My institution has a small number of documents in our archives related to previous graduate students. Some are definitely educational records (transcripts, field placement evaluations). Then there are a) letters of recommendation received by the school or written by school faculty/administrators and sent to other schools, b) some correspondence between a student and the school/administration, and other items like c) copies of images or articles from student publications.
The documents span decades. Most --- but not all--- of these former students are confirmed deceased. Most items in this small group of documents relate to alumni who were/are notable, but in widely varying degrees.
A few of these documents concern a famous alum, who passed away. An outside researcher is asking about the documents related to that alum, and unfortunately, there are no surviving institutional access policies related to student records or unpublished correspondence in our archives. We want to respect copyright, FERPA, and the alum's estate.
For the educational records, I can't find clear guidance on how long FERPA access restrictions last, but other academic collections seem to allow access 50-75 years after the former student's death.
So, a few questions:
1) When should on-site access to historical educational records be allowed (if ever), with reference to FERPA? What about providing copies of historical educational records?
2) When should on-site access to unpublished, non-educational records related to former students be allowed, in reference to state and federal copyright and privacy laws, and possibly FERPA? What about providing copies of these documents?
3) Should we take a more risk-averse approach to high-profile alumni materials, or should our policies apply equally to all alums?
I am always fascinated by the transformation documents can undergo, simply by operation of law, circumstance, or time. For instance:
And of course, documents can be "in" copyright, and "out" of copyright, or restricted due to medical content, or under terms of non-disclosure...restrictions that can shift based on any number of factors.
An educational institution considering levels of access and use of student-related documents has to consider not only these legal factors, but their unique policies. Factor in fame, and the stakes get even higher.
Because of that complexity, I could muse/write/talk on this topic for hours. But let's focus on the member’s specific questions:
1) When should on-site access to historical educational records be allowed (if ever), with reference to FERPA? What about providing copies of historical educational records?
If a former student is not deceased, there can be NO release of FERPA-protected education records to otherwise barred parties without written, dated consent.
If the former student is known to be deceased—or the passage of time suggests they might be deceased—then the records are no longer protected by FERPA, and that restriction no longer applies.
But as the member points out, there are other considerations.
2) When should on-site access to unpublished, non-educational records related to former students be allowed, in reference to state and federal copyright and privacy laws, and possibly FERPA? What about providing copies of these documents?
This is an interesting question because unless the records we're talking about ("related to former students") only contain "directory information,” then they are by definition "education records" under FERPA. That is because the FERPA is intentionally expansive. So old bills, dusty admissions files, and antiquated (but often fascinating) "administrative" records, although not "educational," per se, are still barred from release by FERPA if they relate directly to a student.
BUT, as this question implies, FERPA isn't the only thing that could bar or restrict access to old records. Copyright, privacy laws, and general prudence are all good reasons to not release institutional records unless there is a policy and process for doing so (like a policy for sending transcripts to future employers), or your institution is compelled to release them (like a judicial order or subpoena).
So, while a student will always have access to their records under FERPA, both former students and third parties should by default be barred from access or obtaining copies to records they are not entitled to.
Which brings us to:
3) Should we take a more risk-averse approach to high-profile alumni materials, or should our policies apply equally to all alums?
Many, but not all, educational institutions have internal archives—not formal "Archives" they hold in trust for the public (like the W.E.B. DuBois papers at University of Massachusetts), but rather, materials they regard as important pieces of their institution's history and identity, so deliberately retain.
For some, this may be a complex and far-reaching catalog of institutional history. For others, it may be simply hanging onto every program for every graduation ceremony. And of course, for many, it will be special handling of any material that is related to famous or noteworthy alumnae.
Whether formal and well-funded, or informal and not funded, every educational institution's internal archive should have a policy that covers: 1) that the archive exists to transition material from "records" into "archives;" 2) how those materials are selected; 3) how those archival materials are to be preserved; 4) how the archival materials are used and accessed internally; 5) how the archival materials are used and accessed externally; 6) the ethical standards and institutional values being applied in the overall operation of the archive. 
If an educational institution has in-house records of such magnitude that they warrant being their own archive (for instance, the Eqbal Ahmad papers at Hampshire College), yes, the development of that archive could warrant its own separate policy. In that case, unique care would have to be taken to consider not only FERPA, but privacy laws, copyright (the author of an admissions letter is the copyright owner of that admissions letter...not the institution the letter was sent to, even if the institution retains the only physical copy).
All that said, the end result need not be "risk-averse," so much as "risk-informed:" carefully assessing all the compliance concerns and risks, how does an institution create an archive that suits its stated purpose and conforms to institutional ethics? Until an institution is confident it has reached the right answer, access to third parties should not be granted, and only need-to-know access should be granted to those within the institution.
I would like to thank the member for this question, it is a good one. And I think we may have reached a new milestone at "Ask the Lawyer"—a reply where the footnotes are as long as the reply!
Thanks. I wish you a well-resourced and culturally rich archive, and continue positive alumnae relations.
 See letter of LeRoy Rooker, Director, Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education letter of Date, found at https://studentprivacy.ed.gov/sites/default/files/resource_document/file/LettertoConnecticutStateArchivistRegardingEducationRecordsMay2008.pdf as of February 10, 2021, re-affirming "that the FERPA rights of “eligible students” lapse or expire upon the death of the student based on common law of privacy rights."
 Text for this law can be found at: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s5575.
 I am writing this on February 10, 2021.
 This "Ask the Lawyer" answer does not address the issue of yearbook photos and student-generated art or academic work. For that, see https://www.wnylrc.org/ask-the-lawyer/raqs/108 and https://www.wnylrc.org/ask-the-lawyer/raqs/91.
 What is "fame?" It's a notion that is taking odd journeys these days. As I said in footnote #3, I am writing this on February 10, 2021. Jockeying with the impeachment proceedings for "fame" on the cover of today's digital New York Times: an article about a lawyer who appeared in virtual court as a cat. I bet he can't wait for his 15 minutes to be over.
 "Directory information" includes, but is not limited to, the student's name; address; telephone listing; electronic mail address; photograph; date and place of birth; major field of study; grade level; enrollment status (e.g., undergraduate or graduate, full-time or part-time); dates of attendance; participation in officially recognized activities and sports; weight and height of members of athletic teams; degrees, honors, and awards received; and the most recent educational agency or institution attended.
 Here is the actual definition: "...those records that are: (1) Directly related to a student; and (2) Maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution."
 There are exceptions to this, of course...one big one being the records of campus police.
 I value this archive because it has letters between W.E.B. DuBois and Mary Talbert, a Buffalo resident who was a stalwart organizer for civil rights and, on the side, historic preservation (she led the effort to save the house of Frederick Douglass). I read her letters when I need a shot of pragmatic inspiration.
 Some "archives" exist because some wonderful employee couldn't bear to see institutional history thrown out, and they got permission to buy some boxes and put the "archives" in the storage closet.
 For this question, "risk" is not just legal risk, but relational and reputational risk, too. After all, it might be legal to share a harsh evaluation from a thesis committee related to the work of a long-dead student...but is there value in doing it? (Of course, there might be). Knowing why something is in the archive, and having full confidence in that reason, is just as important as preserving the record in the first place.
One of our member libraries has asked me the following question:
"We'd like to create an online catalog of drone pictures of our area. What do we need to consider? We know people are posting these pictures on Facebook, and we'd like to request permission to collect them all in a catalog on our website. Please let me know any technical issues or legalities we need to keep in mind. I think it's a good idea, but I don't know exactly how to implement it."
Are drone pictures copyright free as they are in other people's properties and cover large areas? Is it legal to post drone pictures without permission?
Thanks for any thoughts on this topic!
This is a cool idea—aggregating and cataloging drone shots. Someone fifty years from now will be very, very grateful for that type of work!
But as the member points out, there could be some technical or legal issues, namely: copyright, privacy, and security. How does the library make sure none of those concerns negatively impact the project?
Let's take those in order.
Legal Concern: Copyright
This one is pretty simple: with one exception, the copyrights to pictures taken by a drone are owned by the operator(s) of the camera, who usually (but not always) is the same person/people flying the drone. They are never the property of the area photographed (unless the property owner is also the photographer).
What is the "one exception" to that ownership? If the photographer is taking the drone images as part of their regular job, the copyright will belong to their employer (for example: if the drone shot was taken by the photographer to illustrate a story in a newspaper).
Once the library establishes the copyright owner, the only copyright-related impediment to including the images in the catalog would be if the owner had sold the copyright, or given someone else "an exclusive license," since that would mean they could no longer license the images to your library. Other than those complications, with the right agreement, permission and use should be simple.
Legal Concern: Privacy & Security
The "copyright" section, above, is fairly simple. Things are a bit more complex when it comes to privacy and security.
There is a huge array of drone-shot content that I could see risking a violation of privacy or a threat to security. Here are the most common I could rattle off at a cocktail party:
In addition to my "rattle it off" list, I did some research. If we leave out the restrictions of reconnaissance and targeting drones, there is one other drone-related “no-no” to be wary of:
In most of these concerns, it is not the act of including the images in the catalog that would be the legal issue--but rather, that the images themselves could be proof of a legal violation. We’ll address that more in the last section.
Legal Concern: FAA-restricted Areas
The Federal Aviation Administration’s rules for academic, hobbyist and other forms of non-military drone use are here:
I won't re-hash them, but the FAA does not bar taking pictures—just flying at certain locations and times. However, all operators--whether hobbyists or professionals--have to avoid certain areas at certain times.
The FAA maintains a list of those areas, as well as a list of designated recreational UAS flight zones, available here:
This was so cool, I looked up my part of the state:
And now I know where not to fly the drone I don’t own.
Sample License for Use of Drone Pictures
Once you have confirmed that any drone shots your library would like to use are not: the result of or evidence of a crime, taken in forbidden air space, or otter harassment, here is a sample license for securing permission to include them in an online catalog:
IRREVOCABLE, NON-EXCLUSIVE LICENSE
[NAME] ("Photographer"), an individual residing at [ADDRESS], and at least 18 years of age, hereby gives the [NAME LIBRARY] (the "Library") an irrevocable, non-exclusive, transferable license to use an image entitled [TITLE], a copy of which is attached hereto as "A" (the "Image"). The permission to use the Image includes unlimited use in any format now existing or later developed.
Photographer represents and warrants that the Image is their original work and that to the best of their ability to determine the rights of no individual or entity were violated by the creation of the Image.
In consideration of the rights granted herein, Library shall at all times credit Photographer with authorship and ownership of the photo as follows: This image is © [NAME], [YEAR], and is used by the [NAME LIBRARY] with permission from the photographer, who may be reached at [email address].
Signed by Photographer: _________________________.
Signed on behalf of the Library: ___________________________.
A Final Word on Getting "Permission"
This question was pre-packaged to consider issues of permission/legal concern related to images generated via drone, so I have structured it to give primary consideration of those issues.
However, I would be remiss if I didn't stress that when assembling an archive or image collection, worries about permission shouldn't always be a threshold consideration.
Why is that? If a library or archive crafts the parameters of an image catalog around the purpose of that catalog—around why it is important to gather a certain type of content, within a certain range of criteria—permission might not even be necessary.
Concerns about permission and legality should not prevent the assembly of a resource that has academic, documentary, or investigative value. And the more a collection or archive is shaped as a documentary, academic, or investigatory endeavor, the less the subject matter and content can pose legal concerns...or rather, the more protections the project will be able to avail itself of.
Taking advantage of those exemptions starts with having a very clear scope for your project, a written set of ethics, and a statement of purpose for the endeavor. 
My takeaway in this final part of the answer? If your project is of academic, historical, or social value, don't let lack of permission be a roadblock. Instead, just like the member does in this question, set up a clear scope for your project, and then tackle any reservations head-on. This will lay the groundwork for a strong archive or catalog.
Posterity will thank you.
 Head Photographer at "Drone Shot Weekly?"
 Here is the FAA guidance on media use of drones for newsgathering: https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/agc/practice_areas/regulations/interpretations/Data/interps/2015/Williams-AFS-80%20-%20(2015)%20Legal%20Interpretation.pdf. It’s interesting: even if using a small drone, such use doesn’t qualify for the “hobby” exception, and the drone should be registered.
 Do you need the “right agreement?” See the section of the answer called "Sample Agreement" for an example.
 NY Penal Law 250.45
 JUST TO BE CLEAR: I have 100% confidence that if a library comes across a creeper nude drone shot, they will not include it in an online catalog! I am just being thorough.
 New York Civil Rights Law Section 50.
 Per 50 CFR 18.137: "Unmanned aerial systems or drones must not cause take by harassment of sea otters. Measures for avoidance of take may be required in an LOA, and may include maintaining a minimum altitude and horizontal distance no less than 100 m away from otters, conducting continuous visual monitoring by PSOs, and ceasing activities in response to sea otter behaviors indicating any reaction to drones."
 Thank you, THANK YOU to the member who sent this question. Because of you, I got to read the FAA's guidance to local law enforcement for drone-related incidents, which includes this practical guidance "NOTE: Battery life is typically 20 to 30 minutes."
 By the way, it might not be precisely forbidden for your library to post such images, just as a newspaper or academic publisher might reproduce them for purposes of news or scholarship. But since those categories come with some higher risks (particularly of being told to cease and desist), it is wise to consider consistency with the purpose and ethics of your archive before including them.
 I am not saying to not consider them...just don't let them be project-killers.
 Such as fair use, journalism privileges, and recognition of the non-commercial nature of the use.
The awful CASE ACT is now a law. While I think the language is problematic, I fear trolls will try to collect money ($30,000) from libraries unaware of this change in copyright. Here is a blog post that I thought was helpful https://www.recreatecoalition.org/the-case-act-now-what/
What should we be doing? Thanks.
For those readers who haven't been following it, the "CASE Act" authorizes the federal Copyright office to create a "small claims" division for the adjudication of "small" (under $30k, and no award of attorney's fees) copyright infringement cases. ,
Like the member, I know many attorneys who think this legislation is "awful." I also suspect that if I took an insurance carrier and a publisher out to a bar, they would think it is "pretty cool," and would toast the efforts of the well-paid lobbyists who worked so hard to ensure it got passed this December along with the federal budget.
There is a LOT of writing out there on the CASE Act, so I am going to focus on the practical aspect of the member's question: when it comes to the inevitable trolls who will use genuine claims and fraudulent allusions to this new method of bringing copyright claims, what should libraries and other information professionals be aware of?
The good news is: even with new legislation, your response remains the same: keep calm, and deal with a copyright infringement allegation step-by-step.
What are those steps? Updated for a CASE Act-containing world, here is the "Ask the Lawyer" "Copyright Troll Begone!" Emergency Response Procedure.
"Copyright Troll Begone!" Emergency Response Procedure
Step 1: Receiving the complaint
If your institution receives ANY assertion of copyright violation (by email, mail, phone, in person, or fax), do not immediately reply to the allegations. Never!
If the accusation is in writing, simply move on to step "2."
For interpersonal outreach (on the phone, in person, in yet another Zoom meeting), state, "I am making a note of your concerns. What is a good number/email to reach you at [at least one day later]?" NOTE: Even if they keep trying to get you to argue/response/engage, don't take the bait, just set up a time to reply.
Step 2: Dealing with the complaint
Okay, you have in writing before you (either as submitted, or in your notes) an allegation of infringement. It is either: i) a scam; ii) an honest but empty threat; or iii) a problem. To determine which of these options it is, you need to either consult your lawyer, or do some research.
Step 3: If you conclude it is a scam
There are copyright-based scams all over the place, and with the CASE Act, the scammers will have yet another point of entry for their menacing but baseless threats. "You owe us $150,000!!!" "To avoid prosecution, contact us NOW." "The CASE Act means we can sue you without registration, so we're attaching your bank account for $30k." Scare tactics. Bogus claims.
If your attorney or your research shows that the complaint you received is illegitimate, I encourage you to send a copy of it to the New York Attorney General, and to the Copyright Office. Then you can stop thinking about the claim, and move on with your day.
Step 3: If you conclude it is not a scam, or can't tell
If you examine the complaint and it seems legitimate, the only thing I can say is: consult your institution's insurance carrier and/or your attorney as soon as possible.
Even if you think your use was "fair" (as in, not an infringement), or you can show you had permission, there is too much risk in saying something that could be problematic later, if you respond to the allegation without a pro.
Step 4: Ensure the Hand-off
Make sure that whoever is handling the matter for you (attorney, insurance carrier) takes responsibility for the next steps, in writing. If an attorney is handling it, a letter or e-mail confirming they are representing your institution in the matter is essential. If your institution's insurance carrier is handling it (many general liability policies cover this...do not forget to check!), you will get a notice of "tender," telling your library that there is coverage, and if/how they will handle it (including if legal counsel will be assigned). With that assurance in writing, you are ready to get back to the business of information management.
