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I recently completed a one year appointment with the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries as Visiting Program Officer for Scholarly Communications. This was a wonderful opportunity to network with fellow scholarly communications professionals at the 40 member institutions of ASERL as well as build a scholarly communications program for ASERL and put us on the map nationally as leaders in this growing area of importance. As part of my responsibilities during the last 12 months, I examined the policies and practices of our members in several areas: open access, library publishing and resource sharing. I authored four papers reporting the results of conversations with and surveys of ASERL institutions. The final of these four papers is posted below and at the ASERL website.
Resource sharing emerged as a common library service in the mid-1960s as library automation and telecommunication technologies developed. These developments allowed library networks to grow from an already-established tradition of cooperation among American libraries. The two primary forms of resource sharing in the early days were interlibrary loan and cooperative acquisitions. When resource sharing involving only delivery of physical objects, libraries were only concerned with complying with the Copyright Act, primarily Section 108(g)(2), which states that libraries are not prevented from entering into sharing arrangements so long as the receiving library does not receive copies in such quantities as to substitute for a subscription of the work. As resource sharing grew and electronic access arose as a means of quick and efficient delivery, a group of libraries and publishers known as the National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Works – or CONTU – convened in 1976 to develop agreed-upon guidelines for what was acceptable under the newly enacted Copyright Act. The essential component of these guidelines is the “Rule of 5.” That is, within a single calendar year a library should not borrow more than five articles from the most recent five years of publication of a journal. Needing more than five articles from the five most recent years of publications would indicate a subscription to that publication is warranted and permission from the journal is required for further reproduction and sharing.
Today, as libraries engage in a variety of resource sharing activities involving the sharing and acquisition of both print and electronic resources domestically and abroad, and within local and global consortia of libraries, questions arise whether the nearly 40-year old CONTU guidelines reflect current assumptions about copyright law, fair use, and the scholarly communication system as it presently exists. More directly, what impact does copyright law have on the various modes of resource sharing in which libraries are engaged? What about license agreements? With libraries now collecting more digital content than print, how are libraries protecting copyright and fair use, observing the Rule of 5, and also fulfilling patron expectations for access and use of electronic content? The problem with guidelines is that they have a tendency to both narrowly construe the law and create rigidity in its application. This comes out of a need for the guidelines to be acceptable to many diverse groups with competing interests.
ASERL Survey Results
To gauge current practices and attitudes about these issues among ASERL members, a survey was devised in February 2014 to determine what types of resource sharing practices were in use, what policies govern their resource sharing practices, and how copyright considerations impact lending or acquiring materials through resource sharing. Twenty-six libraries of ASERL’s 38 member libraries responded. Their responses reflect a wide range of resource sharing activities across a wide geographic area and a mix of attitudes and practices regarding the application of copyright law and negotiation of e-resource licenses to their resource sharing activities.
Not surprisingly, all the survey respondents indicated that they regularly share print books via physical delivery (e.g., U.S. Mail), as well as articles or other scanned, non-returnable materials via both physical and electronic delivery. When sharing resources by these means, most members did not discriminate by library type, lending within the state, across the country or across the globe. However, most libraries indicated that they are not presently engaged in sharing of electronic books in any way, and the few that are currently loaning electronic books indicated that only a single chapter or limited excerpts are shared. The small number of libraries loaning electronic books is likely due to license restrictions. Only three ASERL libraries indicated that they regularly include provisions to permit resource sharing when they negotiate the terms of electronic book licenses, even though nearly all other respondents regularly negotiate resource or scholarly sharing rights in licenses for electronic journals and databases.
Currently, only about 1/3 of the libraries that responded to the survey employ a system for tracking these electronic resource license terms. Sample license terms provided by respondents indicate an adherence to Section 108 of the Copyright Act and the CONTU guidelines but do not reflect fair use considerations being made in resource sharing decisions. A few of these examples are below:
- “Under the terms of this Site License, the Licensee is granted the non-exclusive right to supply (whether by post, fax or secure electronic transmission, using Ariel or its equivalent, whereby the electronic file is deleted immediately after print) to an authorized user of another USA library for the purposes of research or private study and not for commercial use, a single paper copy of an electronic original or an individual document from a journal for which a subscription has been paid at the full current subscription rate, in compliance with Section 108 of the United State Copyright Law and with guidelines developed by the National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Works (CONTU Guidelines).”
