It’s been a while since I spoke with the inimitable Kyle K. Courtney, 2015 LJ Mover and Shaker, “Harvard Hero” (for his work on copyright), and the organizer of the Copyright First Responder (CFR) program at Harvard, among many, many other roles. With Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week upon us (Feb. 22–26), it seems like a good time to see what developments have taken place in Kyle’s universe since last we chatted in 2013.
Cheryl LaGuardia: Any updates about the CFR Program? (This program is a godsend to those of us who are library liaisons to multiple, large departments—having in-house, trained experts to whom we can refer copyright questions is my idea of heaven, compared to not having such experts available, which was copyright hell).
Kyle Courtney: We have graduated our second cohort of CFRs, and are preparing for our third cohort this summer. By mid-2016 we will have 45 Copyright First Responders at the Harvard Libraries. We have learned a lot from the first two cohorts, and are actively engaging different parts of the library than traditional “front line” positions. We have expanded the CFR program to include library staff working in case study programs, innovation labs, digitization departments, collection development, metadata experts, and others. From all accounts, this has been a great opportunity for learning and connecting with colleagues across the University. We have helped hundreds of students, faculty, and staff with questions. We are even integrated into some departments’ beginning of the year training and documentation. Add to that our outreach programs, copyright roundtables, and National Fair Use Week, and we feel the program has been very successful. Additionally, since we have been asked many times, we are releasing a Best Practices for CFR Guide.
CL: This past June, the Register of Copyrights released Orphan Works and Mass Digitization: A Report of the Register of Copyrights. Could you give us some of your thoughts about what effect this report is going to have on libraries?
KC: I am hoping that this report has little to no impact on library work. Save a few minor details, [it] was the same tired and ill-founded recommendations from the 2008 report. In fact, they merely updated and renamed the recommended legislation, which didn’t pass in 2008 and certainly will not pass in the current Congress. I do not believe, and many librarians agree, that there is a legislative solution to the issue. What I did not like in the report was the backhanded attacks on library-created best practices and ill-advised statements about fair use. The Copyright Office, I believe, is really showing [its] anti-library bias. (Some of this may come from the fact the Copyright Office is trying to break free from the Library of Congress this year).
Here at [the Office of Scholarly Communication (OSC)], however, we are pursuing a real solution to the orphan works problem. The OSC’s Orphan Works Project is an attempt to solve the legal complexities of the orphan works problem by identifying new lawful or low-risk ways to digitize and distribute orphan works under U.S. copyright law. The literature review to be published this spring is an attempt to find those new and lawful/low risk ways beyond what we have seen in the past. We want to clear the way for U.S. universities, libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions to digitize their orphan works and make the digital copies open access. Stay tuned this spring for more information on that exciting project.
CL: Can you tell us a bit about your work with HarvardX, the online learning platform?
KC: I was lucky enough to be at HarvardX in the beginning, right when [nonprofit massive open online course (MOOC) platform] edX was founded. I was at Harvard Law School Library then, but Suzanne Wones was kind enough to lend me over to HarvardX for 20 percent of my time to work on [its] intellectual property and copyright issues. Why? Well, in the traditional classroom model professors can play a movie, share an article, display a cartoon, or listen to music and these uses do not trigger any copyright problems. With this traditional model, issues are fairly well known, with appropriate policies in place, and copyright law provides guidance. However, a MOOC course disrupts these characteristics. Suddenly if you share a movie clip online, as part of a free, unaccredited course, you might be liable for copyright infringement. And because of the greater level of distribution (some MOOCs have 40,000 students), infringement penalties could be astronomical. My task then was to balance the two factors: minimize legal risk, while still doing the best teaching possible. You have to be able to use some copyrighted material for certain classes. How can you have a jazz class without any jazz? A Picasso class without seeing some Picasso? We had some work to do.
HarvardX didn’t even have offices then. We met weekly in my office, at the [Office of the General Counsel] OGC’s office, or on couches in the hallways above the Bank of America in Harvard Square. It was a true “startup” feel in those early days. I ended up working closely with general counsel to develop our MOOC Copyright guidelines.
Once they were completed, I trained (and continue to train) any and all staff on the copyright issues. HarvardX is one of the few organizations that, top to bottom, has been trained on and understands the copyright guidelines. Video editors, team leads, production assistants—they have all been trained. Additionally, I have been doing “copyright office hours” at HarvardX for the last two years. This has allowed me to further enhance our guidelines as new questions and methods of teaching with copyrighted materials are developed. HarvardX is now one of the most dynamic units on campus, with a full media studio, 30+ employees, and in full partnership with the Harvard Library.
Copyright was front and center in many early MOOC classes, and many libraries, ours included, have taken a lead in this area. I think this arrives naturally from our patrons’ knowledge of the role of libraries and resources. Where do the resources exist? At the library. We need articles and journals for courses: Ask the library. We need digital images for slides: Ask the library. The CFRs even lent a hand in the beginning. Many were trained on the copyright guidelines and, especially for classes emerging from the nine graduate schools, librarians were assigned to a MOOC and help advise on the guidelines, open source materials, public domain materials, and other questions about the library and its potential role in enhancing the MOOC. Yet again, Harvard Library working with the MOOCs was another successful form of outreach to a new, cutting edge unit at Harvard.
CL: I suspect that question segues into the question, how did your latest book, MOOCs and Libraries, come about?
KC: The book had a successful hardcover run, and is now available in paperback (and, of course, in ebook format as well). Because of all my work with HarvardX over the years, I noticed that there was not one book that truly talked about making a MOOC from “A to Z.” From my point of view, the library should be a critical partner in many of the MOOCs offered today. There are many potential roles for libraries in MOOCs including development, support, assessment, modeling, teaching, and preservation. Additionally, I was one of the few librarians in the U.S. that had been working with MOOCs from day one, so I was excited to share my experiences, lessons, and know-how in the book, which was relatively new to the library community. And, as I assert in more than one chapter, libraries should be looking to MOOCs as a potential form for our own outreach, from MOOC research classes to intra-library training. MOOCs can get a lot done on a small-to-medium budget, but the outcome is certainly greater digital outreach.
CL: Anything else in the works you’d like LJ readers to know about?
KC: The Third Annual Fair Use Week is coming. Fair Use Week is a weeklong event during which libraries, universities, museums, archives, and individuals raise awareness about fair use. I launched the inaugural event in 2014. After its success, [the Association of Research Libraries] ARL teamed up with me to help organize the Second Annual Fair Use Week with more promotion and participation among a broader set of institutions.
This year is even bigger! We have live-streamed events, Fair Use Certification classes, two new fair use comics, and I am giving two webinars and two keynotes from the Copyright Institute at [Florida State University] FSU.
You can follow much of what’s going on during Fair Use Week through the following channels:
Check out Twitter @FairUseWeek or #fairuseweek16
Tumblr: Fair Use Stories
Harvard’s Fair Use Week Blog
I almost forgot! we also released a HUGE State Copyright Project. I was part of an [American Library Association] ALA webinar on it: State Government Information and the Copyright Conundrum.
CL: That gives us plenty to think about for the near future, Kyle, and I’ll be in touch again to tap you for more copyright/library-related developments, especially the Orphan Works Project and the Best Practices for CFR Guide. Thanks so much for answering my questions.