Step 5: Check in this time next year on the CASE Act
As the blogger cited by the member writes, the CASE Act was only passed this December. Implementing it will take the federal Copyright Office some time. Or as they put it:
The Office must establish the CCB by within one year of enactment, unless the Register of Copyrights, for good cause, extends the time period for no more than 180 additional days. The Office will soon begin implementation activities. Proposed regulations will be published in the Federal Register and the Office will provide updates through its NewsNet service.
We'll keep an eye on the developing regulations here, and send a "CASE Act" update this summer or early spring.
 If you want a more official-sounding description, here is the description from the Copyright Office: "On December 27, 2020, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020 (the CASE Act) was enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. The CASE Act includes a number of the Office’s earlier recommendations. It establishes a Copyright Claims Board (CCB) in the Copyright Office to hear copyright infringement matters and (1) caps damages at $30,000 total (including statutory damages of $15,000 per work, and $7,500 per work for which an application was not filed in accordance with section 412 timelines); (2) provides an opt-out option for the respondent; (3) includes streamlined procedures that limit discovery and rely mostly on written materials; (4) allows claims by both copyright owners and users for infringement and exceptions and limitations, respectively; and (5) includes additional fees for bad faith claimants and bars those who repeatedly abuse the system."
 Here is a link to the legislation: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/1273/text
 "Troll" has a primary connotation of being an online provocateur, these days. But in the intellectual property world (patent, trademark, copyright), "Troll" means a person/entity who trades in IP with a goal of suing for infringement. Either meaning, of course, is nowhere near as cute as the fluorescent heroes of the "Trolls" franchise, who are just darling.
 Feel free to print it and put it on the wall near the "handling angry phone calls," and "don't fall for this phishing scam" lists.
 If they put the threat in the chat box, just grab a screenshot and continue with the meeting.
 You can send a consumer complaint to the NY Attorney General at https://ag.ny.gov/consumer-frauds/Filing-a-Consumer-Complaint.
 The Copyright Office doesn't have a fraud report utility, but you can reach them at https://www.copyright.gov/help/. You can forward a pdf of it to me, too. I collect these things the way other people collect menus or bottle caps.
 If you are feeling whimsical, you can say "Copyright Troll, begone!" as you put the notice in the shredder.
I know we can't use Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime on a normal basis to show movies in our classrooms because when we sign up for their service, we sign a contract stating that our accounts won't be used for public performances (personal use only). I am understanding that it is because Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime do not outright own the content on their platforms and enter into agreements with the owners of the content for personal use only. However, I wanted to find out if a student can use Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime to stream a portion (5 Minutes) of a movie where the student has received written permission from the Producer of a movie to show it as a public performance... I wasn't sure if the Producer permission supersedes the personal account contract of the Streaming Service?
This question is a good question for the bar exam! It is a great blend of contract law and copyright.
Well, that's enough positivity for today; time for the answer, which is...
Here’s the simply reason why I say “no”: as the member states, Netflix, Hulu, etc. tend to restrict their content for personal use, meaning: no classroom/board room viewings. This means that even if the use is "fair" or otherwise non-infringing, non-personal-use viewing is barred by the agreement the account holder has with the service.
The more sophisticated basis for me saying "no," is this: Netflix, Hulu, and their ilk bar group viewing not only because of the contractual obligations they have to their content owners, but also because to do otherwise would mess with their economic model. In short: it will cost them money. So even if a copyright owner says it's okay, they might not be inclined to consent to a use contrary to their contract.
That said, to add to the law-school-ness of your question, I'll add to your scenario:
If the student obtains a DVD or finds an online copy of the 5 minutes they need, and plays that copy (not the one from a commercial content service) to the class, if the student truly has proper permission of the copyright owner, then what would otherwise be an infringement is not.
Of course, this requires a DVD, or an online copy from a source that doesn't bar the use via contract. And of course, my scenario defeats the purpose of your question, which is to view the 5 minutes of the film in the format that is (likely) the most convenient: streaming.
I am sorry to be a bummer.
 There are of course exceptions, as these services can feature education-specific content intended for educational use. But those are the exceptions, not the general rules (at least right now).
 Which are quickly on their way to becoming as obsolete as—but not as cool as--vinyl, or cassette tapes.
 Which makes it painfully likely the copy is not 100% legit.
Is it a violation of Copyright Law to publicly share a video recording of a DJ playing music from his music library for a public library archive and make this available for on-demand viewing?
My favorite DJ-related story is about how "scratching" a record, as both a musical instrument and an act of composition, evolved in the hip-hop scene of the late 1970's and early 80's. It is a story of technological innovation, of community culture, and (as all good stories are) controversy. DJ's, like all contributing figures to culture, make for compelling scholarship. So I am not surprised to see this question about audio-visual content portraying a DJ on a library archive.
The short answer is: sure, it could be a violation; but there are five things that can keep it on the right side of the law—or at least mitigate the risk if there is an unintentional violation.
Here are those five "things":
Is the posted video part of a well-developed and organized collection or archive?
If "yes," go on.
Does the metadata on the unique video reflect that it is part of a well-developed and organized collection?
If "yes," go on.
Is the music part of a recording of an event, or is the music a separate track with all other ambient sound (the crowd, street noise, the DJ talking over the music) removed (or never there)?
Even if "no" go on, but have the next two really, really tight.
Has your library conducted and documented a "fair use" analysis of its posting of this particular content, and to the best of its ability, reflected accurate ownership of the item in the metadata and item information on the archive?
If “yes,” go on.
Does your library have a "notice and takedown" contact point posted on its website, so anyone who believes the content is an infringement can complain, AND has your library registered for "safe harbor" under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?
If "yes," DJ on!
Why do I have to do the "5-step hustle" to answer what seems like a simple (if compound) question? Because how and why content is used can transform "infringing use" to non-infringing "fair use." For a component of a scholarly or historic video archive, this means being able to show that a musical recording incorporated into an audio-visual record is not merely a gratuitous use of the audio content, but rather, a critical element of a work that transcends (and doesn't simply replace) the purpose of the original.
This is, in some ways, a tall order. But if you follow steps "1" through "4" above, you significantly increase your likelihood of getting it right. And as for step 5: the DMCA has been in the news, recently, as a part of the national info-tech infrastructure that is due for an overhaul. But for now, it can protect certain kinds of service providers (like search engines, directories, and other information location tools) from liability for third-party infringement, and it is an essential part of any information database's copyright compliance toolkit.
Thank you for a good question.
 Which makes a sound like either "schkud-shckud-shzyaaa" or "hschhzka- hschhzka-zreek" depending on how you translate it into onomatopoeia, along with the skill and intent of the person doing the scratching.
 According to his tag in the Cornell University Hip-Hop Collection, scratching was invented by Grandwizzard Theodore. However, there is some assertion that Grandmaster Flash put Theodore on the path to the scratch. Either way, it is a good story.
 If you are looking for a new era to get obsessed with, early Hip-Hop is a good one. It is replete with geniuses, scandal, and triumph—and provides insight into cultural and community factors relevant to today.
 This 5-step analysis assumes your library is a not-for-profit educational institution (like a public library).
 As in: done the analysis in writing (generally a form), and retained the form.
 From 17 U.S.C. Section 504(c)(2): "...The court shall remit statutory damages in any case where an infringer believed and had reasonable grounds for believing that his or her use of the copyrighted work was a fair use under section 107, if the infringer was: (i) an employee or agent of a nonprofit educational institution, library, or archives acting within the scope of his or her employment who, or such institution, library, or archives itself, which infringed by reproducing the work in copies or phonorecords..." Of course, making video "available" can be considered a transmission under certain circumstances (like streaming), so make sure your "fair use" conclusion is solid.
I received a request from a former student of [a local high school] in which her name appears on a yearbook page citing student activities. As the page is part of a whole PDF of the entire yearbook, "removing her name" would require taking down the entire yearbook.
If the library that scanned and uploaded the yearbook to the internet received permission from the high school to do so (the yearbook is tagged as In Copyright) does the student have a reasonable request?
At "Ask the Lawyer," we have tackled "yearbook questions" before: in 2018 we addressed patron requests to copy physical yearbooks in a library's collection, and in January of 2020 we addressed using scanned yearbook images to illustrate a commemorative calendar. 
But I have been waiting for this question for quite some time, and I am sure this scenario has a familiar sound to many readers.
"Yearbook scanning"—the creation of digital versions of yearbooks previously available only in hard copy—has been happening for quite a while now. However formal or informal such efforts might be, the end result (if made accessible) is a searchable, highly accessible collection of images of people in their formative years, who for whatever reason, might see the increased access to their former images as problematic.
Although we don't know the motivation of the person asking the member to remove their name from a digitized yearbook, this scenario shows the apex of this concern: a request to be removed.
At this "apex," a person can make a simple, single request to be removed. Or, they can be persistent about it--making multiple requests, calls, letters, etc. Or, if they are available, they can make legal arguments.
I can think of several "legal" arguments a person could bring forward to remove their name from a yearbook in the manner described by the member:
Of course, asking for the "legal reason" a person is requesting removal from a digital, online yearbook puts the library in the uncomfortable position of having to evaluate the validity of the answer. Let' not go there just yet; instead, let's take a closer look at the member's question:
If the library that scanned and uploaded the yearbook to the internet received permission from the high school to do so (the yearbook is tagged as In Copyright) does the student have a reasonable request? [emphasis added]
The member has used a very, very important phrase to frame this question: "a reasonable request."
"Reasonable requests"—that is to say, requests that might not have slam-dunk legal footing, but still might be a good reason for removal—cannot be analyzed in a vacuum. In this context, to determine if a request is "reasonable," it must be assessed against the backdrop of the hosting institution's mission, the purpose of the digital collection, and the values and ethics governing both.
That is why for libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies digitizing old yearbooks and other content that can impact living, breathing people, I advise every institution adopt a policy that 1) confirms that the goal of a digitization project aligns with the mission of the institution; 2) confirms how the content will be accessed (will it be added to the catalog to be checked out as an e-book, or be openly accessible as an online archive? etc.; 3) confirms the ethics applicable to the project; and 4) creates an ethics-informed process for raising, evaluating, and acting on any concerns about the content.
For readers out there working in established archives, this ethical framework for selecting, preserving, and enabling access to archival content is already built into your institution's DNA. However, for many libraries or smaller institutions that are now able to create online collections of easily accessed content through scanning, either to hold on their own servers, or to contribute to a larger initiative--with access unmediated by a library card or on-site access--it may be an area ripe for development.
For those institutions just arriving at this phase, here is a short sample policy to govern the creation of digital content intended for open access:
ABC Library Policy on Institutionally-Generated Digital Unmediated Content
Although not the primary mission of the Library, from time to time, the ABC Library will create digital versions of content with the intention that such content be made available to the general public via the internet without the mediation of membership in the library or being on the library's premises. This content can be derived from items in the library's collection, or be generated from material borrowed by the library from another institution as part of a digitization project.
For purposes of this policy, such content is called "Institutionally-Generated Digital Unmediated Content" or for short, " Unmediated Content".
The purpose of this policy is to ensure the ABC Library's creation of such Unmediated Content, whether considered part of a collection or later included in an archive, is consistent with the Library's mission, values and ethics.
The ABC library's mission is to [INSERT]. The ABC Library's creation of Institutionally-Generated Digital Unmediated Content is consistent with this mission because [INSERT].
Code of Ethics
The ABC Library recognizes that due to the broad, direct access it can provide, the impact of Institutionally-Generated Digital Unmediated Content can be different from the impact of library collection content accessed by borrowing on-site access at the library. Therefore, the Code of Ethics governing the ABC Library's creation of such Unmediated Content is the [NAME's] Code of Ethics.
Any concerns related to the ABC Library's creation of Institutionally-Generated Digital Unmediated Content shall be evaluated per the above-listed Code of Ethics.
Institutionally-Generated Digital Unmediated Content projects with content that depicts (possibly) still-living people, minors, and sensitive subject matter shall be evaluated per the Code of Ethics prior to the creation of the Unmediated Content.
To ensure adherence with these Procedures, ABC Library shall ensure an "Ethics Statement" accompanies all Institutionally-Generated Digital Unmediated Content created by the ABC Library.
To ensure awareness and consistent application of the Library's mission and Code of Ethics at all phases of the creation and access to such Unmediated Content, all such content shall be accessible with the statement:
"This content is governed by the [INSERT] Code of Ethics. Concerns that any content violates the right of any living person, or that Code of Ethics, should be directed to [NAME] at [CONTACT INFO]."
The board of trustees maintains this policy and evaluates and revises it as necessary.
[INSERT POSITION] is responsible for oversight of this policy and procedure.
All employees and volunteers working on digitization projects must follow this policy and procedure.
Now, with those essential considerations backing us up, here are my thoughts on the member's questions:
A request for removal or redaction of digitized content should be evaluated against the mission and values of the library that created the digital content, the purpose of the digitization project, and the ethics governing the project.
In this case, if the person requested removal without giving a reason aligned with ethics of the library and/or the project, the request should be denied. On the flip side, if the reason for the request does align with the relevant ethics, it should be redacted or removed.
Here's an easy example of this playing out in the real world:
Every "Code of Ethics" I have seen governing libraries and archives requires that the institution follow the law. Therefore, if there is a legal reason for removal, it should be done.
Here's a less easy example of this playing out in the real world:
If the request is more vague, like "I just don't want people to be able to find out information about me," your institution needs to look at the values and ethics it has adopted. Does personal autonomy and concern for the privacy of living people get a high priority? If the answer is "yes", there should be a process for redaction or removal. If the answer is "no," with more priority placed on the integrity of the material, unless there is a legal reason compelling removal, the answer should be, "Sorry, our role is to preserve and make accessible this record in its original form" (or other language regarding integrity of the records, taken from your library’s Code of Ethics).
Personally, although I don't think my yearbooks have anything to hide, I like the option of being able to remove myself from the record until I am dead. But in saying that, I am expressing a value, not a legal right, and value judgments are harder than legal conclusions. That is why requests not rooted in solid legal reasons benefit from: a) the library having a strong, consistent guide, like a Code of Ethics; b) applying that guide consistently; and c) ensuring the library has the technical ability to implement your institution's decisions, which are all critical.
Thank you for bearing with me on this answer, I know it is intricate, and perhaps more than you signed on for! The steps I lay out in this answer are meant to be practical, easy to implement, and designed to help your library document that it is doing its best to balance preservation and access to documents with consideration of privacy and ethics. That is no simple balancing act, but since requests like the one sent to the member are only likely to increase, it is a good thing to be ready to do.
 The reply to the 2020 question, after walking the reader through a suggested analysis of the content, states: "This analysis was done because yearbook projects bring up issues of not only copyright risk, but privacy and social issues."
 For libraries considering creating a formal archive of digitized yearbooks, this "Ask the Lawyer" answer regarding creating digital archives that include images of children discusses the interplay of legal and ethical issues. Of course, a yearbook presumes a certain level of both awareness and willing participation, which not all images of minors do.
 It pains lawyers to hear this, but not every problem is solved by threatening to sue. Letter campaigns, online petitions, public shaming, reaching out to people in power...these are non-litigious routes to get relief from problems, too.
 I don't just mean that the content makes them look bad, I mean it genuinely meets the criteria for defamation in New York, which is very precise.
 One thing the information in old yearbooks can do is help with social engineering of scams to defraud and/or commit identity theft. "Hi, it's me, Angela, from your high school volleyball team! Remember, with the red hair? Yeah, it's me! Hey, can you cash a check for me...?" Yes, this is exactly how it happens.
 Just to confirm: this question has nothing to do with copyright (sounds like the library got the right permission to move ahead with digitization), and has everything to do with the "right to privacy," laws barring use of identity-based content, and ethics.
 The difference here is critical! A yearbook that is digitized and available only as an e-book to be checked out by a patron is very different from an open collection that is available to access and search without borrowing privileges. This is one reason why archivists have different codes of ethics than librarians.
 You will note I do not call this content "archival" content. As every library council member out there knows, libraries are not archives (although they might have some archives). That said, in this case, the creation of the digital content is likely to end up in an archive—or a collection that functions like one—and the ethical considerations align almost exactly. For that reason, the Code of Ethics of a body like the Society of American Archivists might be a good go-to for your policy. It wouldn't hurt to have a professional archivist on board as a consultant for help evaluating concerns, too.
 Remember the person faking being on the volleyball team. This is not an outlandish concern.