- “The Institutions shall be permitted to use Reasonable Amounts of the Licensed Materials to fulfill occasional requests from other, non participating institutions, a practice commonly called Inter-Library Loan. Customer agrees to fulfill such requests in compliance with Section 108 of the United States Copyright Law (17 USC §108, “Limitations on exclusive rights: Reproduction by libraries and archives”) and the Guidelines for the Proviso of Subsection 108(2g)(2) prepared by the National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Works (CONTU).”
- “Licensee may fulfill a reasonable number of requests for Interlibrary Loan of the Licensed Materials from institutions not participating in this Agreement, provided such requests comply with Section 108 of the United States Copyright Law (17 USC §108) and clause 3 of the Guidelines for the Proviso of Subsection 108(g)(2) prepared by the National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Works (CONTU Guidelines). Licensee may use print or electronic copies derived directly or indirectly from the Licensed Materials for the purpose of Interlibrary Loan with the same limitations that prevail for paper copies for that purpose made from print journals.”
All of the responding libraries indicated that they employ the CONTU guidelines when making resource sharing decisions. Sixteen of the responding libraries indicated that their resource sharing practices have been codified into a formal written policy. Eleven of those policies specifically address copyright compliance in resource sharing. Most of the respondents have designated someone within the library to handle questions of copyright compliance as pertains to resource sharing:
|Title of Person Responsible for Copyright Compliance in Resource Sharing||Number of Schools|
|Borrowing Services/ILL Librarian||15|
|Access Services Librarian||1|
|Dean or Director||2|
|Scholarly Communications Librarian||2|
In assuring copyright compliance, almost all responding ASERL libraries indicated that they use the Copyright Clearance Center for processing copyright permissions and fees. And although not reflected in the sample license terms provided above, almost all respondents indicated that they consider the principles of fair use when making decisions related to resource sharing. Further, about half of the respondents stated that their staff checks for an open access equivalent – whether it be in an institutional repository, HathiTrust, Internet Archive or some other OA resource – when responding to patron requests for items not owned by the library.
At the conclusion of the survey, respondents were asked to share any final thoughts they had on copyright and resource sharing. One respondent highlighted the growing complexities of international copyright laws and restrictions on interlibrary loan. This is an issue that has come up in the literature and in the news in recent years and will likely continue to cause libraries headaches as US universities establish campuses overseas, the number of online students in other countries expands, and the willingness to lend items to institutions in other countries grows. Other respondents commented on the restrictions in licenses with regard to sharing e-book content with persons outside the subscribing institution. Finally, technological hurdles were also cited as an impediment to lending electronic books.
Resource sharing as a library service has grown exponentially since its advent 50 years ago. Changes in technology have expanded the ability of libraries to share and acquire more information efficiently and quickly, but the failure of copyright law to similarly adapt and change has complicated policy and decision making. As a result, libraries have continued to rely on outdated guidelines and encountered difficulties in negotiating license terms that have raised questions and challenges about the future of resource sharing as a service. The experiences and practices of ASERL libraries demonstrates that the issue of copyright compliance and best practices in resource sharing requires further examination, discussion, and revision in order to meet patrons needs for ready access to scholarly information and assure the principles of fair use are preserved.
Fair use has become increasingly important to the way libraries provide information as evidenced by not only court cases testing the boundaries of fair use in libraries but also the development and promotion of best practices for fair use in libraries. However, reliance upon the outdated “Rule of 5” may hinder utilization of fair use by restricting libraries to numerical guidelines where a broader view of the principles of fair use may be, in application, more equitable to the rights of users and the rights of copyright holders as well. Further, ASERL members’ experiences demonstrate that licensing practices do not always allow libraries to utilize fair use for purposes of resource sharing. Finally, the growing availability of open access resources demands a need for staff training and workflow revision.
