Our Library Copyright group was addressed by librarian, copyright attorney, and researcher Laura Quilter today. She did a great job of giving the group a background on copyright law and how it affects college libraries. She also answered our questions about how we currently try to avoid copyright infringement. I think it went well — participants, please add your comments! Thanks to Sha Fagan and Julie Auster for making Laura’s visit possible.
Here is Laura’s powerpoint presentation, so I won’t summarize the whole talk, but I did come away with some interesting points which I don’t think were explicit in her notes:
- Because copyright is privately enforced (there are no copypolice), copyright holders have an incentive to be as aggressive as possible. Therefore their vehemence doesn’t reflect, and shouldn’t be used to measure, the merits of their claims.
- Copyright is a quasi-property right. Property rights have powerful imagery and we should beware carrying all the implications of property across an analogy to “intellectual property”.
- Restricting access to on-campus users probably keeps us safe within “educational purposes”, which are specially protected under copyright law.
- Forwarding an email, if you don’t get permission first, is a prima facie copyright infringement. We engage in many practices that could get us in trouble. We should not concern ourselves with eliminating all behavior that could conceivably lead to a lawsuit, but with reducing the amount and severity of risk.
- Educational institutions making good-faith efforts to respect copyright can have infringement damages waived and just be enjoined from the infringing use, if such is found. Considering the privileged status of education in copyright law, together we are in a very strong legal position.
- Every effort we make to comply is a “plus point” to be considered with the other circumstances of possible infringement. The important thing is that we make a good-faith effort to respect copyright.
- Thinking through our policy is one of the best ways to bolster our case, should we get in trouble.
See also: Copyright Resources