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Closing Another Open Access Week

Open Access Week 2012 has come and gone.  Across the globe, institutions of higher learning, funders of research, library groups, and publishers of open access works celebrated the theme “Set the Default to Open Access,” challenging us all to work toward open access as the norm for publication of scholarly works rather than an option. At the University of Florida, several events commemorated Open Access Week. The Libraries hosted two events featuring presentations on open data, publishing in the Open Journal System, and open access in the humanities. Additionally, I had the privilege of presenting on open access at Graduate Student Research Day. During this presentation, I observed dozens of “lightbulbs” go off above the heads of students when I used this scenario to demonstrate open vs. closed access:  I asked them to imagine conducting the research they now do after they graduate without the benefit of University paid subscriptions.  It was not surprising that several of them were unaware that the electronic resources they use regularly were available on account of expensive licenses paid for from the Libraries dwindling budget. But it was surprising to see their reactions upon realizing that the scholarship and knowledge they depended upon for their education and training was not available to all.  Once the lightbulbs of shock dimmed, discussion ensured about why open access was important not only for education and creation of new knowledge but also for purposes of public access to publicly funded research.

Reflecting upon the graduate students’ reactions and questions, I concluded that for real change to happen in scholarly publishing we should advocate more to our graduate students. They are not only the future producers of scholarly content, but also future tenure track or tenured faculty, future editorial board members, future employees of publishers and research funders, etc.  This is a large population of agents of change. In her own blog post about Open Access Week, librarian Barb Fister also recognized the importance of students in the open access movement.  She cautions other librarians against “extinguishing their common sense” by promoting our paid-access resources too heavily. We are perpetuating the problem of equating quality with closed access by not exposing students to the full range of resources, open and closed.  Fister writes:

When we teach students that the library is a terrific shopping platform that they get free access to as a member benefit, we aren’t preparing them for life-long learning. We’re reinforcing a number of false premises: that knowledge is stuff somebody out there created, stuff you can acquire if you are among the privileged few, that answers are things you go shopping for, that what anyone can read without paying for it must be, by definition, inferior to our designer goods. We’re trying hard to help students see knowledge as a social act, that when they do research they are joining a conversation, that the point of research isn’t to find the answer, it’s to build a new understanding that involves the student and the people who are speaking to them through the sources they encounter. Apart from these intangibles, I don’t want to build an artificial wall between what we pay for and what is available to all. I want to make it as easy as possible for students to find good sources, whether they are paid for by the library or not – because the future is open.

This is excellent advice for librarians.  Students are an essential, but often overlooked, component to the movement to make open access the default.  Whether we are engaged in information literacy or in open access advocacy, we must be mindful in the message we send to them. If we are successful in converting students to the cause for open access, we stand greater chances of success overall.


At Long Last…a Decision in Georgia

Four years since the filing, one year since the trial, and 350 pages of opinion later…we have an opinion in the closely watched copyright infringement action against Georgia State University.  The case pitted prolific academic publishers Sage, Cambridge and Oxford against the GSU provost, Library Dean and others, with the publishers claiming that the policy and practice of GSU’s Library allowed faculty to post, in violation of the publishers’ copyrights, scans of book chapters in the University’s e-reserve and course management systems.  In response, GSU contended that its actions fell within the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act, which the publishers contended that the postings, in the absence of permission or payment of license fees, far exceeded the bounds of fair use, which they argued were defined by outdated guidelines.  In the end, the judge found largely in favor of GSU, and in doing so, she crafted a fair use framework (although for the time-being is only legally binding upon persons living in the Northern District of Georgia) that libraries and publishers alike will be analyzing and implementing in the months to come.

The Fair Use Framework of the GSU Case

Under §107 of the Copyright Act, a use of a copyrighted work without permission of the copyright holder is permissible when such use is for the purposes of teaching, research, commentary, news reporting, parody, or criticism, and the balance of four enumerated factors weighs in favor of a finding of fair use.  Those four factors as set forth in the statute are: (1) the purpose and nature of the use, (2) the nature of the copyrighted work being used, (3) the quantity of the copyright work being used, and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market. The application of these four factors to the posting of copyrighted works to electronic reserves systems has long been the subject of scholarly debate; however, this case is the first time that a court has undertaken to apply the fair use factors to such use. The judge’s application of the fair use factors in the context of e-reserves can be summarized as follows:

Purpose and Nature of Use – Because a college or university’s library is a non-profit and educational user, the court found that this factor weighed heavily in favor of a finding of fair use.