 I am already ahead on this. Having a hatred of head shots, I boycotted my senior picture, a decision that only makes me happier as the years go by.
 As the member points out, "removal" in this instance poses a challenge. In this case, it would be good to explore if "redaction" through an addition of a black bar to the PDF, with an appropriate footnote citing the Statement of Ethics, is possible.
I've had an interesting question posed to me by two Social Studies teachers and... I have a feeling this may be a more pervasive issue.
A teacher checked out a :50 video (DVD) from the school library he wants to show to his class. Typically, while the students are watching the video, they will answer/respond to a worksheet the teacher has provided to them. How does the teacher show this video to his Remote-Only students at home?
There are a few ways a teacher may be able to show the remote-only students a specific video.
First: check the license to the video. It may expressly authorize that type of use.
If that doesn’t give assurance...
Second: check to see if the school is set up to follow the TEACH Act.
The TEACH Act is Section 110(2) of the Copyright Act. It allows for the transmission of certain copyright-protected material by accredited educational institutions under certain conditions, if the school is set up to follow the law.
For the viewing of videos, those "conditions" are:
If these conditions are met, the remote learning can commence!
The TEACH Act was handy before COVID, but these days, it is invaluable. This is why every school district, accredited private school, college, and university should have a "TEACH Act Policy"—so learning can continue as strongly as possible.
"Set up" means that the school: institutes policies regarding copyright, provides informational materials to faculty, students, and relevant staff members about copyright and copyright protection, and applies technological measures that reasonably prevent the transmitted material from being duplicated/published. For the full recital of what must be done, see the law at https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/110.
The elementary is planning a virtual Halloween parade this year. The students will parade through the building in costume. As they pass through the entrance hallway, there will be a video camera live-streaming the parade via zoom (to families watching from home). The parade committee would like to play a purchased CD of spooky music in the background of the video.
Does this violate the music copyright?
In the spirit of the season, and the answer I must give, this answer will be a modified version of a scene from Macbeth.
[Cue sounds of wind, rain, and small children trying to line up while thinking about candy and their itchy "Frozen II Elsa" costume.]
ENTER THREE WITCHES
FIRST WITCH: Educator! I sense thou wouldst put on a show! And Zoom it to demesnes beyond thy institution! But if the music is protected by copyright and the school does not have a license to use the music in that manner it will be a violation of the copyright!!!
THIRD WITCH: Ahem. Of course, you'd have to get caught, first....
[Pause. The cauldron bubbles. FIRST WITCH and SECOND WITCH give THIRD WITCH the side-eye.]
THIRD WITCH: Ahem. Of course, you'd have to get caught, first....
FIRST WITCH and SECOND WITCH: Gasp!
THIRD WITCH: What? We're witches! We have to be sneaky, why do you think we're camped out here in the woods? And seriously, do you think in the midst of everything happening on Zoom, someone's going to notice? The world is going so crazy, I'm expecting it to rain toads at any moment! Give this poor Educator a break.
FIRST WITCH: Oh, Alecto, you always were a rebel.
Okay, back in the real world...
Sadly, my three witches are right, and this is the answer I have to give. Since the parade won't be a part of a class, there is no TEACH Act exception, so transmitting the music via Zoom is just like putting it out over a streaming service or live TV: a no-go without permission.
That said, I dug around in my cauldron, and I can offer this possible solution:
Round about the copyright go
In the creative solution throw
Songs that "copyleft" be
Can help thee celebrate Halloween
For works freely used and easy got
Search "Copyleft Halloween Songs," and find a lot.
Not very much toil and trouble
"Copyleft" works make music bubble!
Just in case my Shakespearean verse is too obtuse, what I'm saying is: Hop on your favorite search engine and type "copyleft Halloween songs."
What will this do?
For those of you who don't know: "Copyleft" is slang for: "I could own and control this copyright, but I am so cool, I am letting you use it, so long as you let others use it, too." Meaning: "copyleft" work is free to use, by anyone, so long as whatever you generate using the work is also free to use.
Now, as with all clever solutions, this one calls for thorough planning. I listened to a few of the songs I found this way; not all of them are, as they say, "safe for work" (or at least safe for school) so check out the songs before you Zoom them out to parents. But since this is music the authors have proudly composed and released for free use by a wide audience, I suspect at least some of it will meet your needs.
[NOTE: I don't know if it would work for your school, but this one by Frannie Comstock is hilariously clever (and mentions lawyers)! If nothing else, give it a listen just for a fun 5 minutes. Here is that YouTube link written out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzvlAuUiM5s]
 I am not weighing if this would be a "fair use." That said, if the Halloween Parade and the music interacted to make a clever statement or unique medley of work, that could be a possibility. But I've been to my kids' Halloween parades. They are darling, they are not ground-breaking, incisive commentary on modern theatre.
 Don't search "Copyleft Halloween Music" because for some reason (which I am sure many of you information professionals out there know) it just wasn't as fruitful.
 This means that if you make a movie out of the Zoom recording of the parade, using a Copyleft song, that recording needs to be Copyleft, too.
 Unless "your needs" involved specifically using the soundtrack to "The Nightmare Before Christmas." In which case, I cannot help you, because Skellington Productions, Inc. owns all those copyrights, and I don't see them going Copyleft anytime soon.
 I don't know Fannie Comstock (is that even a real name? It sounds like a person who makes candy while panning for gold), and I am not receiving any kickback for this endorsement of her ridiculously clever work. Which makes sense, since there is no charge to use her highly amusing song.
Our archive was part of a regional project to initiate, scan, and make available church records from predominantly African American churches within a city. As part of this project, student/graduate assistants went to the particular churches, scanned the historical records as digital files, and provided those files to [our archive] for public access.
My question is in regards to photographs taken of minors and the restrictions for retention and online display. I would not have selected those particular items for retention, but because I was not on-site during the scanning, I have the files as part of the larger record (church programs, organizational records, committees, etc.). We have signed permissions from the church administration for online access and display of their records. In some cases the photographs are from over 20-40 years ago, in some cases they're much more recent. They're taken at private church events, Sunday school classes/activities, and public events--some as part of photo albums and some as individual files.
I'm struggling with how to treat these photographs and any associated records when I know they display minors. Any advice or direction would be greatly appreciated.
This question is at the vertex of the law and ethics. What an institution may be positioned to do with archival images legally might not be what our society demands ethically. And if the issue impacts real people with real feelings, this conflict can lead to legal claims—regardless of solid footing based on precedent and the law.
When it comes to images of children, who can't legally consent to the use of their images, the ethical issues arising from agency, respect, and self-determination are all the more critical.
The member clearly knows this, and is seeking a direction for assessing how to access, catalog, and use them—if at all. The law is often too blunt an instrument to assess ethical questions, but in this case, I believe the legal steps for assessing the use of such such images can provide a framework for the deeper assessment of the ethical considerations .
Below, I will list the "legal" steps an attorney considers when reviewing a museum or archive's acquisition, but focus on the ethical considerations connected to those factors, especially with regard to use of images of children.
1. Ownership of the Physical Object
This stage is where an institution looks at the provenance of the object and, if that physical object is to be transferred to the institution, addresses the legal priority of making sure the title is "clear."
Ethical considerations: How did the physical object come into existence? Was the creator a member of the community being documented, an academic, a journalist, or an "outsider?" Does it appear that parents or guardians were present? What was the original purpose of the object? Does any of that information suggest coercion, exploitation, or invasion of privacy?
Or, as the International Council on Archives puts it in Section 7 of their Code:
Archivists...must respect the privacy of individuals who created or are the subjects of records, especially those who had no voice in the use or disposition of the materials.
2. Ownership of the Copyright
This stage is where an institution looks at the original ownership of the copyright of the image, any transfers of those rights, the use of those rights, if the rights have expired or been transferred to the public domain, and if any of those rights are to be transferred to the institution.
Ethical considerations: Who "owns" the rights to the image? Are the rights financially valuable? Have they been put to non-academic, commercial use before, or are they likely to be? Can your institution accept the rights in a way that limits future commercial exploitation of depicted minors?
Or, as the Society of American Archivists puts it in Section VI of their Code of Ethics:
Archivists may place restrictions on access for the protection of privacy or confidentiality of information in the records.
3. Manner of Accession
This stage is where an institution looks at the overall package it is acquiring. In this case, the member has pointed out that the data collection project may have over-stepped some (formal or informal) boundaries. Other accession challenges can be donor-imposed conditions, environmental factors, and budget concerns.
Or, as the International Council on Archives puts it in Section 2 of their Code of Ethics:
Archivists should appraise records impartially basing their judgment on a thorough knowledge of their institution’s administrative requirements and acquisitions policies.
...and in Section 5 of that same Code:
Archivists negotiating with transferring officials or owners of records should seek fair decisions based on full consideration – when applicable – the following factors: authority to transfer, donate, or sell; financial arrangements and benefits; plans for processing; copyright and conditions of access. Archivists should keep a permanent record documenting accessions, conservation and all archival work done.
4. Legal Considerations of Content
This stage is where an institution looks for specific concerns caused by the precise content in the materials. When it comes to pictures of minors, this means assessing if the content is in any way criminal, contains evidence of a crime, if the information suggests they were a ward of the state, if it originated from sealed criminal records, and if the use will in any way be commercial (and thus require permission).
Or, as the Society of American Archives puts it in Section IX of their Code of Ethics:
Archivists must uphold all federal, state, and local laws.
5. Identity of Person(s) Portrayed
This stage is where an institution looks at the depiction of the real person portrayed in the material and assesses if it poses any additional challenges.
Or, as the Society of American Archives puts it in Section VI of their Code of Ethics:
Archivists strive to promote open and equitable access to their services and the records in their care without discrimination or preferential treatment, and in accordance with legal requirements, cultural sensitivities, and institutional policies.
6. Alignment with Mission
An archive or museum will always have a mission—or "charitable purpose"—at its core. This is how it maintains a tax-exempt status, its charter, and its ability to operate. Does the contemplated use of the content you are focusing on (the images of children) match up with that mission? Or it is somehow at odds or unaligned with it?
This consideration warrants a repeat of Section 7 of the International Council on Archives Code of Ethics:
Archivists should take care that corporate and personal privacy as well as national security are protected without destroying information, especially in the case of electronic records where updating and erasure are common practice. They must respect the privacy of individuals who created or are the subjects of records, especially those who had no voice in the use or disposition of the materials.
7. Alignment with Collection Purpose
Just as an archive or museum will always have a mission—or "charitable purpose"—at its core, so will a particular collection have a description that sets out its scope, methods, and purpose. Does the contemplated use of the content you are focusing on (the images of children) match up with that description? Or it is somehow extraneous or not quite consistent with it? If sensitive material is not squarely within the scope of the collection, it shouldn't be there at all.
Or, as the Society of American Archives puts it in Section III of their Code of Ethics:
Archivists should exercise professional judgment in acquiring, appraising, and processing historical materials. They should not allow personal beliefs or perspectives to affect their decisions.
That's great...but what to do?!?
When faced with a sensitive decision like the one posed by the member, a subject-focused analysis based on the above factors is the right way to move ahead, in one of three directions:
In this particular case, any of the three above-listed options might be appropriate. From the brief description provided by the member, it sounds like the photos were joyful documentation of a community by its own members—not exploitive or rooted in dubious practices.
But even under a "best case scenario" like the one provided by the member, it is appropriate to develop a checklist based on the mission of the institution, and the goals of the collection, to be assured any archival images with minors:
1) will not be subject to commercial exploitation by the institution or a third party accessing the collection (unless there is properly executed permission allowing such use);
2) were not created in a manner inconsistent with the mission, values, and ethics of your institution; or if they were, the collection parameters address those concerns;
3) are included in a manner consistent with the purpose of the collection; and
4) there is a process for any individual or relative to request removal of an image of a depicted minor. Since such a request would only come after there was a determination that the image was consistent with the values of the institution and fit within the scope of the collection, any evaluation of such a request should be made based on the reasons for the request.
The good news is, the same documentation that shows careful assessment of the ethical factors will help you with any future legal concerns.
And finally, there is one more option for this particular scenario, which is to ask each church to include in their weekly bulletin or routine outreach:
Our church has been selected for inclusion in the ABC institution's online archives. As part of this work, we have provided numerous photos of our events over the years, which include pictures of many of our congregants when they were children. If you have any concerns with your childhood image being included in such a collection, please alert us. Otherwise, please know that our community records are being preserved for the future!
That way, the church as the original provider of the records can "claw back" any photos that a person might object to, and your archive will have another step in its own records to show it did everything it could to respect people's agency and privacy.
Thank you for a thoughtful question.
 A critical example of this issue—use of a person's image in ways that raise question of agency and ethics (to say nothing of basic human decency) is found in the saga of the images of people named Alfred, Fassena, Jem, Renty, Delia, Jack, and Drana, all subjected to enslavement in the 19th century. The images are commonly called the "Zealey Daguerotypes" and the disputes about them start with how they come into being, as well as how they are used in the present day. For a good summary of this saga, see https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/29/books/to-make-their-own-way-in-world-zealy-daguerreotypes.html.
 "Established" by recognized authorities, not by me. My go-to for this will be the Code of Ethics of the Society of American Archivists, found at https://www2.archivists.org/statements/saa-core-values-statement-and-code-of-ethics#code_of_ethics, and the Code of Ethics of the International Council on Archives, found at https://www.ica.org/en/ica-code-ethics.
 This "Ask the Lawyer" is only addressing the question about minors...I am not tackling the fact that the rights to the relatively recent photos may be held by still living people, or relatives!
 This does not need to be a flagrant "notice and takedown" process; it can be accomplished through a simple statement like: "The ABC Archive [is accredited by/follows the ethics of DEF]; if you are concerned that the depiction of any individual or the inclusion of certain content in this collection is contrary to those ethics, please contact GHI at ### to share your concern."
Help! We just got a very scary "cease and desist" notice from a company claiming to own the copyrights to some videos that were posted on our web site and used internally. They want $2,000 to "settle" a copyright claim, and they say we have 10 days to reply or they will sue! This notice is sitting in my in-box like a ticking time bomb, please let me know what we should do. 
 In the interest of transparency, please know that this question is an amalgam of several we've received, and not attributable to any one institution.
As the use of online tools for tracking use of copyright-protected content becomes more widespread, this is happening to schools, libraries, museums, and other cultural/educational institutions with greater frequency.
While these threats will vary based on the circumstances, here is a step-by-step "Copyright Threat Diffusion Guide" to help you de-escalate the tension and figure out what to do, from the moment an infringement threat hits your in-box.
Breathe. It's going to be okay. Make some tea, or go for a walk if you feel nervous.
Print the threat, and save a copy as a PDF with the document name "CopyrightClaim[DATE]." DO NOT FORWARD IT.
DO NOT REPLY to the threat.
DO NOT take any of the steps it demands (removal of content, paying money, saying you’re sorry, etc.). Just stay cool for a few more steps, first.
Within one business day of its arrival, appoint a "copyright claim buddy" to work with you on this. If you are a director, this is a good role for your second-in-command. If there is no other employee who can help out, loop in a board member (all of this should be over the phone, no e-mails). Just "Hello, we got a claim of copyright infringement we need to assess, I read this thing that says an organization should always have at least two people work on that type of thing, can you work with me on it?"
Hopefully, you now have a "copyright claim buddy" and you are ready to make your first decision: alert your institution's lawyer, or alert your institution's insurance carrier. Either is good.
Here's how you notify your attorney: If you have lawyer, e-mail them the pdf of the threat (cc your buddy), and write "The [library] received this on [DATE]. [NAME] and I are responsible for handling it. Are you available to help us this week on this, and if so, can you propose a budget for helping us with this? And if you can't help right now, can you recommend someone who can? We know we need to handle this promptly."
Here's how you notify the insurance carrier: If you have an agent or broker, e-mail them the pdf of the threat, and say "The [library] received this on [DATE]. [NAME] and I are responsible for handling it. Is there coverage for this, and if so, does the carrier want to respond?"
It is reasonable to expect replies within three business days.
With Step 6 done, the matter is either out of your hands as the driving force of resolution (you and your buddy will remain engaged with the carrier or the lawyer, but they will be the interface with the claimant...if they decide the threat is even worth responding to), OR you have confirmed you have no insurance coverage for this, and you haven't found a lawyer who can help you. Which brings us to...
Step 8 is the time for all the initial responses that likely hit you in an adrenalized rush when you first opened the threatening message. It includes things like:
Whenever possible, everything in "Step 8" should be either conducted by an investigation by your insurance carrier, or with the participation of your library's attorney so the findings are protected by attorney-client privilege.
Step 9 is the course of action developed based on the information established in Step 8.
