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The AALL Spectrum® blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. Previously, the AALL Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.

The AALL Spectrum blog is no longer published. Previous posts are archived on this page.
5/8/2013 11:49:09 AM

Book Review: The Librarian's Copyright Companion, 2nd Edition

James S. Heller, Paul Hellyer, & Benjamin Keele,  The Librarian’s Copyright Companion, 2nd Edition (Buffalo, NY: William S. Hein & Co., Inc., 2012), 324 pp., incl. appendices and index.  Paperback, $49.00, ISBN: 978-0-8377-3872-7.

This book, an update of 2004’s first edition, was authored by three academic law librarians, all of whom hold both law and library degrees.  Each of the eight chapters from the first edition has been updated, and a ninth chapter on the library as publisher has been added.  There are also sixteen appendices that range from suggested online copyright resources to model policies to selected provisions from Title 17 of the USC.  If your library staff has any interest in creating or updating policies related to copyright, the convenience of the appendices alone is probably enough to justify purchasing this title, since it contains many of the resources that a well-informed librarian would want to consider in creating institutional copyright norms.

Law firm librarians may find this title especially appealing.  The authors explicitly address issues from the perspectives of not only government or academic libraries, which are favored by the principles of fair use, but also private libraries, where the boundaries of copyright can be more restrictive.  This book provides commentary on specific hypothetical situations that librarians in many kinds of libraries might face – a refreshing approach, as library-centric copyright scholarship tends to focus on academic and public libraries.

Although The Librarian’s Copyright Companion is organized in a way that makes it easy to look up specific topics in copyright, it reads more as a treatise than as a reference resource; ideas introduced in one section are referred to in later ones, making it difficult to take a section out of context for quick answers to specific questions.  However, as an introduction to copyright for librarians or as a refresher for those who aren’t up to date on recent developments, it works very nicely.  Some particularly helpful organizational choices are the inclusion of  “The Bottom Line,” a concluding note at the end of some sections that summarizes more complex legal issues; Question and Answer sections on topics of frequent interest; and Comments on examples, offering suggestions and opinions when black letter law is not available.

 The tone is conversational, with occasional quippy comments and creative examples that generally make the book more engaging (although this reviewer will admit to being a little distracted by the apparent classification of Rhett Butler as a “northern gunrunner”[1]).  The text (minus appendices) is a quick but comprehensive overview at 185 pages—a very readable length as it allows enough depth to explore certain topics in sufficient detail while not bogging the reader down with tangential issues.  Overall, this title provides helpful information for both copyright novices and those more seasoned in the subject, and while applicable to libraries in general, it is especially relevant to law libraries of all kinds.  Recommended.

Andrea Alexander is a reference librarian and assistant professor at Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law's Taggart Law Library.

[1] Pg. 5.  Actually, Rhett Butler was from Charleston and brought many supplies besides guns across the blockades.  Therefore, classifying him as “northern” is incorrect, and “gunrunner” is unnecessarily narrow.  This reviewer is vaguely embarrassed to have read Gone With the Wind so many times as a child that she knew these specific details off the top of her head. 

Posted By Andrea Alexander at 5/8/2013 11:49:09 AM  0 Comments
10/16/2012 11:48:11 AM

Breach of Confidence: Social Origins and Modern Developments

Breach of Confidence: Social Origins and Modern Developments

By Megan Richardson, Michael Bryan, Martin Vranken, and Katy Barnett


Edward Elgar Publishing Limited

170 pages


Available on Amazon for U.S. $110

As the title implies, this monograph is a tour through the history and development of the law concerning breach of confidence. The authors take us on a survey of domestic cases from common law countries stretching from the 1700s to current day, international law, and leading treatises. This title would be a good addition to any collection that supports historical legal research, particularly in the areas of privacy, intellectual property, and employment law. It would also be helpful, not just for law libraries, but for the libraries of educational institutions that offer various professional degrees.

The authors, all of whom are associated with University of Melbourne, give a good multinational perspective on their subject. Megan Richardson is a Professor of Law at the University of Melbourne and Co-Director of the Centre for Media and Communications Law. Michael Bryan is an Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Melbourne. He specializes in restitution, equity, trusts and commercial law. Martin Vranken is a Reader in Law at the University of Melbourne. He is primarily a labour lawyer. Katy Barnett is a Lecturer in Law at the University of Melbourne. She was awarded her PhD in 2010 and has previously published regarding breach of contract.

The authors trace the doctrine of breach of confidence from equity to tort law in England, the development of trade secrets and privacy torts in the United States, and a sort of sui generis privacy law in Canada and New Zealand. The book is arranged chronologically. We are informed how the doctrine’s beginnings are shaped by small business, private and domestic relations, and master-servant dealings typical of the time period, up through the modern urbanized capitalist society. As society shifts, so does the doctrine of breach of confidence. Along the way, much thinking is borrowed from the principles of contract law, privacy and publicity rights, public interest exceptions, freedom of speech, and whistle-blowing.

No matter how the doctrine shifts, it persists. It is shaped and applied in varying ways according to the time and culture in which it is used. But one thing is sure, breach of confidence is just as crucial a concept to us now in our information based, 24/7, instant news society as it has ever been. It is more important now than in any other time in history that we both protect information privacy and also insure access to information. The correct balance is the key, and these authors give us much to think about.

The text is presented in eight chapters. In addition there are eight pages of index and an appendix containing a table of both English and American cases. The appendix presents a chronological collection of cases including the case citation, subject matter, and digest for each. This is a great tool for the legal practitioner who wishes to use this text as a reference.

Wanita Scroggs

International Law Librarian

Stetson University, College of Law

Posted By Wanita Scroggs at 10/16/2012 11:48:11 AM  0 Comments