Nature of the Copyrighted Work: Because the works at issue in the case were all scholarly, non-fiction works (and many of them reference-type handbooks), the court found that this factor also weighed in favor of a finding fair use.

Quantity of the Copyrighted Work Being Used: Most of the excerpts posted in GSU’s course reserves were 10% or less of the book. The court held that this factor weighs in favor of fair use where no more than 10% of a work with less than 10 chapters or no more than one single chapter in works of more than 10 chapters is used.  In amounts greater than this, this factor weighs in favor of the copyright holders. The court also reiterated that where the portion used represents the “heart of the work,” the balance tips in favor of the copyright holder.

Effect Upon the Potential Market for the Work – Where there is a reasonably priced and readily available license for a digital excerpt of the copyrighted work, this factor tips in favor of the copyright holder. This factor also weighs in favor of the copyright holder where the amount used is so great that it substitutes purchase of the entire work.

Answers, Yes, but Also More Questions

Through her careful reasoning and explanation, the judge in the GSU case answered many questions that have been pondered by copyright scholars and academic library practitioners. In particular, she held:

– The posting of copyrighted works in an electronic reserve or course management system is not analogous to the production of print course packs by a copy shop or other commercial entity.  Thus, many points in the Kinkos case are not applicable to e-reserves.

– The posting of copyrighted materials in an e-reserve system is not a transformative use.  In recent years, a finding of transformativeness has been key to deciding fair use cases.

– The 1976 Classroom Photocopying Guidelines are too restrictive and thus inconsistent with fair use. Further, the judge expressly rejected the “subsequent semester” rule that is an outgrowth of the Classroom Guidelines. Thus, use of the same excerpts for a course from one semester to the next does not mitigate against a finding of fair use.

– No or minimal use can mean no infringement. Where items posted to course reserves are never accessed by students, there is no infringement.

– When calculating the number of pages in a work (for purposes of determining what constitutes 10%), the entire work is counted, including the table of contents, foreword, and index pages.

However, the decision also left scholars and librarians with more questions to ponder:

– What about journal articles, images, videos, etc?  The decision in GSU only dealt with monographs; however, many faculty utilize these other categories of works in their courses and request their institution’s library to post these materials in the course reserve system.

– What constitutes a “readily available and reasonably priced” license? And, if the copyright holder does not have a license or permission system available for the work or its excerpts, does this mean its fair use to use it anyway? In the wake of this decision, more publishers will likely either contract with Copyright Clearance Center or invest in devising their own license and permission systems. Does this mean libraries will end up paying more for less?

It will be interesting to see what answers folks on all sides off these issues will propose in the weeks to come and what the next moves of the publishers and their litigation funders will be in response to the judgment.

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

Three years in the making, the trial against Georgia State University (GSU) for their e-reserves practices begins tomorrow. The course for trial was set at the end of September when the federal judge presiding over the case ruled on the motions for summary judgment filed by the publishers and GSU officials, allowing the case to go forward solely on the claim of contributory infringement. (For a detailed explanation of those motions please read “Georgia (State University) on My Mind.”) However, in December 2010, the court granted the publishers’ motion for reconsideration and permitted them to proceed on the claim of direct infringement, now understood and correctly labeled as a claim of “indirect infringement.”

In the weeks and days leading up to trial, both sides filed the usual and customary motions concerning evidence and other pre-trial matters. But the most noteworthy, and somewhat nerve-wracking, pre-trial filing came from the publishers in the form of a proposed order to be signed by the judge in the event they win their case. The publishers do not seek monetary damages as the remedy for the alleged infringement; rather, they seek to enjoin GSU (and inevitably all academic libraries, college students, and faculty) from continuing to access copyrighted materials through secure digital means without permission and payment of royalties. The proposed injunction filed by the publishers would prohibit all persons affiliated with GSU, including faculty and students, from reproducing, transmitting, downloading, etc. copyrighted materials without permission or in excess of the Guidelines for Educational Fair Use that accompanied the 1976 adoption of the Copyright Act. Nowhere in the proposed injunction is there any mention of fair use as codified at §107 of the Copyright Act.

