Copyright Information

As the library person in your organization, you are often going to be the expert in copyright.

Don’t panic!

Check out some of this information, and see if it can answer your questions. If you get stuck, you can always contact us at CMLE Headquarters and we can help you answer questions.

For some quick basics, check out our “Linking Our Libraries” podcast episode on copyright!


Tools for Working with Copyrighted Material

  • MUSO materials: “MUSO is an online anti-piracy system that provides an end-to-end solution for your online piracy needs. MUSO enables rights holders or creators of content within the music, film, publishing, and software industries to remove illegal copies of their works quickly and effectively from the Internet”
  • Retail Print Music Dealers Association: “RPMDA is the unified voice of the print music industry. Our members are active in local, state and national organizations, constantly taking in the market’s pulse. Our collective voice is heard on such issues as copyright protection, barcoding, the Internet, digital media and arts advocacy.”
  • MTNA Copyright Guidelines for Music Teachers “Music teachers confront copyright issues on a daily basis. For that reason, MTNA has assembled this Q&A piece on copyright issues that often arise for music teachers. This article addresses copyright law in general, the doctrines of fair use and public domain music, the educational use of copyrighted musical works, and recitals and recordings.”


Copyright in Academic/Research Institutions


Helping Our Patrons

  • Someone Stole Your Design? 3 Ways to Fight Back:It can be tough for a regular person to fight back against someone who has taken her material. This article gives three strategies a small business owner, or individual, can take to protect his copyright – including law school clinics who may be able to provide some assistance (if you live in their state).  As LIS professionals, we need to be ready to help our patrons to protect their copyright, as well as protecting the rights of copyright owners from our patrons potential misuse. It’s a tough job! (Fortunately, LIS professionals are awesome and wonderful – so all is well there!)
    • Indiana University’s copyright tutorial for faculty and staff; seems to be aimed at people who have been caught violating copyright law and need remedial work, but could be for everyone
    • Now here is IU’s actual training program – complete with an offer to do in-person training. Click around through these links. By now, the content should start to sound familiar (though there are always new and good things to learn!); how well do you think this addresses a general “learn about copyright” issue? Are you going to work in an academic environment? Definitely check out “Copyright for Instructors.” How are you going to be proactive about reaching out to this group of potential (frequent) violators?
    • We look at the material from Columbia University on copyright, with various issues covered here. Again, click around and see what kind of information is provided, as well as looking to see what you think of the presentation
    • Music librarians may face frequent copyright questions; a slew of them are addressed here!
    • Infographics can be a good way to grab people’s attention; what do you think about these? Content? Format? What works for you? What does not?
    • I like this – and it was started by a Simmons grad! “Embedded in each library, archive, or department, Copyright First Responders will develop information expertise, create a collaborative network of support among their peers involved with copyright issues, both locally and across the library, and serve as a resource for the Harvard community by answering copyright questions and sharing critical knowledge.”




    Information on creating training programs




Copyright and 3D Printers

  • Does Copyright and Trademark Law Protect 3D Printing? “3D printing is going to revolutionize the consumer products industry, with everyday products like toys and auto parts being sold by independent 3D printers. 3D printing production will make waves across the industry, lowering the price of most consumer goods sold in the market. But is 3D printing necessarily a good thing? In an industry that’s so unregulated, are designers safe from having their designs pirated and sold without compensation?”
  • What Does Copyright Law Say About 3D Printing? “The 3D printing revolution seems to have brought about substantial changes to the way people are now manufacturing things. With 3D printers becoming more affordable and more widely available, it seemed for a while that the innovations were merely taking off. However, a recent government decision put a hamper on this surging and utterly exciting technological advancement.”
  • Understanding Why the Copyright Office is Looking into 3D Printing “For much of this year, the US Copyright Office has been looking into 3D printing. Recently, I feel some commenters here at have fundamentally misunderstood the proceeding and confused it with unrelated items in the news. As the author of the petition before the Copyright Office, it seemed worth taking a moment to explain what is (and is not) happening at the Copyright Office.”


