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2/6/2013 3:17:48 PM

Book Review: Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals

Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals, by Laura N. Gasaway. Purdue University Press, 2013, 284 pages. Paperback, $24.95

You may be thinking, “My library already owns half-a-dozen books on copyright issues in libraries. Do we really need another?” Absolutely. Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals should be part of all academic law library reference collections for those specific questions for which you need a quick answer. It is accessible to all readers, regardless of whether or not one has any copyright law knowledge. Similar books tend toward in-depth summaries and explanations of copyright law that may still leave the reader at a loss as to how to address specific questions. Professor Gasaway’s book is quite the opposite, clearly and succinctly providing just enough explanation to enable the librarian to make an informed decision and move on.

The book is comprised of questions and answers compiled from Professor Gasaway’s column in the journal Against the Grain. Each chapter begins with a few paragraphs summarizing the legal issues addressed therein (e.g., library reserves, movies and music, photos, archives), then presents 25–30 copyright-related questions and answers. Because the questions are genuine rather than hypotheticals conceived of by the author, the scenarios presented will undoubtedly sound familiar. Question 148 in the book, for example, parallels a recent inquiry I had at the reference desk: “Two faculty members at the university teach film courses. They run evening showings of the films, followed by discussions, which are widely advertised to the public. Although this provides an opportunity for students to see the films, many people from the general public also attend. No public performance rights are obtained because the faculty members claim that the performances are a fair use. They use copies of the DVDs from the library’s collection for the performances, and many are recently released films. Should the university be concerned about liability for copyright infringement?” Professor Gasaway’s answer is decisive: “Absolutely!” While she does give a brief explanation as to why this is the case (including what factors might change her answer), the reader is left with a definitive answer regarding whether someone in the university should obtain public performance rights for the films or the films should no longer be shown to the public at large. Professor Gasaway’s style throughout the book is the same—in no case are you left to parse out various applications of the law. Instead, the reader’s task is simply to assess whether his or her facts are more or less like those presented in the book.

Unfortunately, this raises one of the drawbacks of the book. If the question hasn’t been raised by Against the Grain readers, Professor Gasaway hasn’t addressed it. Thus, if you do not think your fact pattern sufficiently matches any scenarios presented in the book, you may need to turn to a book with more in-depth copyright analysis, such as The Librarian’s Copyright Companion.

Second, the book is not one to which you’d turn to develop copyright policies for your library because it does not offer a particularly nuanced assessment of issues such as liability and risk. For example, in the scenario described above (faculty showing films acquired by the library), no guidance is offered concerning whether the library or faculty member would also be subject to liability. If the librarian responsible for setting copyright policies for the library has a more comprehensive understanding of the actual risk to the library in these circumstances, he or she could set library copyright policies accordingly. For example, library policy may explicitly state no faculty can borrow films that may be shown to the public—or may simply continue to loan films to all faculty members without inquiring further. For better or worse, the librarian in this situation would still need to turn to university legal counsel and other copyright texts for guidance in this area.

Despite the fact that Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals may not address the big, deep copyright issues that arise in your library, the breadth of information covered makes this book worthwhile. Sometimes you just want a “yes” or “no” answer to the question, “Can we do X in the library?”

Ingrid Mattson is a Reference Librarian at Moritz Law Library, Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University.

Posted By Ingrid Mattson at 2/6/2013 3:17:48 PM  0 Comments
1/10/2013 2:31:47 PM

An Idea, Some Books, and a Desk

In 2010, Perkins Coie LLP began the process of remodeling our Seattle office. I knew that the library would lose its fantastic corner reading room on the 42nd floor and about 30% of our square footage. Though we would discard some print products, we also planned to expand our electronic collection, which would increase access beyond Seattle into our other offices. And though we often speak of the library as a service rather than a place, I felt strongly about keeping our physical space and creating a comfortable environment that attorneys could use in lieu of their offices. Early in the design process, a photo of a library reference desk built from books was circulating through various library blogs. As I oversaw the disposal of thousands of linear feet of books, I wondered if we could do something similar. The library committee supported the project, and the proposal moved its way through the approval process. At each point, the project met with overwhelming excitement.

The firm invited several artists to submit proposals for the project. From those, we commissioned the artist team SuttonBeresCuller to create a reference desk for the main library that used recycled materials from the library’s collection. The inventive design relies on law books as structural and conceptual building blocks and incorporates light to suggest the illuminating power of the law and the changing way we obtain information. The glass top is etched with pages from landmark American court cases as well as important cases from Perkins Coie’s own history.