Because so many variables impact it, there is no one answer or outcome to Step 9, but here are some real-world resolutions I have seen:
Taking a close look at the content, it was determined that the material in the threat and the material used by the institution weren't actually the same thing. Result: case closed with no credible threat of litigation having been made.
Taking a close look at the content, it was determined that the Copyright was not registered, and thus there was no credible threat of litigation at that time. Also, there was some room to claim fair use. Result: to be cautious, the institution removed the content, but without acknowledging the threat and with no money paid.
Taking a close look at the content, it was determined that...Oops, this institution made a mistake and used someone's content without permission to advertise a small, free event. Further, the content was properly registered, so the threat of litigation was credible. Result: insurance carrier took over and negotiated a very small settlement.
These are just a few examples, but they show the range of resolution possible when a systematic analysis of threatened copyright infringement is conducted in a calm and rational manner.
I do want to emphasize the importance of bringing in your institution's attorney. Determining the facts that position an institution to take Step 9 requires a full and frank discussion of what might have happened during Step 8. That means that unless the process is protected by attorney-client privilege, getting to Step 9 can create discoverable evidence that would have to be turned over during a lawsuit. Depending on what happened, that could be to your institution's disadvantage.
Finally: I know I started this with the admonition to "stay calm," but then included some fairly alarming things in this answer! For anyone who has read this and is now worried about content your institution has posted on its website or on social media, a nice way to allay a panic attack is to casually reach out to your insurance carrier or agent and say: "Hey, do we have coverage for alleged copyright infringement? We don't plan on infringing anybody, but it would be good to know what to do if someone claims we have."
That way, you know who to call just in case you get one of these letters.
Call it "Step Zero."
 Why do I recommend a "copyright claim buddy?" Several reasons. First, this type of thing is no fun. Second, this is a chancy world, and any one of us can suddenly get sick, in an accident, or win the lottery and quit our job. For critical matters like threatened litigation, an organization's response team should be at least two people deep. Further, it is a good development opportunity for future leadership.
 If your lawyer does not regularly handle copyright matters, they are welcome to call my office at (716) 464-3386.
 Keep trying! Don't go it alone.
 Are the facts asserted in the letter even accurate?
 If you are a state institution, there are certain protections you have; if you are a not-for-profit educational institution, there are certain protections you have; if a third party posted the material, there are certain protections you might have.
Is it permissible to make digital copies of choral music that is legally owned by the institution to students in choral and instrumental ensembles? Some students may be studying remotely and mailing physical copies may result in lost or non-returned copies.
There are four ways it can be permissible:
1. Check the license from the publisher and see if the purchase of the physical copies came with any digitization/duplication permission. You'd be surprised how many rights you buy (or don't buy) when you make that hard copy purchase. Publishers take a variety of approaches on this, and an individual publisher's permissions may change from work-to-work, so confirm (or rule out) this approach for each work.
2. If the license does not allow making digital copies, contact the publisher, and see if it can be expanded. Publishers are now getting many requests like this and may be ready with a simple (and affordable) solution.
3. I am not a fan of them (they are as outdated and as risky as the Ford Pinto), but the "CONTU" guidelines speak to this issue. I am including the relevant guidelines, as presented in Copyright Office Circular 21, under this answer. If one of your precise needs fits one of the "permissible uses" listed in Circular 21, you are all set.
4. Speaking of CONTU, the first "permissible use" listed in the guidelines may help you out here, with a slight twist on your scenario. In the event that the physical copies listed in the question are mailed out and not returned as feared, the guidelines allow for emergency copying after the fact (of course, they also require that at some point, you purchase more physical copies, but at least you can get the copies to the students).
Those are my four solutions, based on conventional approaches and current case law.
I'll also throw out a "fifth option" based on a slightly different approach, which, depending on some precise facts, could work for faculty teaching choral classes:
The 110 Solution
Copyright Section 110 allows an academic choral group (if meeting as part of a class) to display "a work in an amount comparable to that which is typically displayed in the course of a live classroom session," during an online class/rehearsal.
How can that help with the member's scenario?
If the class was still meeting physically, Copyright Section 110(a) would allow us to perform the song and to display the music on the in-class smart board. In the online environment, the same performance and display could happen via the internet, as allowed by 110(b) (the "TEACH Act")—again, so long as only the amount "typically" displayed in class was shown.
Whether in-person or online, the rehearsal would include review of the different parts for bass, tenor, alto and soprano, with the relevant music displayed on the screen. While an academic institution can't tell people to take screen shots of the music displayed for rehearsal purposes, students who want to snap screenshots of a class to take notes is a fact of modern-day academia. If a student who was told to purchase a copy of their part uses this method to ensure they are practicing on an incremental basis, that's out of the school's control, and the student can make their own claim to fair use.
This type of solution should never be used as a deliberate alternative to the purchase of individual copies. But so long as the display is incremental and truly a part of the in-class experience, it is a viable option.
I wish all music faculty approaching the Fall 2020 semester many good performances, whether virtual, or face-to-face. These are tough days for people who love to sing, who enjoy the community of a choir, and who need to hone their vocal art in collaboration with others. Hunting for music should not add to the burden, and with a few tricks and an awareness of the limits of the law, it doesn't have to.
Guidelines for Educational Uses of Music
The purpose of the following guidelines is to state the minimum and not the maximum standards of educational fair use under Section 107 of H.R. 2223.
The parties agree that the conditions determining the extent of permissible copying for educational purposes may change in the future; that certain types of copying permitted under these guidelines may not be permissible in the future, and conversely that in the future other types of copying not permitted under these guidelines may be permissible under revised guidelines.
Moreover, the following statement of guidelines is not intended to limit the types of copying permitted under the standards of fair use under judicial decision and which are stated in Section 107 of the Copyright Revision Bill. There may be instances in which copying which does not fall within the guidelines stated below may nonetheless be permitted under the criteria of fair use.
Reproduction of Copyrighted Works
1 Emergency copying to replace purchased copies which for any reason are not available for an imminent performance provided purchased replacement copies shall be substituted in due course.
2 For academic purposes other than performance, single or multiple copies of excerpts of works may be made, provided that the excerpts do not comprise a part of the whole which would constitute a performable unit such as a section¹, movement or aria, but in no case more than 10 percent of the whole work. The number of copies shall not exceed one copy per pupil.
3 Printed copies which have been purchased may be edited or simplified provided that the fundamental character of the work is not distorted or the lyrics, if any, altered or lyrics added if none exist.
4 A single copy of recordings of performances by students may be made for evaluation or rehearsal purposes and may be retained by the educational institution or individual teacher.
5 A single copy of a sound recording (such as a tape, disc, or cassette) of copyrighted music may be made from sound recordings owned by an educational institution or an individual teacher for the purpose of constructing aural exercises or examinations and may be retained by the educational institution or individual teacher. (This pertains only to the copyright of the music itself and not to any copyright which may exist in the sound recording.)
1 Copying to create or replace or substitute for anthologies, compilations or collective works.
2 Copying of or from works intended to be “consumable” in the course of study or of teaching such as workbooks, exercises, standardized tests and answer sheets and like material.
3 Copying for the purpose of performance, except as in A(1) above.
4 Copying for the purpose of substituting for the purchase of music, except as in A(1) and A(2) above.
5 Copying without inclusion of the copyright notice which appears on the printed copy. (iv)
Discussion of Guidelines
The Committee appreciates and commends the efforts and the cooperative and reasonable spirit of the parties who achieved the agreed guidelines on books and periodicals and on music. Representatives of the American Association of University Professors and of the Association of American Law Schools have written to the Committee strongly criticizing the guidelines, particularly with respect to multiple copying, as being too restrictive with respect to classroom situations at the university and graduate level. However, the Committee notes that the Ad Hoc group did include representatives of higher education, that the stated “purpose of the … guidelines is to state the minimum and not the maximum standards of educational fair use” and that the agreement acknowledges “there may be instances in which copying which does not fall within the guidelines … may nonetheless be permitted under the criteria of fair use.” The Committee believes the guidelines are a reasonable interpretation of the minimum standards of fair use. Teachers will know that copying within the guidelines is fair use. Thus, the guidelines serve the purpose of fulfilling the need for greater certainty and protection for teachers. The Committee expresses the hope that if there are areas where standards other than these guidelines may be appropriate, the parties will continue their efforts to provide additional specific guidelines in the same spirit of good will and give and take that has marked the discussion of this subject in recent months
 Checking a license is not an exact science. Some publisher's use a catch-all that is included on their invoices. Others put the information right on the music. Others like to make you really hunt for it, but it is usually part of the sale transaction. This is why, when making a purchase of music, it is good to take a screen shot or save the paperwork related to the purchase.
 Note: To my knowledge this work does not exist, but it is on my wish list of music to hear. I love it when genres collide.
 This new version would be a "derivative work" based on the original, and have its own copyright protection as a musical composition.
 We have reached the limit of my choral knowledge. Is there separate sheet music for mezzo-soprano and counter-tenor? Probably. I am sorry, I quit choir in 7th grade.
For the past two years, our library hosted a 24-hour read-aloud; where people camped on the front lawn and took turns reading 6-7 books. Due to COVID, we can't hold this event in person this year. Our thought it that we could do it virtually - and instead of reading an entire book, we would ask readers to read the first chapter from one of their favorite books. They would film themselves reading (or we would film them) and then we would post the clip on our YouTube channel. One clip a day would be posted - for a total of 24 clips.
Our questions center around copyright infringement and fair use. Could we host such an event? Would this qualify under educational fair use guidelines?
Could we leave the videos up indefinitely -- or would it be better to have a specific time period and then they disappear?
Any guidance - even if it's a "don't do it!" would be helpful!
Since the onset of pandemic restrictions, "Ask the Lawyer" has written a lot on different variations of this topic.
Since I am tired of being the party pooper on this issue, I am offering up something new. Here it is:
Don't do it...unless you make it something new.
What do I mean by "something new"? I mean a use that is so clever, so additive, that even though it uses a copyright-protected work, it creates a work with independent meaning.
Examples of this "something new" are:
Despite all the wishful writing out there, the cloud of the pandemic did not bring us the silver lining of automatic expansion of fair use. That said, it hasn't diminished fair use. So, if your library:
Good luck and happy reading!
 See https://www.wnylrc.org/ask-the-lawyer/raqs/123, https://www.wnylrc.org/ask-the-lawyer/raqs/141, https://www.wnylrc.org/ask-the-lawyer/raqs/127 and https://www.wnylrc.org/ask-the-lawyer/raqs/126.
 The answer is "Don't do it, unless you have permission or the work is in the public domain."
 "Extensive" means incisive comments at least every paragraph.
 Since I don't want to help you avoid a copyright claim only to wind up with a defamation law suit, if you do this, avoid using books that take deep and honest looks at human nature (No William Faulkner, no Maya Angelou, and certainly no Zadie Smith). Use sunny books that make the best of things!
 This is a bad example because Moby Dick is in the public domain. Which reminds me: you can also try using books in the public domain (published before 1924).
 Puppies and a cat?! 50% chance to go viral on day 1.
 Which just happen to line up with the four factors of fair use.
 Just in case this suggestion appeals to readers, here is some suggested event recruitment text, based on the member's question:
It's time for our annual 24 hour read-aloud! Usually, we have people camped on the front lawn but due to our work this year to keep everyone healthy, we can't hold this event in person. Instead, we will do it virtually.
Here are the details for this year's readers: instead of reading an entire book, please work with us to film you reading from the first chapter from one of your favorite books, along with comments or a special related activity by you! The final product will help us celebrate reading AND the personalities in our town. Be as creative as you like, but the added content has to be related somehow to the book.
We have received several questions about setting graduation ceremonies to music and streaming them or recording them and sharing them with students. What are the laws surrounding this? There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there. Below is a question I received:
The slideshow for the [public] high school graduation is complete. [T]he students would like to have songs from “High School Musical” added to the slideshow. Is this possible? If copyright comes into play and we can't there will be no music added to the show. Please advise, We have viewed many other shows from various high schools and at the end of the show it simply states "we do not have rights to this music."
The need to migrate ceremonies online has created a tsunami of copyright concerns. What is a ceremony without the right music? But this question pertains specifically to high school graduations for public schools, so we’ll confine it to those institutions.
Readers, I have to be real with you: a newly minted Supreme Court Case, Allen v. Cooper, means public high schools (which are arms of the state) are arguably immune from liability for copyright infringement. In that case, the court invalidated the “Copyright Remedy Clarification Act (“CRCA”), which had expressly removed state’s “sovereign immunity” to a copyright suit. So on a very pragmatic level, some public schools, colleges, and universities may be adding that to their risk assessment of questions like this.
But professional educators likely don’t want to do the wrong thing simply because they are arguably immune from being punished for it. As Justice Kagan, writing in Allen and quoting an expert witness put it: “what State, after all, would “want  to get a reputation as a copyright pirate?” So we’ll proceed just as the member’s question suggests: that they want to do the right thing.
With that in mind, here is my answer to the question: “[T]he students would like to have songs from “High School Musical” added to the slideshow. Is this possible?
My first bit of guidance is to check the school district’s license with either ASCAP or BMI (this is the license that covers permission to play music at a high school dance). It may be that some streaming rights got thrown into your public performance license. This isn't typical, but you never know, and if you have the right clause in your contract your problem could be solved right away (and in fact, your problem never existed).
If there isn't a contract that already gives your school permission to use the song(s) as the member describes, your school needs permission. This can be done through any number of licensing agencies.
As but one example, the music to “High School Musical” is available for licensed streaming through the Harry Fox Agency:
(As can be seen, your school could even decide to use the karaoke version.)
The bad news is that it’s sort of a pain to obtain the license; you have to register and there is a fee. Further information can be found at the link here: https://secure.harryfox.com/songfile/faq.jsp#faq2.
[NOTE: since a school district is one legal entity, it is also good to check and see if the district itself has an account already. Signing up for a service like this does not need to be done on a school-by-school basis. Of course, this brings us to school policy and procurement issues, and for that, I refer to the attorneys serving the BOCES that serves your school!]
I hope the red tape doesn’t get in the way of the students having a good ceremony. They have been through enough this semester.
 You can find the full text of the case and some commentary here: https://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/allen-v-cooper/
I've recently come across a situation where people are ripping DVDs they own to a digitized format in Roku. I'm providing the link at the end of this question. My concern is how is this possible? Primarily intended for personal use but I can see where this could expand out to a slippery slope where it is then more individuals get copies, etc. I'd would like the lawyer to weigh in on this: https://www.dvdsmith.com/rip-dvd/stream-dvd-movie-to-tv-with-roku-3.html
“Slippery slope,” indeed. The member has identified a battleground in the “1201 wars.”
“1201” is a Section of the Copyright Act. It bars working around the anti-duplication protections built into certain types of copyrighted works (software, digital entertainment). It also bars “trafficking” in the technology that can perform those work-arounds. DVDSmith appears to sell this technology.
For those of you who don’t want to follow the link in the question, I checked out the DVDSmith, and here is their “About” description:
“DVDSmith Inc. (www.dvdsmith.com) is a multimedia software company that develops and markets DVD copy, DVD ripper programs for both Windows and Mac platforms. DVDSmith products will circumvent the copy-protection schemes used on commercial DVDs and enable you to make copies of store-bought DVDs.”
I puttered around the site a bit, not just taking their word for what they are. And while I didn’t delve too deep, as the member points out, the particular product linked to the question does boast the ability to enable streaming of non-supported formats to HDTV via the Roku 3. It claims to do so by enabling the conversion of those files from other formats, a process that can require getting around (“circumventing”) access control technology.
Is such conversion and duplication always wrong? No. While 1201 can bar the type of copyright “circumvention” described by DVDSmith, and can also bar anti-circumvention tech,
1201 also creates permanent and temporary exemptions to one or more of the statute’s prohibitions, including exemptions for educators and libraries.
Here is the text of the permanent exemption for libraries:
(d) Exemption for nonprofit libraries, archives, and educational institutions.
(1) A nonprofit library, archives, or educational institution which gains access to a commercially exploited copyrighted work solely in order to make a good faith determination of whether to acquire a copy of that work for the sole purpose of engaging in conduct permitted under this title shall not be in violation of subsection (a)(1)(A). A copy of a work to which access has been gained under this paragraph—
(A) may not be retained longer than necessary to make such good faith determination; and
(B) may not be used for any other purpose.
(2) The exemption made available under paragraph (1) shall only apply with respect to a work when an identical copy of that work is not reasonably available in another form.
Is your head starting to hurt? You’re not alone.
This combination of strong prohibitions and well-defined exceptions creates the “1201 contradiction,” where some circumventions of copyright controls are expressly allowed—but selling to enable them may be illegal.