 Norman D. Stevens. “Library Networks and Resource Sharing in the United States: An Historical and Philosophical Overview.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science, vol. 31, no. 6 (1980): 405-412.
 William Gray Potter. “Scholarly Publishing, Copyright and the Future of Resource Sharing.” Journal of Library Administration. Vol. 21, no. 1-2 (1995): 49-66.
 Kenneth Crews. “The Law of Fair Use and the Illusion of Fair Use Guidelines.” Ohio State Law Journal, vol. 62, no. 2 (2001): 599-702.
 See the full survey results at http://www.aserl.org/?attachment_id=4118.
On Thursday, a judgment was rendered in the long-running copyright infringement action filed by Authors Guild against Google for its Google Books search service wherein in-copyright books, many of which were lent to Google by participating academic libraries, were digitally scanned and snippets of scanned pages displayed to searchers. Judge Chin, who has presided over much of this eight year roller legal roller coaster, rendered summary judgment in favor of Google, declaring its book scanning and text display fair use. This judgment is the third in so many months that is overwhelmingly in favor of fair use and the work of libraries, both on their own and in partnership with other entities. In all three cases, similar themes emerged, as demonstrated below, as the trial courts in each case conducted their fair use analyses: educational and research uses are important to promote, providing access to materials to underserved populations is critical, and preservation of at-risk materials is an important social benefit.
Four Factors of Fair Use
In order to invoke fair use, the use or reproduction of a copyrighted work must be for the purpose of criticism, comment, news reporting, scholarship, research or education. Further, there are four factors of fair use, and the balance of these must weigh in favor of such use. Consideration of all of the fair use factors is required; however, all four factors do not have to weigh equally in favor of the proposed use.
The four factors of fair use are: (1) why is the work being used, (2) what is the nature of the work being used, (2) how much of the work is being used, and (3) what effect does the use of the work have on the market for that work.
Fair Use in Google
Judge Chin found three of the four factors of fair use in favor of Google and thus rendered judgment on its behalf. His determinations on each factor were as follows:
Factor One – In many fair use cases of the last 20 years, a determination of transformative use has been dispositive of the first fair use factor. And here, Judge Chin determined that Google’s use of the digital book scans is highly transformative. The use of snippets of text to facilitate researcher, reader and scholar identification of relevant works as well as the the facilitation of text and data mining for research were deemed by Chin to be new purposes lending toward a finding of transformative use. He also determined that these uses had high educational and research value worthy of protection.
Factor Two – Although the works scanned by Google were of all types (fiction, non-fiction, out of print), Judge Chin found in favor of Google on this factor, determining that the majority of the corpus of works scanned were non-fiction or informational works.
Factor Three – Judge Chin concluded that his analysis of this factor weighed “slightly” against fair use due to the fact that entire books were scanned. However, he also acknowledges that scanning of the entire works was necessary to accomplish the transformative uses of those whole work scans.
Factor Four – Because the search of books on Google was likely to lead to the commercial purchase of the book, Judge Chin found no market harm. The scans would not be used to replace purchase of the original.
Fair Use in HathiTrust
In addition to suing Google, Authors Guild has also filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against HathiTrust and several of its partner university libraries. Author’s Guild alleged that HathiTrust’s digitization of books for the purposes of making preservation copies, to allow for full text searching, to provide access to persons with print disabilities, and to allow access to orphan works violated their members’ rights under copyright law. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of HathiTrust and the universities last fall. The trial court declined to rule on the orphan works question on the ground the issue was not ripe for adjudication because the program was still in development and not yet active. Notably, the judge wrote “I cannot imagine a definition of fair use that would not encompass the transformative uses made by defendants.”
Factor One – The trial court found that the overarching purpose for HathiTrust’s activities is to promote scholarly and research activities, which are squarely within fair use. Scanning works to preserve them, though not transformative, is fair use on account of the overriding public interest in preservation of knowledge. Scanning of works for the purpose of enabling full text searching as a means of identifying works relevant to one’s research is a highly transformative use and thus qualifying as fair use. Digitization for the purpose of providing access to persons with print disabilities is also a highly transformative use qualifying as fair use.
