 540 print titles and opt to receive those titles exclusively in electronic format. The move was announced as part of a cost-cutting initiative.
  • For at least 18 months, the Association of American Publishers has been murmuring about alleged illegalities in the way university systems administer their electronic course reserve collections. AAP has yet to file a lawsuit, and may abstain from doing so while the Section 108 Study Group is preparing findings for the Librarian of Congress. The findings, which are due by the middle of this year, will investigate possible changes to Section 108 of the Copyright Act, the law that provides copyright exceptions for libraries and archives. It is possible, however, that if the Group does not develop recommendations the publishing industry approves, the publishing industry may launch a litigation campaign that would be similar to the music industry’s lawsuits against alleged illegal file sharers.

Each of these events affects libraries in significant ways, and all of them involve a complex understanding of copyright law. From digitization projects to interlibrary loan and from electronic reserves to electronic books, copyright law is having an impact on librarianship.

Why, then, have the nation’s accredited graduate library science programs categorically failed to provide copyright law instruction?

The Push for Education

Then why have the nation’s accredited graduate library science programs categorically failed to provide copyright law instruction?

I first noticed the absence of comprehensive copyright education in librarianship in the summer of 2002, a year after I graduated from Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. When I proposed creating a copyright seminar for librarians to Syracuse administrators, I noted that some schools offered a broad information policy course that included a copyright component, but no American Library Association-accredited program offered a regularly scheduled, mandatory seminar that distinctly addressed copyright law within the context of library and information science. Fortunately, my alma mater decided to accept my proposal to teach such a course; I have been teaching a weeklong graduate copyright seminar at the school since 2003.

Given the critical copyright issues for libraries—the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the Uniform Commercial Information Transactions Act (UCITA), the Eldred case fighting the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, and the Section 108 Study Group—I had hoped our nation’s library schools would have made copyright education a priority. Instead, I found an alarming absence of education in this area.

Critical Library Management

In glancing at the online course catalogs for all 49 ALA-accredited graduate library science programs in the continental United States, I could find only two schools – Syracuse and Emporia State University in Kansas – that list a copyright course amongst their course offerings. In fact, fewer than half ( 24 of 49 schools) offers a course that addresses information policy or legal issues on any level. Therefore, even if we expanded the scope of inquiry beyond copyright to policy issues such as the USA PATRIOT Act or patron confidentiality, half the accredited programs provide no instruction for such critical library management issues.

Finally, ALA’s own document “Guidelines for Choosing a Master’s Program in Library and Information Studies” ( does not provide information about the need for special training, including training in copyright education or information policy work.

Given the importance of copyright issues in daily professional librarianship and library advocacy, it speaks poorly for our profession that so many librarians enter the workforce without proper grounding in copyright, the legal construct that governs the creation, reproduction, distribution, and repurposing of information. To quote Hamlet (while freely availing myself of public domain privileges), “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

Copyright knowledge is as integral a part of the contemporary information science education as cataloging or reference. Failing to provide that training for today’s library science students is akin to having students pay money for an incomplete degree.

Note: A version of this article was published as Dames, K. M. (2006, February). Library schools and the copyright knowledge gap. Information Today, 23(2), 1, 4-5.

Written by Dr. K Matthew Dames

02/01/2006 at 09:00

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