There is a ton of thorough analysis out there on “1201,” and this “contradiction.” It comes from a range of perspectives: the entertainment and software industries (whose general position is that the rules aren’t strict enough), the innovation, information, and academic sectors (whose general position is that the rules are too strict) and government (whose general approach is to try and please everybody, and as usual, makes nobody happy).
To sample the variety of 1201 analysis, try reviewing the materials at:
…and then reading the materials at:
Once you recover from the whiplash of these diverging priorities and opinions, you’ll realize anew that just like the Marvel Universe, the Copyright Universe has numerous alternate realities.
To answer the member’s question: what is my take on this?
The member is right to feel cautious about the products offered by DVDSmith, since under 1201, the capability described could violate the law. But there ARE exceptions to what 1201 bars, and libraries should be ready to exercise them, advocate for them, and make sure they are meeting their needs.
My deepest feeling is that like Section 108, the basics of Section 1201 should be taught in library school, and each librarian ready to advocate for the position they feel serves the public.
Thanks for a great question!
 How about a question about copyright protections for the mountain vistas of the Adirondacks, or a trademark on the culture of Martha’s Vineyard?
 It had the same vibe as a site for dubious herbal remedies.
 Hello, FBI. No, I did not download the software and do a test run with my “13th Warrior” DVD.
 As defined in the statute, to “circumvent” generally refers to acts such as avoiding, bypassing, removing, deactivating, or impairing tech that prevents copying. See 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(3)(A), (b)(2)(A).
 The current temporary (triennial) exemptions are here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/10/26/2018-23241/exemption-to-prohibition-on-circumvention-of-copyright-protection-systems-for-access-control
If staff record themselves through our phone system reading published short stories and poems that are then made accessible to the public through the same phone system, are there issues with copyright? Various public libraries nationwide offer dial a story services, and my school district public library is looking to offer this too. Some of our patrons do not have access to technology and internet, so we want to offer this no frills service during our COVID-19 closure, and beyond. The recordings would likely be 3 to 7 minutes in length and offered a couple of times a week.
For this answer, we are again joined by Jessica Keltz, associate attorney at the Law Office of Stephanie Adams, PLLC.
As we noted in our March 24 Ask The Lawyer answer (https://www.wnylrc.org/ask-the-lawyer/raqs/123), copyright law does still apply despite the pandemic and the many needs it has created for alternative outlets, resources and programming.
For a public library, unless the service is an adaptation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, any recording of a copyrighted work needs to be made with the permission of the rights holder. Under fair use doctrine, limited excerpts can be read, interspersed with commentary. But a full work presented alone in its entirety or in substantial excerpts, without the permission of the rights holder, may not be. This doctrine remains in effect.
One solution to consider is reading either works that are in the public domain, and/or works whose rights holders have given permission for this type of use during the pandemic or otherwise. Readers may have heard about LeVar Burton Reads, a pandemic podcast from the iconic Reading Rainbow host, in which Burton encountered this exact struggle and was given permission by noted authors including Neil Gaiman and Jason Reynolds. While most local libraries will not have Burton’s star-studded cast of Twitter followers from which to draw partnerships, they may find folks in their own communities who are happy to freely share their own works.
A list of ideas for children’s books in the public domain is here: https://concretecomputing.com/thoughts/list-of-public-domain-free-books-for-kids-by-grade-level/
Project Gutenberg is also often recommended for searching for works in the public domain: http://www.gutenberg.org/
I am in the stages of planning a library one-time-only event aimed at getting college students interested in writing their own works of fiction. There are no class credits involved. My premise is “Where do ideas come from?”
Some now-published authors first writing attempts were in writing fan fiction (fanfic). I may suggest that as a possibility while advising the students that they cannot legally make any money from such works. I was also planning on mentioning pastiche works, where they could have similar characters, situations, etc. Now I wonder if that is an improvement?
I recall a Sherlock Holmes inspired character called Solar Pons. The Solar Pons stories basically consisted of all the Holmes characters with different names, though mentioning Sherlock in the stories. These works were published by August Derleth and later by Basil Copper. [see the attached newspaper article from the 2015 issue of the independent]
I hoped to suggest either of these options as a way to spark some interest, but wonder I’d be opening a can of worms that is best kept shut.
For this question, the Law Office of Stephanie Adams, PLLC used a ringer--experienced publishing law and published author Sallie Randolph, who works in our office, advising authors on publishing contracts. We asked Sallie for her take--as both a copyright attorney and an author--on this intriguing question. Here is her reply:
A library program aimed at sparking the interest of college students in writing fiction is a great idea! Encouraging them to try their hands at fan fiction is good way to give them a jump start. Fan fiction writing can build skills related to such fiction elements as plot and character, and writing fan fiction is widely acknowledged as an effective way to build writing skills, but it is also highly controversial.
I share your concern about the legal risks involved with writing fan fiction. Most college students don’t understand enough about the nuances of copyright law to truly “get” the reasons why they probably shouldn’t share their work online. Absent the consent of the copyright owner, there is no right to create fan fiction. It’s that simple. But the reasons why are complex.
Under copyright law, a work that is “based on” another work is defined as a “derivative work.” The right to create a derivative work is reserved by law to the author of the original work. In the process, a derivative work becomes an independently copyrightable new work. However, the right to write a derivative work requires permission of the original author. Fan fiction is a derivative work, and, therefore, if unauthorized, is infringing.
Writers who want to create fan fiction should do so with extreme caution. Swirling around in cyberspace are myriad justifications for copyright infringement. Many copyright myths also circulate in cyberspace. People may think it’s OK to post their fan fiction on the web because they’re generating publicity for the original author, or because they don’t make money, or because writing fanfic is paying a compliment to the author, or because the original work is out of print. There are dozens of excuses.
Copyright is literally the right to copy. Copyright infringement is what lawyers call a “strict liability tort.” If you copy without permission you are infringing. Assumptions, excuses, and myths are dangerous. Only the copyright owner has the right to decide what others can or cannot do with her work. Copyright owners have no obligation to explain their motives for granting or withholding permission. They have no obligation to even reply to permission requests. There is no such thing as default consent. The obligation to get permission falls squarely on the shoulders of the writer fan.
There are authors who don’t mind fan fiction, a few who actually encourage it, and many others who are solidly against it. Sometimes infringers get away with it because of what I call “author exhaustion.” Such authors are against fan fiction and other forms of infringement, but they’re tired of trying to assert their rights against the infringers. Trying to get infringing material taken down from YouTube, for example, has been compared to playing whack-a-mole.
We’ve all heard stories about how authors feel – about how Fifty Shades of Gray started out as fan fiction, or how a sequel to Catcher in the Rye resulted in the “fan” losing big time in a major lawsuit. The fan author is almost always the party at legal risk, and the misunderstood defense of fair use almost never applies to fan fiction. There was a rare case in which a retelling of Gone with the Wind from a black character’s point of view was held not to be infringing because of the important historical point that it made.
I have read online that J.K. Rowling reads and enjoys speculative fiction about Harry Potter and his fellow characters. I have also read that J.K. Rowling is highly protective of the Harry Potter brand and has threatened to sue fans for including Harry in their writing. I have seen her name on lists of authors who encourage fans to write about Harry and on other lists of authors who do not allow such use.
I know a number of authors who hate the idea of fan fic but have decided not to engage in this particular copyright war. I know of more than one author who have asked fans for plot suggestions from their readers, only to be threatened with lawsuits when they published a story vaguely similar to a reader suggestion. Well intentioned people can argue in circles about the legal and ethical risk. Fan fiction has become a volatile topic.
But what if the all that volatility and copyright debate can be avoided? Many people seem to think that lawyers are impractical, and I acknowledge that we can often get distracted into theoretical debates. In this case, however, I am happy to offer a piece of practical advice. It’s simple: focus your event on encouraging students to base their fan fiction on public domain works.
Literature of the past has often inspired new works. Classic stories could similarly spark the interests of the students attending your event. A famous example is West Side Story – a retelling of the Shakespeare classic Romeo and Juliet. Kiss me Kate is based on Taming of the Shrew. Fairy tales (the original ones, not the Disney versions), fables, and folk tales are interesting to adapt. Bible stories are fair game. Even some of the Sherlock Holmes stories are now in the public domain. Classic novels such as Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities, Little Women, Kidnapped, or Huckleberry Finn, are just a few examples of fanfiction possibilities. One word of caution: New fan fiction should be based on the original public domain work, not on another fan’s adaptation of that work.
Using public domain works to encourage fan fiction will let you meet the goal of your event by kicking that can of worms on down the road.
Many thanks to Sallie for lending us her insights and experience!
I have an instructor who asked if it would be violating copyright infringement if she shares articles from her personal Continuing Education Units (CEU) account subscription with her students as class reading assignments.
NOTE: This question arose during the scramble for online resources during the nation’s response to COVID-19. Click here for a full array of COVID-19-related questions about library operations and copyright matters impacted by pandemic response.
It might be copyright infringement, but there is another concern: it could also violate the terms of the contract (the subscription agreement) between the teacher and the CEU provider.
The problem is that not only do such subscription sites have basic, contractual terms governing the actions of all subscribers, but the individual articles may have different (less or more restrictive) terms, too.
For example, I tooled around IACET (a major CEU provider)’s website and found a wide range of copyright and licensing terms. In some places, IACET had a very strict license that bars sharing materials. In other places, I found language encouraging IACET’s leadership to adopt language promoting the sharing of articles, particularly those that reinforce IACET’s standards and values.
My best guidance must be: the teacher should evaluate their personal subscription agreement and terms for each article on a case-by-case basis. For instance, it looks like IACET has taken a variable approach, so some content might actually be free to use. Other material might be licensed for purposes of instruction—but only to the institution holding the license. Each CEU provider will differ.
Only by reviewing the teacher’s contract with the provider, and the relevant content terms, can this question be answered. And in these difficult times, calling them to ask for permission for the duration of the state of emergency might work.
Barring that, I am always very wary of any solution to educational content needs that relies on the individual instructor, rather than the institution (who, among other things, has better insurance), to take risks, so hopefully the school can assist with getting the right content, or finding a solution under copyright Section 108, 110, or 107.
A teacher from our school needs audiobook access to four different books for about 10 students per book, particularly if our absence from school is extended. She would like to provide the links to students where such audiobooks have been uploaded and posted by others on YouTube. The audiobooks are still under copyright. Previously, I had been told that if a teacher merely posts links that the teacher him/herself is not liable for copyright infringement, but another librarian recently stated that there is some new case law on the issue and that even posting the links constitutes a violation. Any guidance you could provide would be appreciated. Thank you.
For the record, as I write this response, the following message runs across the top of the U.S. Copyright Office’s web site:
Out of an abundance of caution, all Library of Congress buildings, which includes the U.S. Copyright Office, will be closed to the public until Wednesday, April 1, 2020, at 8:30 a.m. to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 coronavirus. If you are a user of U.S. Copyright Office services, submit your applications online, browse FAQs, and submit emails with questions through copyright.gov. You may also reach the Copyright Office by phone at (202) 707-3000.
Despite that announcement, no deadline, fee, or change in copyright law or regulation has been announced. That said, even the Copyright Office is switching things up as we respond to a global pandemic, and I have received many questions asking if the normal copyright laws still apply (they do).
This question, too, is about pandemic response; the member’s colleague is working to provide content for students whose education is making a quick, unplanned transition to distance learning. That calls for flexibility, ingenuity—and appropriate online content.
The member’s institution is not alone in this need for new resources. As I write this, my staff is working from home, and my kids (ages five and fifteen) are handling packets from school and electronic transmissions of homework. Everyone I know now wishes they had bought stock in Zoom. We are all seeing how vital solid online content can be.
The member wants to know if simply providing links to content that might not be posted with the permission of the copyright holder will expose their school to liability.
As of this special moment in time, the clearest case law on linking and academic texts found in an array of cases pen-culminating in Pearson Education, Inc. v. Ishayev, a 2014 ruling from the one of the federal courts located in New York City (the “SDNY,” if you want to sound cool about it).
In the “Pearson” line of opinions, academic publisher Pearson Education accused two Brooklyn residents of (among other things) providing a hyperlink to a file-sharing website where a person could (allegedly) obtain copies of the Plaintiff’s materials. Pearson’s law firm even had one of their legal staff pay for the links from the defendant! (This is the kind of sneaky thing that makes people not like lawyers.)
As pointed out in the line of Pearson rulings, sending an email containing a hyperlink to a site facilitating the sale of a copyrighted work does not itself constitute copyright infringement; it’s viewed as “the digital equivalent of giving a recipient driving directions to another website on the Internet.” But that doesn’t mean that sending a link to infringing content is always okay.
As put by SDNY Judge Paul Englemeyer’s March 24, 2014 ruling on the case:
The publishers assert that Ishayev is liable for contributory infringement because he knowingly sold access to hyperlinks, which allowed other individuals to download eight of the publishers' copyright protected works from a website. If proven with competent evidence, such conduct would lead to liability for contributory copyright infringement—sending hyperlinks that permit others to download protected materials would plainly amount to conduct that encourages or assists in copyright infringement. [emphasis added]
Unfortunately, as can be seen in the Pearson opinion, deciding possible liability in matters like this doesn’t come down to a simple question of “links, or no links?”
What does it come down to? The sender’s awareness of infringing copies, and their state of mind and intentions when they sent the links. In other words: if you know it’s wrong, don’t do it.
That’s the cold letter of the law, and it’s not very helpful or comforting, I know. I give you something that might be a better guidestart on this one: professionalism and respect.
We are living in a very odd Spring Semester, here in 2020. As the State of New York issues Executive Order after Executive Order, I am struggling to find solid guidance for clients. People need to know what they can do (and not do).
While not quite on par with trying to education students, I can relate: we need content to get the job done, and the content we are finding at this precise moment might not be the most reliable. It’s scary and inconvenient and hard.
I think, more than ever, that means it is time for us to do what we know is right. If we know an audiobook is available from an unauthorized source, don’t direct innocent kids to go download it from a known infringing source. It’s just not the right thing to do (and some day, those students might be copyright holders themselves, deserving of the same respect).
And finally, even if you’re willing to take the risk for your institution (we’ll take our chances, it’s a pandemic!), think of it this way: publishers and content owners track infringements by IP address, so the person who might get in trouble might not be the school, but rather the student.
So, did the case law on linking “change?” Not quite. But it has evolved. And who knows, maybe as a result of the current crisis, it will evolve some more. But for now, knowingly linking to known unauthorized content brings risk.
Thank you for a great question. I wish you health, energy, and ingenuity in this time of national emergency.
 Registration fees went UP this month, but that’s another story!
 March 22, 2020, and what an odd day it has been.
 In my opinion.
 Welcome to my new word, “penculminating,” which means, the next-to-last thing before the end result.
 There are actually quite a few judicial opions on “Pearson Education.” Make sure you look at the final rulings from 2014.
 This is a very bare-bones summary. For the full story, check out the opinion here: https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=2045770819331774838&hl=en&as_sdt=6&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr. (Note my intrepid linking without fear of liability!).
 I am not even going to attempt to go down the fair use road on this one! But in different circumstances (not using the materials simply to teach from, for instance, or using tactical excerpts) such a claim could be made.
 Okay, let’s get real: it would be the parent whose name the IP address resolves to. But you get my point.
Is it considered fair use for a student to reproduce a copyrighted photograph for public display in an academic institution having cited the original published source but not having sought and received express permission from the copyright holder? The image is reproduced in its entirety with overplayed text added by the student. The posters are the product of an academic exercise. It has been proposed to display them for a period of 2 months in an area open to the public.
You, reader, will never know my answer to this question.
That’s because to truly answer it, I had to contact the member and get some more information. The information I received, and the answer I gave in return, were so specific, the content was no longer suitable for a general-audience response.
It had become legal advice, not just “guidance,” or “commentary,” or “analysis.” It was confidential, tailored to one entity, and protected by attorney-client privilege.
This is the challenge with fair use questions: they turn on numerous precise details.
That said, I can say that the bare-bones scenario above gives a few reasons to be cautious. The use of the entire work, and the display in a public area, are red flags.
But I also want to caution you about too much caution. Both those risk factors: use of the entire work, public display—could be easily balanced by an exercise in compare-and-contrast, substantive criticism, or in-depth analysis.
This is why an educational institution should always use a “fair use checklist” to address questions of fair use. An educational institution that uses a checklist has a good chance of determining that a use is “fair,” and while doing so, also creates documentation showing that their conclusion—even if later ruled to be erroneous—was in “good faith.” This exercise can limit damages, later.