Factor Two – Given the overwhelming transformative nature of the HathiTrust’s uses of the copyrighted works, the court determined that whether or not the works were informational or creative in nature was not dispositive of the fair use question.
Factor Three – The trial court held that even though entire books were scanned, this amount is necessary to the transformative uses made by HathiTrust.
Factor Four – Stating an intention to license the works at a later time for digital access cannot trump the transformative uses already being employed. A copyright holder will not be permitted to preempt a transformative market, particularly where, as here, there is no demonstration of market harm as a result of these noncommercial uses.
Fair Use in Georgia State
In 2008 publishers Sage, Oxford and Cambridge, filed suit against officials at Georgia State University for alleged copyright infringement arising as a result of the posting of book chapters reproduced from handbooks and other books published by them in GSU’s course management system and electronic course reserve system. The case when to trial and in May 2012 the trial court rendered judgment in favor of GSU.
Factor One – Judge Evans found that GSU’s educational purpose was clearly fair use. Significant time was spent distinguishing provision of course reserves by libraries to students enrolled in a course from the for-profit activity deemed infringing in the Kinkos coursepack case. The trial court did find, however, that mere reproduction of scholarly works for course reserves was not a transformative use.
Factor Two – The trial court found that the content of the works copied were largely informational as opposed to creative or artistic and use of informational or factual works was generally considered to be fair use. The court dismissed the “sweat of the brow” argument that the work entailed in producing scholarly works was entitled to greater protection. The court found that permitting reproduction of excerpts of scholarly works had zero effect upon an author’s incentive to create scholarly works. There was no negative impact upon the incentives of prestige, advancement of knowledge or acquiring a positive result in tenure and promotion decisions.
Factor Three – Most important in the discussion of factor three, Judge Evans rejected the Classroom Guidelines both as to amount and repetitive use. The low ceilings imposed in the outdated Classroom Guidelines and advocated by the publishers were rejected by the trial court as inconsistent with fair use as was the suggestion that fair use did not permit repetitive use of works in course reserves. The trial court held that the amount of a work reproduced has to be “decidedly small” and narrowly tailored to the express pedagogical purpose. The trial court also articulated some of its own guidelines, which it did not strictly adhere to when reviewing each of the alleged incidents of infringement committed by GSU. The trial court stated that it is generally to be considered fair use if 10% of a work less than 10 chapters or a single chapter of a work greater than 10 chapters was reproduced.
Factor Four – The publishers failed to demonstrate to the trial court’s satisfaction any harm to their bottom line. The trial court stated that the publishers argument that e-reserves would put them out of business was glib and that any revenues received from academic licensing were at best miniscule. And the recent press release from CCC that it paid out a record $188.7 million in royalties to publishers in 2013 is evidence that they are not hurting.
All three of these cases will be decided on appeal. Oral argument in the HathiTrust case occurred October 30, 2013, and oral arguments are scheduled Tuesday (November 19th) in the Georgia State case. Authors Guild announced its intention to appeal the Google case shortly after the judgment was rendered. Hopefully the appellate courts hearing these cases will further support and strengthen the well-reasoned judgments of their lower court brethren, for as Judge Chin so aptly states, uses such as the ones at issue in the Google case:
Advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders. It has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books. It has given scholars the ability, for the first time, to conduct full-text searches of tens of millions of books. It preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries, and it gives them new life. It facilitates access to books for print-disabled and remote or underserved populations. It generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors and publishers. Indeed, all society benefits.