Copyright in History

  • A timeline of copyright regulations in the US, to give you some ideas of the statutes and case laws that have changed and regulated copyright
  • This is a somewhat biased site – it has a point of view on copyright that is not neutral; but the information is interesting, and you can read it with an eye toward information literacy skills/critical thinking. What information can you see about the content the site is trying to share? What are you learning about the site’s perspective? Both can be useful in building your own skills.
  • Copyright: Forever Less One Day” video giving a quick look at history of copyright (dialog is faaaasssst!)
  • Click through the tabs here to get a picture of the history of copyright. Note that there is a tab for International issues; in this class we are looking solely at copyright from the US perspective, but it is important to understand that every country has their own laws on copyright, and they may be wildly different from ours!
  • I like this site because it has some good information; but it is aimed a high school teachers, so not only presents content, but also give some instruction ideas. I am including it here to help you think about copyright, and also to think about copyright instruction.


Copyright in Federal Law

  • Here is our beloved Title 17, the home of copyright! I am going to guess you will not be reading through this entire thing. (Copyright attorneys may have read the whole thing, but I wouldn’t swear to it.) But this gives you a good breakdown of the different parts of the law, so you can see things that will be relevant to the work you are doing.
  • Copyright Slider: I love this resource, because it so helpfully gives you quick information/guidance on whether or not a work is under copyright. Slide the arrow up and down, and prepare to have you mind blown by the insane levels of complication! (It makes me feel very grateful this, and other good resources, exist to help!)
  • “The Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition (the “Compendium” or “Third Edition”) is the administrative manual of the Register of Copyrights concerning Title 17 of the United States Code and Chapter 37 of the Code of Federal Regulations. It provides instruction to agency staff regarding their statutory duties and provides expert guidance to copyright applicants, practitioners, scholars, the courts, and members of the general public regarding institutional practices and related principles of law. See 37 C.F.R. § 201.2(b)(7).”
  • The section of title 17 relevant to libraries/archives making copies of material – very handy!
  •  A couple of quick looks at orphan works: “”Orphan Works” probably comprise the majority of the record of 20th century culture. These works are still presumably under copyright (only works published before 1923 are conclusively in the public domain), but the copyright owner cannot be found.” The Copyright office recognizes the big problem of orphan works: “The Office has long shared the concern with many in the copyright community that the uncertainty surrounding the ownership status of orphan works does not serve the objectives of the copyright system.”
  • Commentary on the “Mickey Mouse Curve” to copyright protection.  [My own commentary: Yes – people who have lots of money for expensive lawyers will always be able to sway the creation/extension of laws! We will generally be discussing copyright law as a neutral body, and it sort of is. But understand that Disney’s corporate interests are very much driving the laws that affect all creators and users of any content.]
  • “What Could Have Entered the Public Domain on January 1, 2015? Under the law that existed until 1978 . . . Works from 1958”  Interesting article on material that would have been freely available to all of us to read, watch, share, and enjoy…but isn’t; this includes science articles that are still hidden behind paywalls – what are we missing? It is hard to even know!
  • The Digital Millennium Copyright Act “This memorandum summarizes briefly each title of the DMCA. It provides merely an overview of the law’s provisions; for purposes of length and readability a significant amount of detail has been omitted.”
  • “Research finds copyright confusion has ‘chilling effects’ in online creative publishing”
  • “Chilling Effects is an independent 3rd party research project studying cease and desist letters concerning online content. We collect and analyze complaints about online activity, especially requests to remove content from online. Our goals are to educate the public, to facilitate research about the different kinds of complaints and requests for removal–both legitimate and questionable–that are being sent to Internet publishers and service providers, and to provide as much transparency as possible about the “ecology” of such notices, in terms of who is sending them and why, and to what effect.”