As is often the case, the creative process was more difficult than anticipated. We started with a standard office desk, and the artist team created a “book skin” to wrap around it. The books had to be placed together to fit within the shape and dimensions of the desk. The corners were especially difficult. Once completed, the pieces were then moved from the studio and installed in the library. Since the desk is front-heavy, we bolted it to the floor. The addition of a black steel support for the glass top further ensures its stability. The final result is simply stunning and demonstrates the firm’s commitment to art and knowledge. The vibrant book binding colors in conjunction with the brightly colored lights provide a beautiful contrast to our dark winter days.

Artists John Sutton, Ben Beres and Zac Culler have worked collaboratively since 1999. Their work has been exhibited extensively in gallery and performance spaces throughout the Northwest and often takes the art experience beyond the confines of the gallery via public works, street actions, and site-specific temporary installations. View a series of time-lapse photos of the desk construction here.

Amy Eaton
Seattle Library Manager
Perkins Coie LLP

Posted By Amy Eaton at 1/10/2013 2:31:47 PM  0 Comments
6/29/2012 9:29:57 AM

Book Review—Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators, Crews, Kenneth D., Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators, 3rd Edition. Chicago, IL, American Library Association, 2012, 192 pages inclusive of appendices and index. Softcover, $57, ISBN 978-0-8

The stated purpose of Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators“ is to provide a basis for understanding and working with the copyright issues of central importance to education, librarianship, and scholarship.” (p. xii)  Mission accomplished!  Kenneth Crews has written an excellent resource, providing effective strategies for both librarians and educators to use to address the complex copyright issues that arise in schools, libraries and other educational settings without sacrificing the teaching and scholarship needs of their patrons.  This book is a must have for all library types.

Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators takes the reader on a “graceful and systematic walk through the principles and functioning of copyright.” (p.1).  It is the authors hope that by reflecting on the entire copyright path from beginning to end, the reader will find various steps along the way that will lead to a more direct and easier answers to their questions and encourage a move away from the often relied upon, and complicated concept of fair use. As such, Part One of this book, The Reach of Copyright, addresses the basics of copyright protections, while Part Two, Rights of Ownership, discusses who owns the copyright, how these determinations are made, and the rights of the copyright owner.  Part Three provides an in-depth discussion of the law’s fair use exception.  In this section the author painstakingly walks the reader through the importance of fair use in the growth of knowledge, the language of the statute, and the four factors used to determine whether the exception applies.  In the final chapter in this section, the author applies the fours factors to common scenarios that arise in the academic and library settings.  In Part Four of the book, Focus on Education and Libraries, the author examines the TEACH Act, Section 108 provisions and how changes in technology, the rise of distance education, and other classroom innovations have affected the application of traditional copyright principles in these non-traditional settings.  Part Five, the Special Features section, discusses the complexities encountered when dealing with musical compositions and sound recordings, the DMCA and its anti-circumvention features, the law’s application to unpublished materials and archives, and obtaining permissions from copyright owners.

From beginning to end, there are many extra features in this book, when used in combination with its straight-forward, clearly written text, makes this an excellent resource on this topic.  They provide the reader with a wealth of information that can be used to clarify the points the author is making in the text.  First, most chapters begin with a list of “key points” the author hopes to convey, making it clear from the beginning which aspects of the law will be explained in that chapter.  Then, throughout the chapter, the reader will find boxes that provide citation to relevant cases, references to other chapters in the book for more detailed explanations, hypotheticals applying the law, and extensive end notes at the chapter’s conclusion.  All of this allows the reader to see how these concepts have been applied both by the courts and in common library and academic situations, making it easier to understand the complexities of this area of law. 

Furthermore, the appendices provided by the author are also very useful.  The first is selected portions of the Copyright Act the reader can refer to while going through the text of the book.  Next are several checklists the reader can use to help apply various aspects of the law.  There is a checklist to make fair use determinations; a checklist for applying the TEACH ACT requirements; and checklists for libraries to use when making preservation or replacement copies, or copies for a private study.  Finally, the author provides a model letter for permission requests, a guide to additional readings on this topic, and a subject index.  This book is more than just theory.  It also focuses on the practical implications of the law and provides the tools librarians and educators need to make informed decisions about the use of the material.

Overall, this is an excellent resource and a must-have for anyone who deals with copyright issues in libraries and educational settings.  The author has succeeded in providing a clear path for the reader that will enable her to make decisions that comply with the spirit of the copyright laws while protecting the interests of the copyright holders.

Posted By Christine Iaconeta at 6/29/2012 9:29:57 AM  0 Comments