Magazine article American Libraries

A Passion for Copyright: One Librarian's Love-Hate Relationship

Magazine article American Libraries

A Passion for Copyright: One Librarian's Love-Hate Relationship

Article excerpt

Copyright is a subject with which I believe most librarians have a love-hate relationship. I am mostly in the love-it camp, but not necessarily in the love-all-the-regulations-and-guidelines one. I enjoy immensely the detective-work aspect of finding the copyright owner and then requesting permission for use of a copyrighted work. Nothing makes my day more than having a faculty member talk to me about a publication for which permission is needed.

Yes, I know that puts me in a small minority of people and maybe even makes me appear weird. It can be frustrating when one reaches a dead end or permission is denied. But finding the copyright owner and writing for permission, then waiting for a response, is like waiting to see if I've won the lottery (okay, maybe it's not that exciting, but it's close).

Searching involves the digging -up and following of leads, culminating in the name of a copyright holder who may be contacted. Those searches are at the very heart of why I became a librarian. My entire career has been in academic libraries; and although I didn't start out as a pursuer of copyright, over the years, I gradually became the person who was contacted about most things copyright-related. Of course, I've always made it clear that I am not a copyright expert or a lawyer, but will do what I can to obtain permissions.

The worst part of the "game" is when the response comes back a definitive "no," even with a willingness to pay whatever fee might be assessed. Faculty are almost never happy about that answer. This is the "hate" part of copyright for me: when a faculty member is not attempting to circumvent the law or illegally use someone else's intellectual property, yet has to develop a Plan B. That is when I see and often hear their frustration.


I have found that most professors simply want to teach their students, often using supplemental readings. Most are willing to jump through whatever hoops are necessary, including monetary ones, to that end. …

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