April 2, 2015

Copyright and Fair Use

Kyle Courtney | Movers & Shakers 2015 — Change Agents

Kyle Courtney

Kyle Courtney is infectiously enthusiastic—about copyright law, MOOCs, open access, Harvard’s Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) (“we are a nimble, technologically awesome library unit”), and especially his Copyright First Responders (CFRs), a cohort of 14 volunteer librarians assembled to serve as the first line of defense for the ever-growing number of copyright questions fielded by Harvard libraries. CFRs spent spring and summer 2014 attending Courtney’s Copyright Immersion Program, learning about copyright fundamentals, fair use, public domain, open access, and more.

Can We Strengthen our Fragile Public Domain? | Peer to Peer Review

Kevin L. Smith

Each year the copyright community celebrates January 1 as “Public Domain Day.” That is because a convenient fiction included in most nations’ copyright laws says that if a work’s term of protection expired during the previous year, it officially enters the public domain on the following January 1st. Instead of having to figure out the exact day of an author’s death, and having different works enter the public domain each day, we just save them all up, so that all the works whose term expired in 2014 (i.e., all works whose authors died 70 years earlier, in 1944) entered the public domain on New Year’s Day 2015. At least, they did in most other countries, but not in the U.S.

Making Creative Copyright Law | Peer to Peer Review

Kevin L. Smith

One of the most troubling attitudes I encounter when talking with librarians about copyright is a sort of fatalism. The general idea is that copyright is simply a monolithic, unintelligible barricade that prevents libraries from realizing their full potential.

Copyright Incentives in the GSU Appeals Court Ruling | Peer to Peer Review

Kevin L. Smith

The word “incentive” appears ten times in the ruling issued last month by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in the Georgia State University (GSU) copyright infringement case, but it is slightly unclear in this rather odd opinion just who is the object of the incentive created by copyright. In seven of those ten instances, the incentive is clearly intended to benefit the author. But there are three sentences at the very end of the majority opinion (the other three uses of the word) where the court seems to interrupt its analysis to state that the incentive belongs to publishers, not authors. It is, I think, worth parsing this apparent contradiction in order to guess at how the trial court might think about incentives on remand.

Court Reverses Ruling on Publishers vs. Georgia State E-Reserve Case

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On October 17 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta unanimously reversed the District Court’s ruling on the Publishers v. Georgia State University (GSU) Fair Use Case.

Hard Cases Make Bad Law | Peer to Peer Review

Kevin L. Smith

The legal adage that hard cases make bad law apparently has deep roots in English common law, and it was cited in a Supreme Court decision by no less a Justice than Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Its applicability has been disputed over the years, but in recent weeks we have seen the truth of the maxim illustrated in some copyright debates. Colleagues have recently sent me two different stories where the extremes of copyright law are in play—hard cases, I suppose. Both offer confirmation that when the facts are really well outside the realm of normal expectations, people can draw very bad legal conclusions. But both also offer opportunities to remind ourselves of fundamental truths about law, journalism, and copyright.

Asserting Rights We Don’t Have: Libraries and “Permission To Publish” | Peer to Peer Review

Rick Anderson

In late June, a minor brouhaha erupted when the library at the University of Arkansas suspended reporters from the Washington Free Beacon, an online newspaper, from using its special collections. The reason given by library administrators was that on multiple occasions the newspaper’s reporters had published content from those collections without asking permission, as library policy requires. Much has been made in the right-wing press about the politics supposedly surrounding this conflict. I want to focus on a different issue: the practice of making patrons request library permission before republishing content drawn from documents in our special collections.

Harvard’s Copyright First Responders to the Rescue

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While most academic librarians are familiar with the basics of copyright law, the questions they’re asked are getting more complex. Issues of fair use and open access, MOOCs and repositories, and the push to digitize mean that students and faculty need more guidance on copyright matters than ever. This spring Kyle K. Courtney, Harvard University’s Copyright Advisor, brought together a pilot group of librarians known as Copyright First Responders (CFRs) to address this situation.

Of Bundles, Bindings, and the Next Great Copyright Law | Peer to Peer Review

Kevin L. Smith

Everyone who teaches copyright uses the same metaphor, I think. Copyright is a “bundle of sticks.” A property owner is said to have a bundle, where each “stick” represents an exclusive right. I had not really thought deeply about this metaphor until it was raised at a conference I attended whose theme was what a new copyright law might look like. There was a lot of talk about the problems with the current law. Until then it had not occurred to me that one of those problems was the bundle of rights itself.

Authors Guild Appeals Dismissal of Google Books Lawsuit

Google Books Logo

Last November Judge Denny Chin dealt a blow to the lawsuit filed by publishers and the Author’s Guild against tech giant Google and its Google Books Service (GBS). Chin, of the 2nd Circuit U.S. Appeals Court, dismissed the case, which challenged the legality of GBS providing searchable PDFs of copyrighted works when Judge Denny. On Friday, April 11, the Guild filed an appeal in the case, marking the latest flareup in a long-running suit with major implications for copyright law in the U.S.