The Librarian of Congress has just released the most recent round of exemptions to the anti-circumvention provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. During prior rulemaking rounds, the Librarian has carved out exceptions for the use of clips from DVDs for educational purposes, initially by film studies professors only but then expanded to faculty from any discipline. In this most recent round of rulemaking, the Librarian has recognized an exemption “where circumvention is undertaken solely in order to make use of short portions of the motion pictures for the purpose of criticism or comment in the following instances: (i) in noncommercial videos; (ii) in documentary films; (iii) in nonfiction multimedia ebooks offering film analysis; and (iv) for educational purposes in film studies or other courses requiring close analysis of film and media excerpts, by college and university faculty, college and university students, and kindergarten through twelfth grade educators.” The Librarian clarified, however, that the exemptions do not apply to the use of motion picture excerpts in fictional films, as the Register of Copyrights was unable to conclude that such use is noninfringing. In the Notice, the Librarian explains:
[The Register of Copyright] noted that such uses fall within the favored purposes referenced in the preamble of Section 107 and, especially in light of the brevity of the excerpts used, are likely to be fair uses. More specifically, the Register determined that the proposed uses tended to be transformative in nature, employing short clips for purposes of criticism, comment, teaching, and/or scholarship, rather than for the works’ originally intended purpose. Despite thecommercial aspect of uses by documentary filmmakers and multimedia ebook authors, the Register noted that when a short excerpt of a motion picture is used for purposes of criticism and comment, even in a commercial context, it may well be a productive use that serves the essential function of fair use as a free speech safeguard. While the Register did not conclude that a court would find each and every one of proponents’ examples to be transformative, she did find that
the record amply supported the conclusion that a substantial number of the proffered examples likely would be considered transformative fair uses.
The Librarian further noted that the Register found no merit to opponents contention that licensing or screen capture technology should be utilized to accomplish the desired uses. Requiring licensing for the use of clips for the stated purposes would be contrary to judicial precedence of Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569 (1994) that such transformative uses were fair uses of copyrighted works.
Publishers and distributors of copyrighted content have struck out in their attack on libraries and fair use. First, in May, the copyright infringement lawsuit filed by several publishers against Georgia State University for its e-reserves practices was decided in favor of fair use (and the University). Then, in late September, the re-filed action against UCLA by AIME was dismissed, again, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim (a written order is forthcoming, which should state whether this time dismissal was with prejudice). Now, last week, the trial court in the suit filed against HathiTrust and several universities by the Authors Guild found in favor of the former in a copyright infringement action challenging their mass digitization project.
At issue in the Authors Guild’s lawsuit against HathiTrust and the universities was the creation, with the assistance of Google, of a shared digital repository of nearly 10 million works, the majority of which are still protected by copyright. The digital scans were used for three specific uses: (1) keyword searching of full text scans without display of the full text for purposes of identifying relevant works, (2) preservation of works in the event of deterioration or natural disaster, and (3) provision of access to works for persons with print-disabilities. The trial court refused to weigh the merits of the orphan works project, which was also challenged by the Author’s Guild, because that project was not yet fully functional and usable and thus not ripe for adjudication. Assessing and weighing the four factors of § 107 of the Copyright Act, the trial court found that the three uses qualified as fair uses of the copyrighted works:
Purpose and Character of the Use
The trial court found that the stated goals of the three uses of the digital scans — scholarship and research, preservation, and access by persons with disabilities — tilted significantly in favor of those uses. Further, the uses were transformative because the digital scans served an entirely different purpose than the original copyrighted works.
Nature of the Copyrighted Works
The trial court acknowledged that the majority of the works scanned were fiction or otherwise creative in nature (a distinction from the facts of the Georgia State University lawsuit) and that use of creative works was less likely to be fair use than use of factual works. However, the transformative uses of the digital scans weighed this factor in favor of HathiTrust.
Amount of the Works Copied
Although fair use typically favors using small and limited portions of copyrighted works, the use of the entire work is fair where necessary to carry out the stated purposes in this case — facilitation of keyword searching and access for individuals with a print-disability.
Impact on the Market for or the Value of the Works
Author’s Guild’s argument that economic harm would result from the defendants’ uses was based largely on speculation. No present collective licensing scheme existed for the large body of works that had been scanned nor was it likely that an economically viable scheme would exist in the near-future. Further, there was no evidence that the digital scans could easily be accessed by anyone, and thus result in avoiding purchase of a copy of the work, through circumvention of the security in place. Rather, the full-text works were only accessible by those print-disabled individuals with authorization and only snippets of the scans were available to those doing full-text searches.