The most recent case law involving use of a photograph in an academic setting, Reiner v. Nishimori, did result in a finding of fair use, and is an instructive example. In that case, students used the plaintiff’s copyright-protected stock photograph to practice making advertisements.
Here is the court’s analysis of the case, using the fair use “four factor” test:
That’s Reiner v. Nishimori, where fair use carried the day. But with a few tweaks of the facts, it could have had a different outcome.
And that’s while you may never know the real answer to this question.
 This makes it sound like it was rated “R.” I assure you, the content was PG. It was just legal advice.
 A very good example can be found here: https://copyright.cornell.edu/sites/default/files/Fair_Use_Checklist.pdf
 Reiner v. Nishimori No. 3:15-cv-00241 (M.D. Tenn. Apr. 28, 2017)
 This factor routinely messes up judges, and I personally disagree that “creative” works might qualify for more protection that laboriously and carefully assembled facts. But I am not a judge!
Many librarians create and post LibGuides through Springshare. Right now, when an employee leaves a library, the LibGuides they created can be attributed to another library employee after they leave. Does this create a legal concern?
I am a hands-on kind of lawyer. When I do a real estate deal, I visit the property. When I advise a historic preservation group, I drag my kids to see old houses. When I represent a bakery, I try not to pack on an extra five pounds, but it’s always touch-and-go.
So, when this question came in, I hopped on SpringShare and checked out their product description for LibGuides, and pretended I was going to write one. I delved into the license terms and the mechanics of the utility. I observed how their various products work together, or a la carte.
On the SpringShare website, LibGuides is summarized this way:
“LibGuides is an easy-to-use content management system deployed at thousands of libraries worldwide. Librarians use it to curate knowledge and share information, organize class and subject specific resources, and to create and manage websites.”
I checked in with a few librarians I know (one of whom works in my office), and they reported that yes, the product is widely used and popular. While mine was a very unscientific survey, the day I hopped on, SpringShare’s web page boasted participation by “6,100 libraries” and “82 countries” and “130,300” librarians.
I noticed a lot of legally interesting things when I was down the SpringShare rabbit hole, but I what I focused on was the member’s question: is there a legal concern related to attributions of LibGuides content?
I started with the LibGuides License, which states:
OWNERSHIP OF DATA: Licensor does not own any data, information or material that you submit to the Software ("Customer Data").
In other words, SpringShare (the licensor) confirms that the subscriber (the licensee) owns the content they put on LibGuides.
The License then goes on:
You, not Licensor [remember, Springshare is the “Licensor”], shall have sole responsibility for the accuracy, quality, integrity, legality, reliability, appropriateness, and intellectual property ownership or right to use of all Customer Data, and Licensor shall not be responsible or liable for the deletion, correction, destruction, damage, loss or failure to store any Customer Data.
This means that while the licensee (the subscribing librarian or library) owns the content, they are also responsible for the consequences created by any content they don’t have the rights to (infringement claim, violation of privacy claim, etc.).
This is a very typical approach for content-sharing platforms.
The License then states:
In the event this Agreement is terminated, Licensor will make available to you a file of the Customer Data in XML format within 30 days of termination if you so request at the time of termination.
Isn’t that generous? If you remember to ask nicely at the time you terminate the contract, you (the Licensee) have thirty whole days retrieve your property.
This property arrangement is at the heart of the member’s question. SpringShare claims no ownership of the content placed on LibGuides. That content, unless licensed from another, is supposed to be owned by the licensee (the person or entity contracting with SpringShare for the service).
But is the “licensed LibGuides user” the content owner?
In the member’s question, the “licensed LibGuides user” was probably the library (it would be very unusual, and not business-appropriate, for an account for an institution to be in an individual person’s name). So, the library is the one getting assured they own the content put up through the account, and the library is the entity responsible in the event the content causes a problem (infringes copyright, invades someone’s privacy, etc.).
Now this is where the issue gets sensitive. Under copyright law, content generated by employees, AS PART OF THEIR REGULAR DUTIES, is owned by their employer—unless a contract, policy, or hire letter says otherwise. This “default rule” is spelled out in section 201(b) of the Copyright Act.
How does this play out in the work environment? It varies. Many librarians are part of a union, which means the written work they generate as part of their job might not be subject to the above-described “default rule” (a collective bargaining agreement can change the terms of employment related to copyright). Still others work in environments where this “default rule” has been changed through a policy, or a hire letter.
This lack of uniformity means that any librarian composing LibGuides, who wants to use their compositions after they move to another job, should make sure they know where they stand when it comes to “employee-generated intellectual property.” Does their workplace follow the “default rule?” Does a union contract, policy, or hire letter change the “default rule?” And is writing a LibGuide even part of their duties?
This is critical, because depending on who owns the content, they are free to do as they like with it: keep it up, remove it, change it, update it, etc. (of course, what they do on LibGuides is limited by the License and the technology). And it is also critical because the current configuration of LibGuides seems, to me, to create a potential problem.
Now, that addressed the legal part of the question; the answer is: yes, there are some legal concerns. But the “legal” concerns might not be the full scope of the concerns presented by the question’s scenario. Attribution of authorship is different from ownership, but it can be a critical issue of integrity.
My understanding of how LibGuides functions is that the account holder can change the roles, authority, and people admitted to create, modify, or access the content. Within LibGuides, subscribers have the ability to assign users (Admin users, Regular users, Editor users, Contributor users, and Patron users) with different levels of access and authority.
Within this structure, “Admin users” (who have the highest level of authority over an account), manage the Licensee’s use of the service. The settings are changeable, and different LibGuides can be assigned to different users.
But what was WILD to me is that when a librarian leaves a library, to maintain the LibGuide, the library has to assign another staffer to the Guide. That’s fine and makes sense, but because of LibGuide’s interface, that new person is then listed as the librarian in charge of the guide, and the way the screen looks (to me) the implication is that they are the author.
I believe that is the genesis of this question; people who took pride in their creation of a LibGuide first attributed to them are now seeing (implied) authorship (seemingly) attributed to another. I have to admit, whether I owned it or not, that would sting a little. Writing, even if it’s for your job, can be a very personal endeavor.
This seems entirely due to the design of the interface. Between you, me, and the Internet, it seems like a needless and utterly solvable problem. And while not necessarily a legal issue (although if the former employee owns their work, it could be) it strikes me as a serious ethics/integrity/relationships issue.
Authorship is something people take seriously, especially in the arenas of academia and publishing—worlds in which librarians play an essential role.
How can this be solved?
First, LibGuides might want to think this through and develop a solution. But until then, libraries using LibGuides should assess their legal position (do they own their employees’ work under the “default rule”? Or does a contract or policy say otherwise?) and, think how this phenomenon rests with their values. On the flip side, librarians who create a great LibGuide and then want to move on in their professional careers should pay attention to who is the LibGuide’s “owner” and be mindful that a LibGuide owned by their employer will not always be in their name. Further, the mutable nature of LibGuides (they are designed to be updated, altered and changed) means you might not always want to be associated with what the Guide turns into!
Thanks for a great question.
 As a rule, I try to avoid snark and sarcasm in the “Ask the Lawyer” service. Such rhetoric doesn’t age well, and there are defter ways to be funny. That said, this one deserves some snark. Thirty days, and then potentially thousands of dollars of your assets are lost? Not so great.
 The law reads: “In the case of a work made for hire [which includes “a work prepared by an employee within the scope [their] employment”] the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is considered the author for purposes of this title, and, unless the parties have expressly agreed otherwise in a written instrument signed by them, owns all of the rights comprised in the copyright.”
 As of March 6, 2020.
 On March 6, 2020, I found these categories on the LibGuides FAQ at ask.springshare.com/libguides/faq/1119#general.
 Hi, SpringShare! I am confident you can fix this!
 For instance, I would create a “Legacy Content and History” option for customers, where the evolving work and chain of authors could be tracked. Of course, that would still put the ultimate fate of the content in the hands of the employer, but it would empower them to maintain good feelings between librarians.
An internationally known band released various music videos for the purpose of a contest they were holding. Fans were asked to create a new video using the clips provided. One of our professors downloaded and saved the music videos and would like to share them with his students so they can use them for an editing project. He would like to post the copied files in his password protected class management system (Black Board.) However, we would also like his students to be able to share their projects either in an eportfolio or online.
My initial reaction is that he should get permission from the copyright holder / publisher for permission even though the band released the content for a contest. I see many danger zones.
Some of the trickiest copyright questions I get relate to student work.
Why are they tricky? Because of a self-imposed rule I have: find a way for the work to be done; don’t let copyright interfere with art and science. In other words, our copyright glass of scholarship should be half full…of scholarship, not fear of lawsuits.
That said, most readers of this column will know that “educational use” does not justify the wholesale infringement of works, even if the purpose is scholarship. To use a work without permission, the use must meet the criteria of “fair use.”
But I’m getting ahead of the question. Let’s bring it back to the beginning.
What’s the tricky issue here? In this scenario, the band “released various music videos,” and asked the public to create new works based on the old, for entry into a contest.
The band was essentially asking the public to create “derivative works,” which are new works based around a copyright-protected original (think movie sequels, musicals based on books, and paintings of paintings).
The faculty member plans to retain copies and direct students to use them after the completion of the contest, both for assignment and portfolio purposes. Is that cool?
Now, if the band’s videos were expressly put into the “public domain” for the contest (meaning: no copyright protection) the question ends here. If the clips aren’t protected by copyright, the faculty member’s plans are just fine (it’s cool).
Further, if the band gave a perpetual, irrevocable permission to any person who generates a new video using the clip, to use the clip for whatever reason they want, the question also ends here (again, retain the copy and using it as planned is cool).
But if instead, the band kept the videos protected by copyright, and gave the public permission for only a limited amount of time (say, the duration of the contest), for a limited amount of purposes (say, for entering the contest), then yes, we are in a “danger zone” (not cool).
However, before I agree that the ideal solution is to get the copyright owner’s position, I do want to make a case for fair use, which allows people to use copyrighted works in way that would otherwise be infringing (make copies, make derivative works, and even at times to sell them).
Based on the scenario described, it is not clear if the retention of copies as described in the scenario would be a fair use. It would have to be justified under the four fair use factors, with the school and student being able to show that the retention of a complete copy and use of the clip for assignment and student portfolio purposes was justified.
The way for a school to do this is to use their fair use assessment form and retain a copy.
To me, aside from the legal concerns, this is also an ethical issue. A faculty member should not encourage a student to unknowingly infringe another’s copyright, especially if they know that student might include that work in an online portfolio of work. This could put the student in legal trouble that is independent from the liability of the school.
Students, as individuals, do not have the same protections that higher education professionals have. Schools, if they conduct a bona-fide fair use analysis, can limit the damages from alleged infringement. Schools also usually have insurance for this stuff. Newly-minted B.A.’s and M.F.A’s typically do not have the same resources. This means, when the student gets sued, they are in a much riskier place than the school or the faculty member.
All that said, remember the mantra: find a way for the work to be done; don’t let copyright interfere with art and science. What does this mean? While being cautious to not promote infringement, a faculty member in a medium such as film, or music, should not let students operate in ignorance of fair use, which is so important to both mediums. Without sampling, without artistic call-and-response, we suffocate creative innovation.
If that sounds complicated, it is! I will be reaching out to this member to talk the specifics through (that part is confidential).
 Promotion of “science and the useful arts” is the reason we have IP law in the first place (see U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section I, Clause 8).
 Or Section 110(a) or (b) of the Copyright Act. But you can read out that here [INSERT PERMALINK].
 As gimmicks go, I like this one. I wish my favorite author, Umberto Eco, had invited me to write a chapter of “The Name of the Rose.” I would have had Adso and William fire-proof…uh, sorry, spoiler.
 I speak legally, not pedagogically. I have no idea if this would be a good film class assignment; I was a Russian History/U.S. Constitutional law major at an experimental school with no grades or tests (Hampshire College). Other than once attending a class on the classic film “Battleship Potemkin” and whatever skills can be gleaned from serially watching the musical “1776,” I have zero credentials to evaluate the curriculum of a film course.
 Which, by the way, the band might not even own.
 For the record, if I were the lawyer advising this band, the contest terms would have contained a clause allowing my client to revoke permission to use the clip and participate in the contest in the event an entry was contrary to their values (racist, sexist, transphobic, etc.).
Can a school or library hand out copies of sheet music to students and keep their copies of the originals (as long as they had enough copies for each performer) to prevent the loss of the originals? The copies would be destroyed after the performance.
One of my all-time favorite TV shows is Gilmore Girls.
Aside from being the origin of many expressive phrases ("Oi with the poodles already!"), as a parent, Gilmore Girls gave me a concept I used almost daily: "jam hands."
What is the origin of "jam hands"? In Season 2, Episode 5, “Nick & Nora/Sid & Nancy”, the perpetually grumpy "Luke" character, upon being confronted with the prospect of childcare, confesses to a distaste for children: because they are loud, because they are messy, and because their hands always seem to be coated in jam.
I have two kids. "Jam hands" are very real.
My oldest kid (15, as of this writing) has paid his dues playing violin and piano, so I have personally witnessed the damage "jam hands" can do to instruments and music. It must be jam warfare out there.
And of course, a kid can lose sheet music simply by putting it in their backpack.
I don't know if “jam hands” and possible “backpack black hole” are the big reasons for this member wanting to give students back-up copies while retaining the "real" ones in a file, but I suspect that is at least part of the rationale. Why wait until the good copies get destroyed or go missing? Why not make back-up copies in advance? If "fair use" creates educational exemptions to infringement, isn't this a use that qualifies?
Sadly, when Congress developed the "fair use guidelines" for educators, they did not invite any parents to the advisory committee, and so the "jam hands" and "backpack black hole" clauses did not make it into the final guidelines. Instead, those guidelines specifically prohibit copying for performance, except for:
Emergency copying to replace purchased copies which for any reason are not available for an imminent performance provided purchased replacement copies shall be substituted in due course.
So: no copying in advance…but, in the face of an "imminent performance," copying to replace "unavailable" purchased copies is okay (provided the replacement copies are "substituted in due course").
What does this tell us? In this case, it's better to be re-active, than pro-active. When a student jams up or black holes a copy, an educator can make replacement for a performance. Just make sure you get around to purchasing and substituting (instead of destroying) those "replacement copies," in "due course."
I would of course love to leave this answer right there, having dispatched sage wisdom and quoted from decades-old guidance from Congress. But I have no doubt that by now, at least one reader has said "Well, what's 'due course'?" And I don't want to be accused of fraternizing with the tomato.
As I am sure any music teacher reading this knows (but what was news to me), these days teachers can often print sheet music on demand (for a price). And while of course not every copy a school has in print is available for download, the "emergency" aspect of the clause quoted above loses some heft when a copy can be obtained for $2.25 online.
THAT SAID, I know music program budgets rise and fall on nickels and dimes. I am not suggesting that a teacher or librarian solve this problem by simply immediately buying new copies; rather that when it comes to deciding what amount of time is "due course," the answer is: no later than when you can make the replacement purchase as part of your next budget cycle.
That said, before stressing about fair use and "replacement copies" and "due course," always check the fine print on the music (and on copies available from other sources). While on my sheet music web site tour, I noted that some (but not all) of the sheet music I saw for sale had the phrase "this copy may be reproduced by the purchaser," and other flexible licenses. So, for each piece of music you want to copy, before you worry, check the fine print. You might have more permission than you think.
I wish I could give a better answer in the fight against “jam hands.” But at least your answer didn’t fall into a “backpack black hole!”
 The full quote is here: https://www.tvfanatic.com/quotes/me-raising-a-kid-i-dont-even-like-kids-theyre-always-sticky/
 Don't watch your kid do this. It's addictive.
 Another beloved Gilmore Girls reference
 For instance, Gerald Ford is no longer President.
We were discussing the Rule of 5 of copyright laws and wondered if it was limited by a single location or an institution. For example, if a public library has multiple branches can one branch request 5 articles from a single year from a journal and then another branch also requests articles from that same journal and year? Or did the first branch already use the maximum number of copies?
What about universities or hospital systems with multiple campuses and libraries? Thank you!
Libraryworld: a place where people gather to discuss information, and the best ways to share it with their community. A place where people are just as likely to discuss the "Rule of Five" as the "Rule of Three." A place where routine conversation tackles everything from new database technology, to guidelines from the now-obscure "National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Works" (CONTU).
But since not everyone in Libraryworld knows about "The Rule of Five," let's give some background.
The "Rule of Five" pertains to guidelines for applying a very small section of 17. U.S.C 108, the law giving libraries and archives special exemptions from copyright infringement.
