Demystifying Copyright: How to Educate Your Staff and Community

Lesley Ellen Harris will be teaching the ALA Editions eCourse Demystifying Copyright: How to Educate Your Staff and Community beginning on September 12th. You can learn more about the course and register for it at the ALA Store.

In July 2011, in one of her first interviews upon becoming the U.S. Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallante was asked by Nate Anderson from ARS Technica if the extra attention caused by increased public interest in copyright had complicated life in the U.S. Copyright Office. Pallante’s response:

“I'm thrilled that more people care about copyright. I graduated from law school in 1990 and copyright was kind of a growing field then—environmental law was also newly hot—and it's only gotten bigger and better since. I do look at it sometimes with amusement; the field I obviously fell in love with right off the bat has gained so much attention.

            But I think it's great that the public is interested. It presents a lot of challenges but a lot of opportunities. I would like to see people respect copyright, I would like to see them know how copyright works, what it means for them in their daily lives.

            It's one of those life skills now, right? When you graduate from high school or college, you should know how to read a map, you should know how to use GPS, you should know a little bit about copyright. If you are somebody who is going to be in a field where you will encounter copyrighted materials all the time, you should know more. If you're going to be an artist or musician and you're getting a red-hot degree in the performing arts, you should know a lot. And I don't think that's quite the case—I don't think it's been built into curricula.”

What is Copyright Education and Why is it Important to you?

Libraries in organizations of all sizes are increasingly responsible for obtaining copyright permissions and providing information about copyright law. An increasing role of libraries as “copyright administrators” is to educate various internal people and departments and sometimes the public too about the basics of copyright laws, compliance with copyright guidelines, and respecting terms and conditions in license agreements.

Librarians who want to be perceived as the YES person for obtaining access to use content must be able to educate their community on copyright and licensing. Yet there is no exact definition of the concept of copyright education.  First, it is important that the copyright education be framed according to the needs of and in the context of your own enterprise. You will then need to be creative in developing and instituting an enterprise-wide education program. Your goals will be to increase the comfort level of staff in applying copyright in day-to-day situations, to lower the risk of employees infringing copyright law, and to lower potential or actual costs relating to copyright infringement.

Information about copyright law should come from a variety of sources from print and online information to discussion groups and seminars, courses and workshops. An online course beginning September 12, 2011 covers the following topics:

  • Understanding the risks of copyright infringement and how to protect your library from lawsuits
  • Understanding the need for copyright compliance nationally and globally
  • Evaluating copyright issues in your library
  • Developing a copyright education plan
  • Assessing materials, content and technology in order to equip an instruction team for your institution
  • Keeping your educational program up to date

Taking an active role in copyright education in your library is a giant step towards copyright compliance and management.

“Demystifying Copyright: How to Educate Your Staff and Your Community” offered by ALA Editions and taught by Lesley Ellen Harris (www.copyrightlaws.com), a copyright, licensing and digital property lawyer. Online content will be presented over a four-week period with opportunities to post to online discussion boards, complete weekly assignments and activities and discuss your individual questions.

For more information regarding online learning, see 

http://ow.ly/5EA6B

Your advice for on-line learners? By Joshua Kim