While the fair use ruling is a critical one, another important holding in the trial court’s judgment is the determination that a university is an “authorized entity” under the Chafee Amendment (§ 121 of the Copyright Act). The Association of American Publishers has argued that universities and academic libraries are not “authorized entities” and thus cannot under § 121 provide full text copies of copyrighted works to persons with disabilities for their use. This ruling not only resolves this issue but also lends further credence to the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries, which states that academic libraries may provide materials to persons with print-disabilities under fair use.
With these three important rulings in favor of libraries and fair use, one hopes that publishers will take a step back and reevaluate their complaints and reassess the importance of partnering with libraries instead of working against them.
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.
Whether it began with the civil rights marches of the 60s or the Vietnam War protests of the 70s, the modern method of working to bring about change is by communities of like-minded or similarly-situated citizens joining in a single act of defiance of an identified “evil.” Last year we witnessed the rise of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, a gathering of citizens in protest to the greed and corruption in the financial sector of our society. Although the movement has received much attention in the press and experienced expansion and presence in cities across the country, there is question of whether this collective activity can bring about real change. Similarly, researchers, librarians, and other academics have been engaged in collective action intended to bring about a change in proposed and existing intellectual property laws, including copyright and fair use.
Last fall, two separate bills (the Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act or PIPA) were introduced in Congress to address the problem of copyright infringement online. The bills’ opponents claimed that the net effect of the enforcement scheme outlined in the bills was a violation of First Amendment freedoms. On January 18th, nearly 50,000 web sites intentionally went dark in protest to SOPA and PIPA. Millions of citizens expressed opposition to SOPA and PIPA through social media venues, email, and other forms of digital communication. As a result of this mass online outcry, several U.S. Senators switched their position on the bills. And within three days of the blackout, the sponsor of the SOPA bill tabled the bill indefinitely. In the short term, it appears that this form of Internet-fueled democracy has resulted in a desired change. However, this does not mean that other bills will not be proposed or that more dangerous legislation, such as ACTA which is currently under vote in the EU, won’t soon be threatening our rights.
Another avenue through which change has been attempted is through development of community-based fair use best practice codes. The Center for Social Media, in partnership with various communities of users of copyrighted content, has created a series of best practice codes outlining principles for the fair use of copyrighted material by those particular communities. One of the most successful best practices codes was developed by the Center and documentary filmmakers. Following interview and survey of numerous notable and veteran documentary filmmakers and distributors, the documentary filmmakers’ best practices code “makes clear what documentary filmmakers currently regard as reasonable application of the copyright “fair use” doctrine.” That is, other filmmakers can rely upon the code for guidance in determining what is fair use of copyrighted content and when permission should be sought. As a result of this community-based approach, the number of infringement claims arising from documentary film making has decreased and errors and omissions insurance have more readily offered coverage for fair use claims.
Last week, the Center, along with the Association of Research Libraries, released the long-awaited Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries. This Code is the product of nearly two years of surveying and interviewing librarians regarding their employment of fair use in their daily work. To date, librarians have relied upon various fair use guidelines that have cropped up since the enactment of the Copyright Act. However, unlike some of these other guidelines, the Code did not solicit the input or buy-in from those most often on the other side of the fair use debate with librarians, publishers standing as rights holders. Further unlike the prior guidelines, the Code does not attempt to set forth quantifiable fair use limits, which have only served to impede and limit the employment of fair use. The Code, as fully admitted by its authors, is not the silver bullet many librarians were hoping for since learning of the project; as stated in the introduction, this Code is “not a comprehensive or exhaustive guide to all possible applications of fair use in and around libraries.” Rather, the Code enumerates eight scenarios in which clear consensus regarding fair use was identified. However, each of these scenarios, or “principles” as the Code refers to them, is accompanied by a series of limitations and enhancements, which merely articulate the nuances librarians routinely grapple with and try to reconcile within and without the strictures of existing fair use guidelines. The eight principles also include a couple principles that I believe to be “no brainers” and not the subject of debate or confusion among my peers, namely reproducing materials for disabled patrons and digital preservation of at-risk items. Nevertheless, I am not surprised by the limited guidance and clarification in this new Code; as I predicted last January, without “a judicial or legislative clarification of fair use as applied to the ever-evolving modes of publishing and content delivery” a best practices document will not be an effective vehicle for change.