The publishers’ insistence of limiting GSU, including its students and faculty,  to outdated and overly-strict guidelines is abhorrent. While I do appreciate the guidance and wisdom of the authors of the 1976 Guidelines and their exposition on the concepts of “brevity” and “spontaneity,” I do not believe that guidelines drafted at a time when only print existed and current digital modes of delivering educational materials were not even imagined should be levied against an institution as the absolute maximums allowed. To do so would completely obliterate the balancing test prescribed by the terms of § 107. As an academic librarian, I appreciate the ease and efficiency offered by adherence to numeric guidelines. However, librarians should strongly advocate against imposition of such strict maximums and lobby loudly for fair use.

Further, I do agree that certain versions of the “fair use checklist” often utilized by academics tend to liberally lean toward a finding of fair use; however, the checklist problem should not be solved through such a drastic measure as removal of fair use as a concept and consideration and adoption of very minimum page and word limits.

What the Kinko’s case did to the use of printed coursepacks, the outcome of the GSU case may very well do to e-reserve practices employed at most institutions of higher education. However, the outcome may not be the simple discontinuation of a certain practice or a slight modification of process; rather, fair use landscape may very well be blighted.

Is a Code of Best Practices Enough?

Just before the holidays, a team of investigators featuring representatives of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the Center for Social Media, and the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) released a report detailing the results of Phase One of their progress toward drafting an academic and research librarians’ code of best practices for interpreting and applying copyright doctrine. These same individuals have previously collaborated on best practice codes for media literacy educators and for documentary filmmakers. Phase One of their research for development of this particular code of best practices entailed interviewing sixty-five librarians. Interviewees were asked about their personal understanding as well as their institutions’ policies and practices with respect to fair use and other exemptions under copyright law. The report summarizes the responses in five categories of librarianship practice: support for teaching and learning, support for scholarship, preservation, exhibition and public outreach, and serving disabled communities. Not surprisingly, the responses greatly vary, which accurately reflects the present (mis)understanding of fair use across academia. Most respondents expressed a lack of institutional support, namely time and expertise from legal counsel offices, and an increasing demand from faculty and researchers for fair use determinations. Without ready and well-versed support from administration, and a fear of retribution levied by publishers of content, librarians have, as concluded by the investigative team, clung to outdated guidelines, hesitated to employ fair use to the fullest, and failed to promote access to information, which is the librarians’ duty and charge.

At the end of the report, the investigators offer a list of suggestions aimed toward improving the situation that academic and research librarians find themselves in. Naturally, the first suggestion is the adoption and employment of the code of best practices, which the team aims to publicly disseminate by 2012. Assumedly, this Code of Best Practices will replace the outmoded guidelines that most libraries still use in one modified form or another. The remaining suggestions address the issues with institutional support and publisher threat. Institutional support, the investigators propose, should take the form of the creation of a dedicated copyright office in the Library or through the campus legal office. Publisher threat should be addressed at the time of license negotiation. While these suggestions are all material and useful, their are not novel or unheard of. A Code of Best Practices is a collective understanding of how fair use applies — same as the outdated CONTU guidelines, which are still used in one modified form or another, and other organizationally prepared suggestions (e.g. ALA, CCC, AAUP) for application of fair use in libraries. The Code of Best Practices may be a statement of the currently agreed-to understanding by librarians as to the application of fair use but what still lacks is a judicial or legislative clarification of fair use as applied to the ever-evolving  modes of publishing and content delivery. Institutional buy-in is also universally desired and needed. However, as long as libraries are viewed by administrations as a cost center rather than as an asset to be supported and supplied, devotion of resources to development of copyright offices or dedicated personnel will not come easily.