Fair Use, Open Access, and Other Possible Modifications of the Law

    • Breakdown of the codification of fair use in the law, with a searchable index of case law. Here is a press release about it:
    • Creative Commons “Our free, easy-to-use copyright licenses provide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work — on conditions of your choice. CC licenses let you easily change your copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.” Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright and enable you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs.”
    • Licensing copyrighted music is certainly possible, but some politicians miss that basic idea – and it can be pretty embarrassing to make these mistakes out in public!  [Disclaimer: I split my time between Wisconsin and Boston, and I have a passionate hatred for the policies of my Wisconsin governor, so this appealed to me!]
    • Open Access Materials
      • Video of “Open Access Explained” by the creator of PHD Comics “What is open access? Nick Shockey and Jonathan Eisen take us through the world of open access publishing and explain just what it’s all about.”
      • “We engage and invest in research in order to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery, encourage innovation, enrich education, and stimulate the economy – to improve the public good.  Communication of the results of research is an essential component of the research process; research can only advance by sharing the results, and the value of an investment in research is only maximized through wide use of its results.”
      • “PLOS applies the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license to works we publish. This license was developed to facilitate open access – namely, free immediate access to, and unrestricted reuse of, original works of all types. Under this license, authors agree to make articles legally available for reuse, without permission or fees, for virtually any purpose. Anyone may copy, distribute or reuse these articles, as long as the author and original source are properly cited. Additionally, the journal platform that PLOS uses to publish research articles is Open Source.”
      • “This is an introduction to open access (OA) for those who are new to the concept. I hope it’s short enough to read, long enough to be useful, and organized to let you skip around and dive into detail only where you want detail. It doesn’t cover every nuance or answer every objection. But for those who read it, it should cover enough territory to prevent the misunderstandings that delayed progress in our early days.”
      • “The Harvard Open Access Project (HOAP) fosters the growth of open access to research, within Harvard and beyond, using a combination of consultation, collaboration, community-building, and direct assistance.”
      •  Yay, a whole week of celebration!  Oct 19-25, 2105 – add it to your calendars now, and get ready to break out your orange to celebrate access to information!!


New Frontiers in Copyright

  • Copyright in Second Life
    • A while ago, I watched an interesting documentary on Second Life; in one of the stories a woman was a clothing designer, and sued someone else for copyright infringement for stealing her designs. (“Life 2.0” – it was a little strange, and I can’t say I really enjoyed it; but I was interested in this aspect!)
    • It looks like there have been a few of these cases, and I’m posting a few links below. I was struck in the articles I read (more than I posted here) by the “ha, ha – aren’t these people silly for doing this, and for trying to say it’s real” tone many writers took in writing up the articles. The tendency to be dismissive of technologies – and the people who use them – by people who don’t actually know about them, and don’t use them, is extremely frustrating to me. We are at the beginning of an explosion of new kinds of tech as major parts of our lives; from this point in history onward things are going to be very different than they have ever been for humanity. We are barely getting into this, so teething pains are inevitable! Being snotty about the choices different people take seems like a poor choice for a reaction.
    • The need for copyright suits seems completely obvious to me; whether or not the authors (not involved in Second Life) understand what is involved, the time and effort people have put into building things is important. And, we are just at the beginning of virtual reality and alternate reality as augmented by technology; it seems like a good thing to apply some law and not let things start off in anarchy that would have to be fixed later. Second Life itself is unlikely to be the future of humanity – but some form of virtual/augmented reality is likely to be a big part of our lives over time. Thinking about it now may help us to be good at things later!
    • Litigating Trademark And Copyright Cases In The Metaverse (2012)
    • Copyright Suit Over Second Life Terraforming Survives Summary Judgment, Then Settles — FireSabre v. Linden  (2014)



A Few Library/Archive Resources


Copyright Document Examples

Jordan Certificate of Copyright Registration the US Copyright Office: Just as an FYI, so you can see what they look like, this is my Certificate for my dissertation.  No one is likely to go bananas trying to steal this; but they offered to do it (for a fee!) and I felt extremely self-important registering my work! It’s not too exciting looking, but if anyone is looking for me later after this becomes an Orphan (and I’m long dead) they will have a head start on tracking down my heirs to get permission to copy my work! 🙂 Like almost all academic work, however – after a very short time no one has any financial value in this; so making these kinds of works freely available would be in the public interest.

Jordan Taylor and Francis copyright document I’m not picking on T&F as either wonderful or terrible – I just happen to have their items hanging around at hand. This is a pretty standard author’s agreement that you would sign to get published in an academic journal.

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