A final example of an academic community trying to bring about change through numbers is the recent call by researchers for a boycott of publishing giant Elsevier. In support of the scholarly prize-winning mathematician Tim Gowers recent scolding of Elsevier for its high journal prices, strong-arming of libraries to buy bundled subscriptions, and support of the Research Works Act, as well as SOPA and PIPA, an Internet petition was formed where researchers can publicly declare their intent to no longer write for, referee, or edit any Elsevier journal. At the time of this writing, nearly 2900 faculty members, scholars, and scientists from around the globe have signed this petition.
The rapid increase in petition signatories and the growing press attention to the petition and the problems it highlight leads one to believe that a positive change is imminent; however, this may not be the case. As well-known technology writer Glyn Moody recently noted, this is not the first (or the biggest) attempt that a collective effort to change the business model of scholarly publishing. In 2001, 34,000 scientists signed onto a letter put forward by the founders of the Public Library of Science calling for the establishment of an online public library that would provide the full contents of the published record of research and scholarly discourse. Many of those same signers pledged to boycott those publishers who did not participate in this endeavor, but very few actually followed through with their boycott pledge. Going back even further, when the Internet was created in 1991, it was for the stated purpose of better facilitating scientific communication and the dissemination of scientific research. “Put another way, the Web was designed to disrupt scientific publishing.” Finally, if change in Elsevier’s (or any similarly operating publisher) business practices does not occur, what “collateral damage” may occur as a result of a boycott, and is this damage something we are prepared to deal with?
I fully support open-access, as a librarian, an author, and a tax-payer. I do not condone the practices of the Elseviers of the world. I believe that change can occur through collective action. However, we need to be mindful of what efforts may truly be needed to bring about the desired result and what consequences may exist if that desired result occurs.
The idiom “no good deed goes unpunished” has never felt truer. Lately, it seems that libraries and universities have made more hash marks on their legal scorecard in the lose column than they have in the win column. In this past year, the Second Circuit undermined the first sale doctrine rights of libraries, a federal court held a trial in Georgia that could determine the bounds of fair use with respect to electronic course reserves, and several authors groups have now filed a lawsuit against Hathi Trust and others engaged in the preservation of orphan works. However, a small victory came in a California federal court this week in the case against UCLA for its video streaming practices.
Last December, the Association of Information Media Equipment (AIME) filed suit against several UCLA officials and employees, including members of library and media lab staff, for copyright infringement after UCLA digitized and streamed DVDs produced by Ambrose Video. AIME asserted it had standing to file this action as an association representing its members, which includes Ambrose Video. In granting the UCLA officials’ motion to dismiss, the court disagreed. Because AIME is not the holder of any of the copyrights at issue in the case, it lacked standing to bring the action. “Having the rights over a copyright is essential to establishing a copyright infringement claim” the court stated in its order; thus, participation of an individual member who was also owner of one of the copyrighted films at issue in the suit, was required. Additionally, the court determined that the UCLA Regents and other officials were immune, under the 11th Amendment, from suit in their official capacities (although not necessarily in their individual capacities, the court pointed out). These two grounds for dismissal could similarly prove fatal for the recently filed action against Hathi Trust and several state universities. It will be interesting to see if the inclusion of a couple individually named authors (and presumably copyright holders), who are also members of the named author associations, will save that action on the question of standing.