That's right, Section 108 of the Copyright Act sets out important exemptions from infringement for libraries and archives who are open to the public. But since the copyright law giveth and the copyright law taketh away, this "very small section" of the law, sub-section (g)(2), cancels those exemptions if a library or archives using them:
… engages in the systematic reproduction or distribution of single or multiple copies…of material described in subsection (d)…. [emphasis added]
"Sub-section (d)" creates:
[The right to make and distribute] a copy, made from the collection of a library or archives where the user makes his or her request or from that of another library or archives, of no more than one article or other contribution to a copyrighted collection or periodical issue…[emphasis added]
Aha, the right to make copies of "articles" and "contributions to collections!” Yes, 108 sub-section (d) lets you make those…either for patrons at your own library, patrons at another library, or a requesting institution. That's a very big, and very important exception to infringement. It is one of the cornerstones of inter-library loan collaboration.
But how does (g)(2) limit this important right? By prohibiting "systematic reproduction or distribution" of the content. And what does "systematic reproduction or distribution" mean?
The law doesn't say. And since Section 108 was adopted in 1976, it still hasn't said.
That's where "CONTU" stepped in.
Convened in 1977, CONTU was the "National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Works." In 1978, it issued "Guidelines" that attempted to provide clarity about the meaning of "systematic reproduction or distribution."
This is what they came up with:
[F]illed requests of a library or archives (a “requesting entity”) within any calendar year for a total of six or more copies of an article or articles published in such periodical within five years prior to the date of the request.
This limitation is called the "Rule of Five," since the requesting entity is limited to five copies of content less than five years old, from the same source. 
CONTU tried to give libraries a precise mathematical formula and documentation system for abiding within the protections of 108. While such a precise formula can be useful, I find it more helpful to think of the "Rule of Five" in the context of another part of Section 108 (g)(2):
That nothing in this clause prevents a library or archives from participating in interlibrary arrangements that do not have, as their purpose or effect, that the library or archives receiving such copies or phonorecords for distribution does so in such aggregate quantities as to substitute for a subscription to or purchase of such work.
In other words: libraries shouldn't use 108 as a replacement for budgeting to purchase a critical magazine or journal needed at a specific location. They shouldn't collude between institutions to strategically subscribe and then share journals to the detriment of the publisher. BUT at the same time, when a spontaneous need arises within your area of service, and you have that magazine or journal, don't hesitate to use your network to provide a 108-sanctioned copy. But once the same place calls you five times in a year about the same source, say "Okay…time for you to get your own subscription."
Although I did not find it in the CONTU/108 commentary, I believe this approach reveals why CONTU's limit on copies is calculated based on the requests of the "requesting entity," and not fulfillments by the lending source. Just think of it this way: a library or archives should not hesitate to use 108 to fulfill its mission information access. However, it should take equally great care to show it isn't using 108 to help another library, or a patron, avoid a subscription fee. By limiting copies from a single source given to another entity to five, CONTU tried to do just that.
Okay, there's some 10,000-foot background on the "Rule of Five." Now let's focus on the member's two questions:
1. [I]f a public library has multiple branches; can one branch request 5 articles from a single year from a journal and then another branch also requests articles from that same journal and year? Or did the first branch already use the maximum number of copies?
2. What about universities or hospital systems with multiple campuses and libraries?
Let's take a close look at these questions. In both scenarios, the requested articles are not going to a separate entity (or as 108 and the CONTU guidelines call it, a "requesting entity); rather, the copies are going to branches of the same entity: a branch of a library, a part of a university campus, or a part of a hospital entity.
Because the copies are going to the same entity, as I see it--and insofar as actual authorities like congressional commentary, the Copyright Office, and the courts can guide me--the CONTU Guidelines do not apply to the member's scenarios. Rather, the limit of a single institution's ability to make copies for itself is defined by the (g)(2)'s more thematic bar on activities that "substitute for a subscription to or purchase of such a work," and of course, the rules of fair use.
How does this play out? Applying our 108/CONTU background: if a hospital whose library is open to other hospitals has five library suites in different buildings, and wants to put a copy in each suite, it should not apply the "Rule of Five." In fact, this type of example (except they used branch libraries) is cited by the Copyright Office's guidance as exactly not the type of activity 108 was intended to protect! Rather, the hospital would do a "fair use" analysis, or use another part of 108, to make the copies it needs. Or, if there is no other way, would not make them at all.
Now, with all that said, it is important to note that the entity can make 108/CONTU copies for other "requesting entities" (users, other libraries)…so long as the other 108 criteria applies. For instance, 108 allows me, and even up to 10 other people (or 20, or 30) to visit your library and make a copy of an article, so long as we are not part of a discernable, coordinated "scheme" like a faculty member sending all their students in to copy the same content. Because of this, 108 is a powerful tool for information access. And it's been that way since 1976.
Now, let's stop playing around in the 1970's, and discuss some modern features of this type of "multi-branch" dilemma.
The fact of the matter is, unless the library/university/hospital is purchasing physical copies, at this point in 2020, what might be more relevant than CONTU's "Rule of Five" is the terms of the license from the subscription service the library gains access to the copies through. Remember, as a general rule, exemptions to copyright infringement do not trump violations of valid negotiated contract terms. So, if a library gains access to the content through a license that limits the number of copies, it might be that the specific "Terms and Conditions"--not the CONTU Guidelines or basic copyright law--that apply.
This is why careful review of all licenses held by libraries grows more critical, year after year. It is also why whenever possible, I advise that every license for content should have a clause expressly stating that the terms of the license do not limit the library's rights under Copyright Law Section 107, 108, and 110, and the ADA.
So, where does that leave us on the "Rule of Five?"
There's a brassy phrase people can use to reply when asked "How are you?"
"Five by five," they might say, taking a verbal saunter through (depending on which slang dictionary you use) radio talk, surfer talk, trucker talk, or the characters in a sci-fi/pop culture adventure.
What's "five by five" mean? No one really seems to know.
"Five by five," and "the Rule of Five," have that in common. Times have changed; has their meaning?
The National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Works ("CONTU") issued its guidelines in 1978. The Commission has not re-convened since then; in fact, in 1992, the section of the law that required periodic assessment of 108's impact on libraries, publishers, and content users was written out of the law.
So here we are, drifting along, applying guidelines from 1978. Is that "five by five?" I don't think so.
But I'm glad Libraryworld is keeping the discussion going.
 The rule that celebrities die in threes, which when you think about it, is how we all die (if count long enough, and stop counting soon enough).
 There are of course some other criteria: there must be no knowledge of a commercial use, and the copy must become the property of the requester.
 Or, as some have said, stepped in it.
 NOTE: this guideline only applies to content within its first five years after publication.
 While there is some commentary about CONTU in copyright jurisprudence, there is no case law on applying these guidelines, and in any event, they do not have the force of law.
 NOTE: being open to outside researchers or patrons is required to even qualify for an exemption under 108.
 See Circular 21, page 14, paragraph 3. When you're done wading this answer, "Circular 21," is that place to further explore the nooks and crannies of this issue.
 The very clear case of hospitals using fair use to routinely copy medical journals, Williams & Wilkins Co. v. United States, 203 Ct. Cl. 74, 487 F.2d 1345, 1973 U.S. Ct. Cl, was determined before 108 was adopted. Although the medical facilities won that one, I would not advise that be done in this day and age.
 My money is on that it mutated from telecommunications.
 A Congressional Act of June 26, 1992, deleted former subsection (i) of 17 U.S.C. 108, which read: “Five years from the effective date of this Act, and at five-year intervals thereafter, the Register of Copyrights, after consulting with representatives of authors, book and periodical publishers, and other owners of copyrighted materials, and with representatives of library users and librarians, shall submit to the Congress a report setting forth the extent to which this section has achieved the intended statutory balancing of the rights of creators, and the needs of users. The report should also describe any problems that may have arisen, and present legislative or other recommendations, if warranted.”
Can a music accompaniment part be recorded ahead of time for a performance as long as the school or library has a copy of the sheet music? Can a few modifications be added to the accompaniment as long as the heart of the work is preserved? Can this recording be shared among schools and libraries as long as each organization has a copy of the sheet music with performance rights?
This question came in from a school system, and it triggered a lot of memories for me.
My junior high school music teacher was a very nice man. From deep within mid-1980's Central New York, he tried to cobble together an orchestra from an array of students whose skills and practice habits ranged from "Julliard-bound," to "who is torturing that cat in the third violin chair?"
Back in 1986 (when I was 13), I saw this guy as "old." Because of the way he tirelessly started the music over (and over) until the brass section entered at the right bar of "Star Wars", I also saw him as a font of endless tolerance.
Now that I am older, my memory portrays my former teacher as a pretty young guy (I think he was in his early 30's). And by now I have worked with enough educators to know that his tireless tolerance of our incompetence was passion.
So, this question has stirred a feeling of nostalgic gratitude. Because of that, I want to give this member an answer that is really solid, helpful, and clear. But as they say in the construction biz when people ask for a job that is quick, quality, and cheap: I can give you a combination of any two, but not all three.
Here is the part of the answer that is solid and clear: Making a recording of a copyright-protected composition, unless the recorder has the permission of the copyright owner, or the recording falls under an exception, is copyright infringement…even for educational purposes.
Is there helpful and solid authority on that? Yes. Circular 21, the long-standing guidance on the relevant copyright laws, makes it clear that for educators, only the following recording of musical compositions is allowed under "fair use":
A single copy of recordings of performances by students may be made for valuation or rehearsal purposes and may be retained by the educational institution or individual teacher.
A single copy of a sound recording (such as a tape, disc, or cassette) of copyrighted music may be made from sound recordings owned by an educational institution or an individual teacher for the purpose of constructing aural exercises or examinations and may be retained by the educational institution or individual teacher. (This pertains only to the copyright of the music itself and not to any copyright which may exist in the sound recording.)
So, at first blush, the answer to the member's first question (and thus, all the following questions) is: NO.
Now, the core guidance in Circular 21 is OLD. It pre-dates streaming, it pre-dates file-sharing, and depending on what start date you give the web, it pre-dates the Internet. But insofar as case law and legal commentary is concerned, it abides.
So, while I have to answer a resounding NO to the question just as it is asked, I can offer a few helpful and clear solutions.
First, it never hurts to ask. Depending on the copyright holder, you may be able to get a "limited license" for the very thing you want to do. Some owners might even be charmed. Others, of course, will just refer you to their manager. You never know until you try. Just make sure you get it in writing.
Second, while the Circular 21 guidance quoted above gives clear examples of what fair use permits, on page 7 of Circular 21, just before listing those guidelines, it states "There may be instances in which copying which does not fall within the guidelines stated below may nonetheless be permitted under the criteria of fair use."
So, if a version has been recorded for performance as part of a clever mash-up, for purposes of commentary and criticism, or another use that might meet fair uses' four factors, this approach is worth considering. Sadly, since that is a case-by-case analysis, I can't say what precisely when that is allowed! An education institution should perform such an analysis using its fair use form.
Third--and I can't believe I am suggesting this--it may be that a combination of different licensing can arrange this precise permission for you.
We'll call this the "Two-Step Shuffle" solution. It is meant to be helpful, and it is solid, but I am concerned it might not be too clear. But let's give it a go.
NOTE: to use the "Two-Step Shuffle" solution, your institution MUST have a public performance license from a licensor like ASCAP or BMI. So, if your school doesn't have one, just stop reading, right now. But if you do…
Step one: see if the song you want to record is licensed for "covers" on a publicly accessible "host site" like YouTube. If the host site has the license, you can record the accompaniment as a "cover," and put it on the host site.
Step two: With your "cover" recorded, you can then play it from YouTube at any premises that has a license for public performance (this is why you need that license from ASACP or BMI…which is also what covers playing music at a high school dance, music over the loudspeaker during halftime, etc.).
Of course, this being an Internet solution, the "Two-Step Shuffle" solution could disappear at any moment! But this being the Internet, something else will take its place.
Now, in suggesting a school to make use of a commercial video hosting service (like YouTube), I would like to take a moment to discuss those two important legal concepts: "Coulda," and "Shoulda."
Just because a school can upload content to a site like YouTube, and get a license for a cover, doesn't mean it should. After all, when using a service like YouTube, an institution agrees with these terms:
By providing Content to the Service, you grant to YouTube a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicensable and transferable license to use that Content (including to reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works, display and perform it) in connection with the Service and YouTube’s (and its successors' and Affiliates') business, including for the purpose of promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service.
In other words, you're feeding the beast; you're commodifying the content you've chosen to share. If it's student work, there are privacy and further intellectual property concerns (students own their copyrights, after all). None of these are things an educator should take lightly.
That said, if approached with the right balance of attention to legal details and commitment to artistic excellence, the "Two-Step Shuffle" can also show future artists and performers how to respect copyright law and engage in self-promotion (which seems to be a critical skill nowadays). So "woulda, coulda, shoulda?" If you undertake the "Two-Step Shuffle" solution, do it with an "ethics buddy" (preferably an administrator who has your back).
And of course, a "Two-Step Shuffle" solution can only be used if you can answer these questions in the affirmative, and you preserve the documents from which you derive your answers:
That second part pertains to any other school or place that wants to publicly use your recording, as well.
So, there you have it. Was this solid and/or helpful and/or clear? In keeping with my Junior High memories, I give myself a "B."
I do wish this answer was a little less like trying to get the brass to come in at the right bar of "Star Wars," but copyright, fair use, and licensing take time and attention to detail to get right.
That said, with enough passion to fuel the effort, I am confident you'll hit the right note.
 That was me. I played trumpet. And had braces. NOT a good combo.
 And because I have high standards.
 Circular 21, "Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians," which has been in use since my days playing trumpet, and arguably, could use some updating. You can find it here: https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ21.pdf
 How old? It was first contained in a joint letter written by representatives of the Music Publishers’ Association of the United States, Inc., the National Music Publishers’ Association, Inc., the Music Teachers National Association, the Music Educators National Conference, the National Association of Schools of Music, and the "Ad Hoc Committee on Copyright Law Revision" on April 30, 1976. Of course, if I tell my younger sister that something from 1976 is "old," I'll catch hell, but fortunately, she teaches religious education, not music.
 A scenario such as the one depicted by the member doesn't even get any slack from educators' other great copyright reprieve: section 110. While 110 does allow a variety of exceptions for musical performances, it doesn't extend its tolerance to recording.
 Something no not-for-profit educational institution should be without, since it can help your institution limit damages under Section 504 of the Copyright Act.
 As of January 13, 2020, YouTube maintains a list of licensed songs you can record and upload at https://www.youtube.com/music_policies?ar=1578920053089&nv=1. And, also as of this January 13, 2020, YouTube (unlike Netflix or HULU) enables businesses to use their services (rather than restricting them for "personal" and "home" use).
 Insofar as I know, only YouTube does this. But I need to get out more, and of course, this type of thing evolves quickly in cyberspace.
 This is different than permission to perform the musical composition!
We are putting together a commemorative calendar as a fundraiser to celebrate the library's 90th year. We're using old photographs that the library has and also photographs from old yearbooks. Is there an issue with copyright infringement in doing this?
Before sitting down to write a "one size fits all" answer, I gave the member a call to discuss this project.
What happened on the call? I can't tell you; it's confidential. BUT, I can say that to give any advice, I had to ask the following questions:
These questions were asked in order to 1) assess the if the photographs were protected by copyright; 2) assess the ability of the library to make a "fair use" defense for using them; and 3) probe for any legal sensitivities possibly related to the content.
This analysis was done because yearbook projects bring up issues of not only copyright risk, but privacy and social issues. For this reason (and because old hairstyles are eternally amusing) yearbook projects are hot right now: the focus of many digitization initiatives, and the cause of many numerous scandals-in-retrospect.
Yearbooks are also getting a good showing in copyright case law these days. The most recent is Dlugolecki v. Poppel, a lawsuit over two yearbook photos of actress-turned-duchess Meghan Markle (a headshot and a group photo), taken when the future royal was in high school.
Dlugolecki shows the "worst-case scenario" answer to the member's question. In this case, when "Good Morning America" and other ABC shows used his photos in their coverage of Ms. Markle's rise to royalty, professional photographer John Dlugolecki sued ABC (and others).
His claim? That by re-using the printed yearbook photos he shot in the '90's, ABC (and others) infringed his copyright via broadcast in 2017.
The case was brought in California and heard before the Honorable George H. Wu. It settled on December 11, 2019, but not before ABC made--and lost--a preliminary "fair use" defense. Judge Wu, applying the fair use "four factor" analysis set by Section 107 of the Copyright Act, found that even though the photos hadn't been registered by photographer Dlugolecki prior to their use by ABC, the undisputed facts of the case (his photos were clearly used in the broadcasts) could warrant a finding of infringement.
