Discussion topic: Copyright

Photo: "Large copyright sign made of colorful jigsaw puzzle pieces" by Horia Varlan CC-BY 2.0

Photo: “Large copyright sign made of colorful jigsaw puzzle pieces” by Horia Varlan CC-BY 2.0

Copyright is a subject that has many ties to libraries. Copyright can be quite complex in practice, but it is basically just a system that determines how documented art and knowledge can be used and shared. Libraries—as holders of that documented art and knowledge and facilitators of its use—sit right in the middle of it all.

The involvement of individual libraries and individual librarians in the world of copyright can vary wildly, but it is definitely a subject that affects all of us in the library community. It influences the materials we can display in our collections, the users with whom we can share our collections, how our users can interact with the materials, and even how we can interact with our own materials.

Copyright is also considered by many institutions to be a key competency, about which we need to teach our users. Many libraries not only have to comply with copyright law but also pass down knowledge of basic copyright principles to their patrons.

Copyright is not all business, though—it can be a lot of fun! Arts and entertainment news usually has at least one copyright story floating around, and those stories can be quite amusing.

For the next two weeks we will be posting about copyright issues that affect libraries, and we will be discussing how libraries can get more involved in the shaping of copyright law in their sectors.

Some questions to begin discussions with your partner are:

  • How involved are you with copyright at your library? How involved is your library generally with copyright?
  • Does your library provide any sort of copyright education for your patrons?
  • Do you keep up with developments and changes in copyright law in your country?
  • Do you follow any copyright issues in the news?
  • Copyright can be really complex and boring—is it something that you find intimidating or uninteresting?

Is there a particular area of copyright that you are passionate about? You can share it in the comments below or email us at contact@interlibnet.org to suggest a post topic or submit a guest post—we’d love to get a discussion going!

Alison Makins, ILN’s Legal and Risk Consultant



Posted in Discussion topics, Round 2015B and tagged , , .


  1. Basically I could not talk about my work without talking about copyright. One of my functions are training both within the workplace, and users of our contents of our copyrights, and the use of such copyright.
    As content creators and integrators in many cases content created by others, we have to take into account where the limit of use, and allows us to each copyright law.

    Inside my heart, I am constantly providing training and information on the issue, and whenever any change in the law occurs, review and orient in the uses of content, both departments content as account executives. Therefore, I am always aware of the changes, as well as information related to the subject and the different cases of lawsuits pertaining to the subject.

    It is not a topic that displeases me, by the firm belief that the defense establishment has rights and must know how to communicate properly, and defend them in the best measure.
    In my country there is little culture of copyright, so we are constantly reptitiendo how to use and not use our content. Sometimes it is very disappointing to see how professionals and top management positions in large companies, seek to bypass copyright as. I’m interested in general, there is no particular who is interested.

    • Myriam, like us you seem to really grasp that copyright is central to what we do in libraries. Without a culture of respect and compliance on both sides of the copyright equation, the system can fall down.

    • Myriam, it sounds like you represent both creators and users of copyrighted materials, and you facilitate the use as well! Libraries play such an important role in copyright law and practice.

  2. I recently (May 2015) started working in the copyright office of a Large University in Australia, as part of my Job, I run training or information sessions to faculty staff explaining what they can do and cannot do, how they are allowed to use material in the teaching and learning environment, and the hardest part is getting them to understand that they cannot share copyright content on the internet. They are allowed to use limited bits of material in the educational environment, for staff and students, but once they put it on-line to an open access its breaching copyright. I have learnt so much over the last few months, but also noticed, as I just finished my Library degree, during my 5 years, we did not really focus on any copyright issues in the course other than how to reference your information. I think this is something that needs to be addressed, as its probably more useful now days than learning how to catalogue a text book.

    • Andrea, I definitely understand your frustrations! I agree that copyright should be discussed more in coursework for library degrees, too. Libraries are one of the most important players in the copyright game–they often represent creators and users, and they facilitate the exchange of copyrighted works between the two.

  3. in my country very little is done to safe guard copy right. People are allowed to do photocopies of some works for learning or educative purpose but many abuse this.

    • It’s definitely hard to strike a balance between the rights of creators and the needs of users! I find it frustrating as well when patrons know the rules and willfully break them.

      • definitely, it is very difficult to control the patrons’ information needs. even when you have told them the limits, users still go out of their way to photocopy entire work without your knowledge . it should not be so.

  4. I like the topic , it is very important to my profession. we try to educate our library patrons on the subject from time to time. the law in my country is not constantly reviewed and many people tend to abuse it most times. we let the users know the limit to which they can use any puplication.

  5. Copyright is one recurring indices of our job in the library. I do not have much of a challenge enforcing it in my workplace owing to the high ethical stance of the organisation. With such tools as ‘turn-it-in’; sessions on proper referencing and other subtle policies discouraging plagiarisms, our clientele always almost adhere to copyright requisites. The faculties are more likely to seek the intervention of the librarian on licensing for use of particular documents (eBooks, teaching tapes, training websites, etc) as class materials than obtain it through the prevalent hacking avenues.
    Moreso, we have an integrated central control via the IT that enables us track and contain use of certain web apps thereby reducing to the barest minimum, if not, total removing the chances of copyright breach. It is an ongoing task, keeping abreast with sophisticated technology that aid this and other intellectual property theft.

    • Thats wonderful that your faculties are more likely to ask for help than to source materials through illegal avenues! I think the task of keeping abreast of new technologies is something we can all relate to, too.

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