The remainder of the ruling on the motion to dismiss concerned more substantive issues; although by no means was there any legally determinative interpretation of fair use or other elements of copyright law. Hence, why the victory here is a small one. For me, the most curious point of this section of the ruling was the court’s characterization of the license to publicly perform the copyrighted work. The court held, although without much discussion or justification in the existing body of law, that the copying of the DVD onto the UCLA server for streaming was that kind of “incidental copying” permitted by fair use. That is, in order to make use of its license to publicly perform the film, UCLA had to place the content onto its network. Although I have not seen the full text of the license entered into between UCLA and Ambrose, I have, in my time as a collection development director, read, negotiated, and executed many a public performance and streaming license. In nearly all the ones I have encountered, the streaming of a film is treated as a separate license from the one to publicly perform a film. In fact, some public performance licenses (whether it be a separate document included with the DVD purchase or a click through on the online shopping cart when purchasing a DVD) expressly exclude streaming for remote access or distance learning. Further, if the viewing of the streamed copy is done by a student in the privacy of his own home or dorm room and not by a class in a group setting, is this really a “public” performance? As such, I would caution libraries and universities from relying too heavily upon this court’s interpretation of public performance and instead turn to the language of the institution’s own agreement.
For UCLA, the ruling is certainly a victory. AIME has until the 17th of October to refile the case, and I predict that unless they have an individual copyright holder to join in the matter as well as substantial evidence to make a case against the named defendants in their individual capacities such a refiling will not occur. For the rest of us who have been sitting patiently waiting for a ruling in this matter, the case is neither a victory nor a loss, for there still remains unanswered questions regarding the fair use of streamed media in distance education.
With classes back in session at most American universities and colleges, students may be looking for note taking or studying shortcuts to ease them through the semester. The sharing of course notes, lecture recordings, and exam copies has become more than a friendly gesture by former students; it has become a growing commercial enterprise by brick and mortar and online entities. A couple years ago the web site Course Hero began to attract scrutiny from teachers and administrators when it offered to students a monthly subscription to access its vast repository of uploaded course materials (or earn credits for access in exchange for uploading their own materials). Secondary to the concerns of academic integrity was the concern that the intellectual property rights of professors had been violated. Many educators are concerned that their original and creative work product, such as stylized lecture slides, detailed course handouts, and well-prepared syllabi, are being made available without their knowledge or permission. Course Hero, by its own admission, does not police content uploaded to its site. Rather it relies, much like You Tube, upon the vigilance of copyright holders to file with the company a take-down request pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. To help counter the problem, universities have adopted policies prohibiting students from sharing course materials or have devised informational sites for faculty to assist them in locating infringing downloads and requesting take-down.
To date, no litigation has arose as a result of Course Hero or sites like it. However, a copyright infringement action is pending in a Florida district court concerning the sharing of course information and may answer the question of whether sharing of course materials actually qualifies as fair use. The lawsuit was filed after the lecture outlines and film study questions prepared by a University of Florida professor were copied and packeted for resale by a local copy shop. The professor had transferred his copyrights in the materials to a publisher, who filed the infringement action. This past June, the district court ruled on the cross motions for summary judgment. Recognizing that the text materials were protected by copyright, the district court denied the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the infringement claims on the ground that questions of fact for a jury existed as to whether the copying constituted fair use. The court wrote:
Works that are original, fictional, and unpublished enjoy more protection than works that are derivative, factual, and published. [The] works as a whole are derivative, factual, and published. Furthermore, his film study questions and practice questions are factual compilations. Copyright protection extends only to the selection and arrangement, not to the underlying facts themselves, and “[t]his inevitably means that the copyright in a factual compilation is thin.” Feist. 499 U.S. at 349…Other factors in determining fair use include the purpose and character of the use, the amount and substantiality of the portion used, and the effect of the use on the market or value of the copyrighted work. 17 U.S.C. § 107. The parties have presented various arguments for and against a finding of fair use. Genuine issues of material fact remain for a jury to determine regarding fair use.
The outcome of this case, much like the outcome in the Georgia State e-reserves lawsuit, has the potential to greatly impact our understanding and application of fair use. It will also impact the validity of sites like Course Hero and any other entity profiting from the sharing of course materials. (Note – the work for hire doctrine is not at issue in this case, even though a university as employer could claim copyright ownership in course materials because the university in the case had already disclaimed any interest in these materials.)
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.