I applaud the work of the investigative team. I have had the pleasure of being taught by two of its members. I look forward to the completion and publication of the Code of Best Practices. However, I do not feel that this will be the answer that we in the field are needing. Faculty and students need to be encouraged to become copyright aware. The requirement of the HEOA that universities distribute to students copyright information targeted toward anti-piracy is one way that this tactic is in force. Department chairs and deans should invite librarians or campus counsel to departmental or college meetings to discuss copyright and fair use. Faculty should assume greater responsibility for making fair use determinations and work in greater concert with librarians. As one of the interviewees stated, faculty have a greater understanding of their educational goals and curriculum. Administrative or institutional support is important; however, education and responsibilities amongst faculty and students are also key.

Oh, Canada! Controversial Copyright Decision Up North

In the United States, persons seeking permission from copyright holders to use works in a manner not covered by exemptions in the Copyright Act (e.g. Fair Use) frequently utilize the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) to facilitate the request. The CCC collects a fee, including the royalties charged by the copyright holder, and in turn permission for use is granted. Universities frequently use the services of the CCC, who coincidentally is helping fund the litigation against Georgia State, not only to secure permissions for the posting of materials on reserve but also to collect royalties on behalf of university presses. In Canada, the organization AccessCopyright functions in much the same way as the CCC.

On March 30, 2010, AccessCopyright (AC) filed a proposed tariff with the Copyright Board of Canada to cover the reproduction of published works by Canada’s colleges and universities. Previously, AC offered licenses under which two fees were collected.  Institutions paid a flat fee determined by FTE to cover day-to-day photocopying, and students paid a per-page copyright royalty when purchasing a course pack.  Under the proposed tariff, universities and colleges would pay a single flat fee per student to make all the copies they need, up to 20% of any given publication. The justification offered by AC: creators are entitled to compensation when their work is used. Under the terms of the proposed tariff, faculty and students would be permitted to photocopy, scan and upload to secure networks, and email portions of copyright-protected published works.

The proposed tariff drew harsh criticism from students, university administrators, and others. In response to criticism, AC compared its proposal to the services offered by the CCC, stating: “The Copyright Clearance Centre in the United States licenses the reproduction of copyright-protected materials to post-secondary institutions in a very similar manner to the proposed tariff.” (See Response to article on proposed Access Copyright Post-Secondary Educational Institution Tariff, 2011-2013.) Despite the criticisms launched against the proposed tariff and the decision by several Canadian institutions to discontinue photocopying and reserves services altogether in the event the tariff passed, the Copyright Board indicated on November 26, 2010 that it intended to approve an interim tariff proposed by AC,  while it investigates and considers the claims of over 100 objectors. This decision by the Board demonstrates a failure to acknowledge the high cost that will be imposed upon students in restraining their access to materials and upon educational institutions who do not have the budgetary means to pay the tariff. It is also a failure to acknowledge that the authors of the copyrighted works do not view the paltry royalties received as “compensation” as argued by AC. Rather it is AC, just as it is the CCC in the United States, that stands to profit from imposition of the tariff.

The Terms that Bind

Accompanying nearly every item of electronic technology, whether it is software, database, or digital media device, is a document that dictates how that technology may be used. These documents, known more commonly as “terms of use” or “license agreements,” are contractually binding on both the provider and the consumer, even if that consumer is an academic institution and its constituents. A common misconception amongst users of electronic technology in an academic context is that these terms of use can be eschewed on grounds of educational fair use or academic freedom.

One example of such misconception is the use of Netflix subscriptions by academic libraries. Following the publication of an article in Library Trends detailing the workflow created at a community college library to manage a Netflix subscription, how the subscription was used as a tool for collection development, and the limitations of a subscription compared to library ownership of media, several libraries spoke out about their own experiences utilizing Netflix on an institutional basis. In response, several publications, including the Chronicle of Higher Education and American Libraries, reflected upon the legalities of this practice. The author of the Library Trends piece indicated that the library’s Netflix subscription complied with federal copyright law because teaching faculty were permitted to display legally obtained films in a face-to-face classroom situation. While her interpretation of copyright law is correct, whether or not the films were obtained “legally” is doubtful. Per the Netflix Terms of Use agreed to by any one subscribing to their service, “use of the Netflix service … is solely for your personal and non-commercial use.” This indicates that use of the Netflix service by an institution to circulate videos to their service population is a violation of these terms, which in essence is a breach of contract. Academic copyright expert and attorney Kevin Smith agrees. As quoted in the Chronicle, Smith states: “My personal opinion is that the risk of a contract problem makes it not worthwhile for us to have a program to lend discs that we borrow from Netflix.  It’s not a copyright issue. It’s an issue of the contract between the user and Netflix.”  Further, Netflix does not offer institutional subscriptions and “frowns upon” libraries loaning Netflix DVDs or video stream to faculty members to share with students.

