Principles for Licensing Electronic Resources

Information Outlook, November 1997 | Go to article overview
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Principles for Licensing Electronic Resources

The following is an excerpted report of a document developed by the U.S. library community to provide guidance in negotiating with information licensors. SLA and other library associations created this document so that their respective memberships might review and/or make use of them for one year. In July 1998, the document will be considered for permanent endorsement. The complete document is available on the Web at

In the electronic environment where the traditional print practice of ownership through purchase is being replaced by access through license, libraries need to be aware that licensing arrangements may restrict their legal rights and those of their users. As responsible agents for an organization, librarians must negotiate licenses that address the organization's needs and recognize its obligations to the licensor.

To help provide guidance in this continuously evolving environment, the American library community has combined to develop a statement of principles. The intent of this document is two-fold: to guide libraries in negotiating license agreements for access to electronic resources; to provide licensors with a sense of the issues of importance to libraries and their user communities in such negotiations.

1. A license agreement should state clearly what access rights are being acquired by the licensee - permanent use of the content or access rights only for a defined period of time.

2. A license agreement should recognize and not restrict or abrogate the rights of the licensee or its user community permitted under copyright law. The licensee should make clear to the licensor those uses critical to its particular users including, but not limited to, printing, downloading, and copying.

3. A license agreement should recognize the intellectual property rights of both the licensee and the licensor.

4. A license agreement should not hold the licensee liable for unauthorized uses of the licensed resource by its users, as long as the licensee has implemented reasonable and appropriate methods to notify its user community of use restrictions.

5. The licensee should be willing to undertake reasonable and appropriate methods to enforce the terms of access to a licensed resource.

6. A license agreement should fairly recognize those access enforcement obligations which the licensee is able to implement without unreasonable burden. Enforcement must not violate the privacy and confidentiality of authorized users.

7. The licensee should be responsible for establishing policies that create an environment in which authorized users make appropriate use of licensed resources and for carrying out due process when it appears that a use may violate the agreement.

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Principles for Licensing Electronic Resources


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