Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ten Important Legal Issues Every Digital Librarian Should Know

Presented by: John Gathegi, University of South Florida

Any librarian working with digital content must learn the basics of copyright law. This presentation provides the basics on copyright issues, specifically addressing the possible problems that a digital librarian might face.

First, is the material copyrighted? The answer may be complex, especially in a mishmash of formats, or depending upon the year in which the material was created. Prior to 1976, the required formalities to receive a copyright were not needed, making materials after 1976 much easier to obtain copyright. It's good to keep in mind that the law protects the expression of ideas.

Second, who owns the content? When you seek permission to use the content, it may be difficult to determine the copyright owner. The initial owner is the author. But who owns the copyright for joint authors or when the corporation as employer owns the copyright? The owner can transfer copyright ownership as property, but the copyright can not be transferred involuntarily by an act of Government, unlike property.

Third, what rights does the content owner have? Such rights include: reproduction, to prepare derivative works, distribution, public performance and public display. The Visual Artists Rights Act also ensures additional rights for the visual artists, which can claim or disassociate authorship of work or to prevent their name on a work they did not create or their name on a work which would harm their reputation. Some interesting side points: if one of the joint authors waives his or her rights, all of the authors' rights are waived. Also, the new copyright owner receives exactly the same protections as the first. 

Fourth, limitations to copyright include fair use, which specifically addresses the use by libraries and archives, including reproduction and distribution to the public.

Fifth, how long do the rights last? Congress has the right to expand the time period in the law. Currently, works will fall into public domain 70 years after the death of the author and 95 years for corporations, thanks in part to the 1998 Sonny Bono Act. Always check the Copyright Office for any possible changes to the law or to find out if the author is still alive.

Sixth, how are the rights acquired from owners? Owners may transfer rights through exchange or purchase using a written instrument, such as a license. The author has a "second bite of the apple" clause, where the terms can be renegotiated in the 5-year period following the 35 years after the execution of the grant.

Seventh, when working out a digital media license, the librarian must remember that multiple parties may require multiple licenses, that the license is a contract and that there are multiple layers of rights involved in this process.

Eighth, what is infringement and what is the result? An infringement is any action that violates the owners' rights, and anyone can infringe, even a child. Remedies may include injunctions, destroying the articles, civil damages or even criminal sanctions.

Ninth, what are digital rights management systems? They're software tools that help manage the digital content.

Tenth, 17 USC  512 allows for transmission and routing of copyrighted materials for Internet Service Providers (ISP), provided that they do not alter the content in any way. This provision or "safe harbor" allows for us to connect to copyrighted materials through the internet itself.

-- Amy Carlson

No comments:

Post a Comment