Another common misunderstanding arises in the use of full text materials accessible through licensed databases. While libraries and universities strive to include the most liberal of usage terms when negotiating licenses for scholarly databases, oftentimes use is curtailed in the interest of access. Institutions are forced to not only pay high subscription costs but also bargain away certain uses in order to secure convenient and complete electronic access to full text scholarly journals for faculty and students. Yale University maintains an excellent web site dedicated to promoting the creation of agreements with publishers that assure access to knowledge. The site also provides links to many of the most common scholarly content publishers and hosts licenses. As an example of the challenge faced by libraries and academic institutions when trying to serve the needs of their community and at the same time comply with the legally binding terms of the publishers’ agreements, review the Terms and Conditions of Use of JSTOR. Paragraphs 2.1 and 2.2 specify the permitted and prohibited uses of content found on JSTOR. Pursuant to paragraph 2.1 “Authorized Users may search, view, reproduce, display, download, print, perform, and distribute Licensed Content” for a variety of purposes, including research activities and classroom instruction; however, such uses will be deemed in violation of the terms of the license should they appear to be any of the practices detailed in paragraph 2.2, such as the reproduction or distribution of content in bulk in course packs or electronic reserves. As stated previously, this reality is a reason why the academic community should champion open access.

Celebrating Open Access

How fitting that the day I launch my Copyright on Campus blog is the first day of International Open Access Week. For those who may have heard the term, “open access” but are unfamiliar with its meaning, I provide the following definition, courtesy of Peter Suber, who, among other roles, is a Senior Researcher at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition:

Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder. In most fields, scholarly journals do not pay authors, who can therefore consent to OA without losing revenue. In this respect scholars and scientists are very differently situated from most musicians and movie-makers, and controversies about OA to music and movies do not carry over to research literature. OA is entirely compatible with peer review, and all the major OA initiatives for scientific and scholarly literature insist on its importance. Just as authors of journal articles donate their labor, so do most journal editors and referees participating in peer review. OA literature is not free to produce, even if it is less expensive to produce than conventionally published literature. The question is not whether scholarly literature can be made costless, but whether there are better ways to pay the bills than by charging readers and creating access barriers. Business models for paying the bills depend on how OA is delivered.

By supporting open access to scholarly works, we unlock the doors to knowledge. Researchers who publish in the nearly 1000 open access journals or forums find that their works are more easily found, read, and cited by students, teachers, scientists, grant funding bodies, and governmental agencies. With this larger audience, the impact of a researcher’s work strengthens, the delay between acceptance and publication is shortened, and the visibility and accessibility of a work increases. Authors of scholarly works typically exchange their intellectual property rights and royalties for the prestige of being published. With open access, researchers and readers benefit from the acknowledgment of scholarly accomplishment through publication and the free exchange of ideas.

Through the initiatives of open access, including unrestricted licensing and open archives,  students enjoy greater efficiency in conducting their own research and studying. Open access increases discoverability and browseability of scholarly works. Universities and libraries also benefit from open access. Increasing journal prices squeeze library budgets and force librarians to make difficult decisions about subscription cancellations. However,  open access allows libraries to continue to provide valuable information to students and faculty without incurring costs. Open access also enables universities and libraries to provide the work done by their own faculty to the campus without paying high subscription fees.

Over the course of the next few days, I will continue to explore in greater detail these benefits of open access and provide additional information on what you can do to support and to participate in the open access initiative.

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