Copyright across the cohort: a qualitative evaluation of the dissemination of intellectual property information on ARL websites.

Author:Bishop, Janet


In December 2009 the Libraries Copyright Task Force (LCTF) of Colorado State University Libraries (CSUL) presented its findings to the CSUL interim dean and assistant deans. As part of its charge the LCTF was asked to "identify ... current practice in responding to questions and issues regarding copyright in the Libraries" as well as "determine what the Libraries purview is in regard to copyright vs. other units in the University community ... and any external role [the] Libraries can/should play". The LCTF was also asked, as its charge, to "define content for a Libraries web site and possibly produce the content" (Negrucci, et al., 2009, [pp. 1-5]). This task force was the most recent of three internal committees that had examined copyright issues germane to the library and university community over the course of the past five years, as the transition from print to digital materials, the expansion of document delivery services, and the increase of local digitization initiatives prompted CSUL staff to address intellectual property issues with ever-increasing scrutiny.

Among its findings, the LCTF noted that there were many players in the university's copyright universe, each with different administrative and policy functions. At the time of the LCTF report, these players included campus units and departments as diverse as: The Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT), Communications and Creative Services (CCS), Academic Computing and Networking Services (ACNS), the campus University Bookstore (CUB) the Colorado State University Research Foundation (CSURF), and the Office of General Counsel (OGC). While overlapping concerns necessitated some contact between these units regarding copyright issues, oftentimes, the units "functioned independently from the others, without much knowledge of copyright issues in other areas of campus" (Negrucci, et al., 2009, [pp. 4-5]). To somewhat remedy this situation, as well as to facilitate communication during the year of its charge, the chair of the LCTF arranged for meetings to be held between LCTF members and the members of several of these aforementioned units.

The information exchanged between campus units during these meetings proved informative when the LCTF began to work towards its goal of creating a comprehensive web-based subject guide on copyright ("LibGuide") that could be accessed by the campus community. Noting that much of the campus community's information on copyright was on the web, but that there was no central clearinghouse for copyright information, the LCTF sought to gather information on copyright from other units and provide links to other campus web pages. Through the creation of the copyright subject guide, the LCTF was able to better reflect the copyright services of all campus units in one main place as well as begin to redefine its role in providing copyright information to campus constituencies beyond the walls of the library.

In addition to gathering input from other campus units while designing the CSUL copyright subject guide, the LCTF also looked beyond Colorado State University to review the online copyright information provided by other academic libraries. This was based on the presumption that, in ways similar to CSUL, the web--through library portals--is often used by other academic libraries as the primary mechanism to disseminate information regarding US copyright law, local/institutional copyright policies, and educational services on intellectual property issues. Several online web guides from other academic libraries served helpful as the LCTF considered the design and content of the copyright LibGuide. In addition, once the CSUL copyright subject guide was completed, the task force members reviewed web-based copyright information provided by other academic libraries as a means to guide revisions to pre-existing copyright information found within various CSUL departmental and unit web pages (e.g. course reserves, faculty services, archives and special collections). These revisions were designed to enhance clarity of content and discoverability of information.

As implied in the previous paragraphs, copyright information within the CSUL website has evolved in answer to the growing complexity of intellectual property issues facing the library staff and campus at large. What, then, can other web sites show us in regards to how academic libraries have adapted to the new demands for copyright information and services from their constituencies, as well as the demands from publishers and creators for library vigilance about infractions? How accessible is this information via the web? How do academic libraries define their role? What other campus services are referenced via these websites? Is there language used that targets specific constituencies (e.g., students, faculty, administrative staff) or is there a "one size fits all approach" to describing copyright-based policy? Using the cohort of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) as a suitable representative of academic libraries as a whole this article will examine the local copyright activities and web-presence of 20 ARL peers, selected via random sampling. This survey was conducted, in part, to help inform CSUL and other libraries who may be in the process of revising and expanding web-based information on copyright and intellectual property, in order that such information might remain useful--and accessible--to various local constituencies.

Literature Review

A review of literature related to the historical and theoretical underpinnings of current copyright activities in academic libraries, as well as other topics examined within this article, was conducted via searches of the Library Science database Library Literature and Information Science. The author also consulted several books pertaining to copyright issues previously referenced. Due to the changing aspects of copyright regulations and web delivery mechanisms, the majority of pieces mentioned in the following sections were published during the last ten years (2000-2010).

The Growing Complexity of Copyright Issues in Academic Libraries

Almost thirty-five years of legislation since the Copyright Revision Act of 1976 has redefined how librarians and archivists view their responsibilities regarding copyright oversight of their print and digital collections. Lowry (2001), Maher (2001), Schneider (2001), Shuler (2003), and Ferullo (2004) all note that the constitutional origins of copyright legislation in this country hewed a balance between protection of creators/private individuals' economic rights and the rights of the public's access to useful knowledge (often referred to as the "greater good'). With the Copyright Revision Act of 1976--the first major change to US copyright law since the 1909 Act--the balance began to tip in favor of the individual and his/her economic rights as creator, as publishers and corporations become increasingly alarmed at the greater potential for violations of copyright by individuals. Their fear has been, in large part, due to the advances in digital and online technology which have allowed for freer dissemination of, and copying of, intellectual property and creative content. Subsequent legislation towards the end of the last century and the beginning of the new millennium, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 and the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act of 2002, have further codified the rights of creators--both to protect their work and prosecute for violations--as the law tries to keep apace of the constant changes in digital technology and social networking, which makes content more accessible to the public and, in the eyes of content creators and their representatives, more vulnerable to infringement.

These recent changes in copyright legislation have especially affected academic libraries which, as information-driven enterprises for research and scholarship, are based on the tenets of academic freedom and dependent on their ability to freely broker and disseminate information (intellectual property) to their clientele of faculty, students, staff, researchers, and community members, for the purposes of research, scholarship, and learning. As Lowry notes:

Modern higher education is an information -driven enterprise--no longer dependent on an unchanging canon as it was in 1850, but rather a voracious consumer of information of all kinds. This enterprise consumes new information at a rapid rate, for specific and well-understood reasons that are tied to its historic purposes-- teaching, research, and service. Moreover it is an engine for innovation and the creation of new knowledge ... perhaps the necessary condition for the modern 'information economy'. (Lowry, 2001, p.193)

Lawsuits too, based on new copyright legislation, have impacted the environment for academic libraries and the researchers who use them. The willingness of publishers and publishing consortia to prosecute if they see their intellectual property at risk (e.g. Basic Books v. Kinkos; American Geophysical Union v. Texaco; and, more recently, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and SAGE Publications v. Georgia State University) have redefined reserves and coursepack protocol, and cases against researchers involving the anti-circumvention restrictions contained within the DMCA have "showcased the chilling effect ... on research and academic freedom" (Ferullo, 2004, p.28). Increased legal scrutiny of copyright coverage of unpublished works, since the 1976 act, as well as increased digitization of local collections within academic libraries, have heightened copyright concerns regarding unpublished materials--including the responsibility of due diligence for finding creators of "orphan works" and securing permissions where copyright of materials has not been deeded to the repository upon accession.

Lastly, the conservative nature of most...

To continue reading