Now, a commemorative calendar by a not-for-profit library is not the "Good Morning America" show. But as we can see in Dlugolecki, yearbook photos can get protection just like any other copyrighted medium, and re-use might not be considered fair use. Which means that under the right circumstances (including if the copyright holder is motivated enough), a problem could arise for unauthorized use of yearbook content.
So, the answer to the member's question is: yes, there can be an issue. Because of that, careful planning, and if possible, working with a copyright attorney, is the way to approach use and re-publication of photographs from a yearbook.
 I asked about “sensitive content” not to suggest it be expurgated, but to offer legal guidance on presenting it properly (although I doubt “sensitive content” would be selected for a commemorative calendar).
 I am writing this in January 2, 2020; my first work of the New Year!
 Decided in United States District Court for the Central District of California on August 22, 2019 (CV 18-3905-GW)(GJSx).
 Cases like this often settle. While this is very frustrating for attorneys conducting research (who like to read findings and judicial opinions), it is no doubt lucrative for the plaintiffs, and an act of risk management for the defendants.
I would like to decorate a cart for use in a free books initiative I am planning for our school. Our art club is interested and willing to paint and design it. I understand that we can't have them paint covers from books but we'd like to print out book covers and then decoupage them onto parts of the cart. Would that be acceptable? We want to promote the books while respecting copyright! I've printed out book covers to promote books in the past for special events but am careful to not put them online. They are one copy for a limited amount of time. Is this different?
A tricked-out, decoupaged book cart sounds awesome (especially if it comes with free books). A commitment to honoring copyright is awesome, too. And it is entirely possible to do both.
In the spirit of the educational environment that spawned this question, here is an "Assignment" to teach the students about copyright while designing a book cart that celebrates the works it will distribute:
Part 1. Pick at least five books with covers or illustrations that are OUT of copyright this year. For extra credit, look up what year of publication this would be on Cornell's Public Domain Guide (hint: in 2019, this would be anything published before 1924). Make sure you're working from the date the art was published, not when the text was first published! Copy the covers and decoupage to the cart as needed.
This is the "Public Domain" solution.
Part 2. Pick at least five books with covers or illustrations that are IN copyright. Generate your own version of the illustrations with some key details changed: maybe the setting is now your town/city, or the characters look like students and teachers at the school. Make sure your changes say something about the school or the place where you live, as well as the book. Write a paragraph about why you made the changes and creative choices you did. Do not sell your work, and resist posting it online. Just apply decoupage and let the cart wheel around the school, enlightening and educating people.
This is the "Fair Use," solution.
Part 3. Pick at least five books related to an assignment for a class that will be offered as free books. Work with the librarian to obtain a licensed copy of the covers you picked from a service, and make sure that as you decoupage the covers, you are within the terms of what is allowed by the license.
This is the "110 Solution."
My grading rubric for this three-part assignment is based on: verifying the publication dates for part one; the thoughtfulness of the paragraph for part two; and the clear application of the license for part 3.
Ability to demonstrate all three means the cart gets an "A."
Now, this "assignment" encourages maximum use of the legal avenues available for such a project. Because of that, it is a tad complicated. But as the member suggests there is a simpler solution: licensing.
So, if the project depends on a license, make sure you read the terms carefully, print a copy of the license just as it appears when you download the pictures for the project, and plan to make sure the use of the cart stays within the terms of the license.
And with that, whether you decide to go for the copyright trifecta created by the assignment (public domain, fair use, 110), or simply use a license: cart on!
 One of my favorite devices in the world is the book cart. We use them at my law office, where attorneys and paralegals have color-coded carts to tell them apart.
 The numbers aren't as important as the ratio, here.
 For instance, a version of Tom Sawyer that came out in 1980 with new illustrations would have the text in the public domain, but the illustrations--including the cover--would be protected by copyright.
 Based on 17 U.S.C. 107: https://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107
 Like the one mentioned by the member.
 For instance, decoupaging and adding the art to the cart could be considered creating a "derivative work," so make sure that use is not barred by the license.
 Based on 17 U.S.C. 110(a), which allows the "display" of ONE graphic work by a not-for-profit, accredited school for purposes of face-to-face instructions (so long as that copy was properly obtained).
 If anyone uses this assignment, please let me know, and please send a picture (which we will NOT put on the internet without your permission).
The question, as a follow up to the Oct 31, 2019 post about showing movies and Swank.
Regarding Netflix, this is there term of use:
Netflix Service 4.2. The Netflix service and any content viewed through our service are for your personal and non-commercial use only and may not be shared with individuals beyond your household. During your Netflix membership, we grant you a limited, non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access the Netflix service and view Netflix content through the service. Except for the foregoing, no right, title or interest shall be transferred to you. You agree not to use the service for public performances.
My question- does Swank’s license allow for this OR does Netflix’s license stand even though rights are secured by the movie studio.
I must be very clear: Unless I obtained a written representation signed by an officer of Netflix, I would never advise a corporate client to rely on the Swank umbrella license to show a video from a “personal and non-commercial” Netflix account.
Why is this? Because the one license does not trump the other.
To illustrate this concern, here is the best analogy of I could come up with: if it’s bow hunting season and I get a bow hunting license, I can bow hunt. I can commune with nature, test my skills, and if I’m lucky, come home that night and make some venison stew.
But if, while eating my dinner, the police stop by to investigate an allegation that I shoplifted the bow and arrows, they won’t say: “Oh, you have a license? Sorry, back to your stew.”
The same principle applies here. A Swank license can definitely allow your institution to watch a covered movie you lawfully obtain. But the Netflix license quoted by the member does not allow the movie to be shown beyond the account holder’s “household.” And the language makes it clear the account is for “non-commercial” uses. In other words: a copy used to further institutional operations was not lawfully obtained.
Unfortunately, Swank is pretty coy about this concern. Here is the language from the link provided by the member:
Where can I acquire movies after we receive our license?
You can use movies that are secured from any legal source (DVDs, digital copies or any other legal format). While we cannot speak for other companies, we recommend checking the terms and conditions of any streaming service used to confirm that they do not prohibit public performance. [emphasis added]
Now, in copyright law, everything is up for debate. If I put this topic on the table at a gathering of three copyright attorneys, I guarantee you’d get six answers (maybe seven). And of course, attorneys love it when their clients test the boundaries of the law: it gives us a chance to engage in high-stakes, nuanced, and learnedly arguments—and sometimes, it comes with a paycheck.
But one thing most attorneys in the business world respect is risk. There is a risk that Netflix could view the use as unauthorized. And I stated above, unless there is rock-solid assurance from the vendor (in this case, Netflix) that it is authorized, use of a personal Netflix account for an institutional purpose is just too risky.
How does this play out in the real world? Large services like Netflix look for “teachable moments,” to bring lawsuits. They send out private investigators, track IP addresses, and look for evidence of broad misuse. Once they gather the evidence, they select a victim, and sue (although in the case of Neflix, Section 7 of the License allows for them to resolve the matter via private arbitration).
What is the protection against that? An institutional policy that bars use of personal accounts for professional purposes.
There are some approaches to this educational dilemma that do pass my “sniff test.” Some colleges encourage students to get Netflix accounts if they are taking a film class, so they can watch movies at home. Near as I can see, unless Netflix starts putting some new “not for class” terms in its license, this is okay (but does not extend to the entire class using one student’s account…unless they are all in the same household).
Similarly, if a history teacher wants to use their Netflix account to view “13,” at home, even if it is to prepare for a lecture or a discussion of the film in class the next day, that strikes me as a “personal” use. But if their institution asked them to do it, or they wanted to use their account to watch the movie in class, that would not be allowed.
I wish I could give the member clever answer informed by Fair Use, or coming up with some special rule that applies to libraries. But licensing is a creature of contract, and if you accept the terms, they will generally govern.
So, just like this member, read those licenses carefully!
 I know it sounds rather cold, but in liability-land, schools are “corporations.”
 You should see the analogies I left on the cutting-room floor! My favorite involved a building permit and pirated architectural plans.
 I do not bow hunt, but if I hunted at all, that is how I’d do it. I have a friend who bow hunts; she is like Wonder Woman, but with white hair a much more practical gear.
 As of December 18, 2019 (I took a screen shot). We’ll see if it’s there in a year or so. I’m such a media influencer, maybe once Swank hears about me calling them “coy,” they’ll switch it up!
 As discussed in other columns, Netflix does have an “educational use” license for some documentaries. Their instructions to see if a movie is available that way is here: https://help.netflix.com/en/node/57695
 ASCAP, BMI, RIAA, MPAA, and DirectTV were the pioneers of this tactic.
 I would like to thank Jim Belair (who gave me permission to credit him here) at Monroe 2 Orleans BOCES for a great discussion on the implications of this issue for New York public schools. Most institutions don’t invest in DVD players anymore, which means that streaming is the way the access content. But if the streaming service isn’t in the name of school (just the teacher or the administrator) use by the school risks violating their license.
Teachers at our school like to use pictures from movies to decorate their doors. What rules apply to this?
At "Ask the Lawyer," we are frequently amazed at the diversity of the copyright questions we get. When we started the service, we thought we'd often refer people back to answers that had already been covered.
But librarians always find a way to switch things up!
What are the new variables this time?
"Doors" and "images from movies."
We'll start with "images from movies."
Under the Copyright Act, the owner of the copyright controls the right to display still images from movies. So the member is right to flag this as a possible concern.
But we can potentially rest easy on that point, because educators have some special rights under the Copyright Act--if the material was legally obtained, and if the material is used as part of the curriculum--and "displaying" images from motion pictures is one of them.
Or, as Congress puts it in Section 110(a) the Copyright Act:
[P]erformance or display of [one legally obtained] work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction[is an exception to infringement].
So, under 110, here is the analysis to answer the member's question:
If the answer to both is "yes," then the answer is: decorate the heck out of that door.
Having said that, I appreciate that the two factors set out above are not always easy to answer. Frustratingly, there is no one-size-fits-all definition of either "teaching activities" or "lawful copies." That said, using some grown-up versions of famous characters from my childhood, here are some examples of the "wrong" and the "right" way.
The wrong way to use 110
Teacher Mr. Goofus does a Google image search for "Elsa," captures a bunch of screenshots from "Frozen," prints out color copies. He puts them on the outside of the classroom door, together with a sign saying "Let it go, only a few weeks until Winter Break!"
The right way to use 110
Teacher Mr. Gallant uses the copy of the DVD owned by the school library to create a screenshot of the scene where Elsa is discovered to have magical powers. He puts it on the inside of the classroom door, along with a sign saying: "This month we'll be reading the Scarlett Letter and discussing depictions of overcoming social alienation in popular culture."
What do these examples show? The more integrated with the course work, and the more legitimate the copy, the more the teacher (and the school) can claim protection under 110. (NOTE: Mr. Gallant could claim protection under "Fair Use.")
Which brings me back to the other variable: the door. For a 110(a) analysis, what side of the door the movie picture is on is (potentially) relevant, since if the content is on the outside of the door, it's slightly harder to claim the material is part of "face-to-face teaching." That said, if the link to an actual lesson plan is clearly perceptible (like in the "Gallant" example), I think it could work.
And there you have it.
I have noticed this "door decoration" phenomenon when picking my kids up from school. My poor children never have a moment that is Harry Potter® or Elsa®-free.
But I get it, images from movies are a way to brighten the environment and get kids engaged. Fortunately for the teachers of this world, if you follow its formula, Section 110(a) makes it okay. This is good, since after taking a quick look, we could not find a non-paywall source for such images.
But make sure the use is part of the curriculum! Thanks for a thoughtful question.
 Before committing to this example, I checked to see if 1) "Goofus and Gallant" was still "a thing;" and 2) if modern norms of child psychology had decided they were based on any harmful tropes. Wow, was a fun ten-minute tangent. As the children's librarians out there already no doubt know, G&G is very much still "a thing." Further, while a ton of fascinating stuff has been written about their antics (showcased in over a billion issues of "Highlights") they are still alive and illustrating extremes of youthful behavior--having outlived such contemporaries as lead paint, seatbeltless cars, and jarts. Go, G&G.
 This is an appropriate assignment for fourth grade, right?
 Which the "Goofus" example would not qualify for.
 Am I just jealous? I tried to remember what was decorating the doors of my elementary school in New Hartford, NY, circa 1982. I am pretty sure the only decor was the sad remains of the people in "Oregon Trail." Speaking of harmful tropes…
What qualifies as a legally owned copy of a movie? I understand that the physical copy, when loaned is transferrable and can be covered with an Umbrella License from SWANK or other companies. I believe that streaming services do not qualify as an owned copy as they have licensing that does not work with the Umbrella License. What about movie rentals from iTunes? Does that licensing also exclude itself from the umbrella license? I guess my question is, does only a physical copy of the item work with the Umbrella License provided?
Schools, libraries, prisons, museums, student clubs, companies…from time to time, these places just want to hand out snacks, and let people watch a movie.
The problem is, the simple act of gathering people to watch a movie is governed by an intricate web of copyright law, and the legal filaments of that web change from place to place.
To help institutions navigate this variability, movie studios and agencies (including Swank, the agency mentioned in the question) offer suites of “licensing” options. Swank’s website even features helpful copyright guides to help customers assess their needs and obligations, so they can select the right license—including an array of broad permissions called an “umbrella license.”
Under an “umbrella license,” movies that the agency has the rights to may be shown by the licensee (under an array of qualifying circumstances). And as the member writes, this can include showing movies from a borrowed physical copy (like a DVD), even if the copy isn’t supplied by the service.
How does that work? Here’s an example:
Let’s say my daughter’s kindergarten teacher wants to show the class “My Neighbor Totoro.” The teacher stops at a local library to obtain a copy on DVD, which bears the warning “licensed for home viewing only.”
Next, the teacher checks in with the school and confirms that the school is licensed to show “Totoro” under the school’s umbrella license. My daughter’s class can now watch a masterpiece of Japanese animation, without fear of copyright infringement.
Now let’s switch the scenario up: the teacher wants to stream the movie from his iTunes. The school still has that same umbrella license. Can the teacher use his personal account to show the movie?
That said, depending on how broad it is, the school could try and claim the “umbrella license” to get the school out from under a claim of direct infringement. But that could leave the teacher twisting in the wind! - Not very good for union relations.
To switch the scenario one last time: let’s say the school has an “umbrella license” from an agency like Swank, and also subscribes to a streaming movie service (Amazon Prime). Before a class views a movie via the Prime stream, the school would need to review both licenses to ensure the Prime license was consistent with, or trumped by, the “umbrella.”
This issue here isn’t really about streaming v. hard copies. It’s about licenses. In our first scenario, the “generic” license on a hard copy is (potentially) trumped by the “umbrella license” held by the school. In the second scenario, the personal license held by the teacher could be violated when he uses his account for more than “personal” use—even though the school is licensed to show the movie. And in the third scenario: well, it depends.
The key to this question is license alignment. If an institution has a license to view a movie, and gets the copy it views from another source, there must be no contradictory provisions in the stack of licenses—or, the umbrella license must clearly trump the previous license. This is true whether the institution is using a hard copy or a streaming copy, and regardless of who the physical copy belongs to.
The member’s question alerts us to this complexity, and the member is right to approach this issue with caution.
So. What constitutes “a legally owned copy?” I wish I had a simple and rock-solid answer, but these days, that can be a tough call. Reading the fine print on licenses might not be fun, but it is an essential part of answering this type of question, and it needs to be done on a case-by-case basis. This is why careful planning during procurement, and attention to details when negotiating licenses and services, is critical.
Thanks for a question that pulls the focus to this issue.
 “Helpful” in the sense that they inform potential customers as to why they need Swank’s service! But the “help” is based on reality.
 This is a fantasy example. But they did show her “The Little Mermaid.” Sigh.
 As seen on December 9, 2019 at https://www.apple.com/legal/internet-services/itunes/us/terms.html. That said, each work can have its own terms, so always read carefully.
 But not, perhaps, “contributory infringement” (assisting in infringement by another).
 This answer is esoteric enough, so we won’t dive into the further implications of streaming movies under the TEACH Act…but commentary on that can be found in earlier answers.
 Always check you umbrella license!
 Okay, I’ll admit it: I find reading the fine print fun.
ResearchGate is often a place individuals will go to snag PDFs which are typically provided by authors, not publishers. It refers to itself as a community and network for researchers to share and discuss their research with others from around the globe. ResearchGate explicitly states that they are not liable for any copyright infringement, and that the responsibility rests with the individual; it is entirely up to the individual to either post the PDF to be downloaded freely, or to send the PDF to individuals upon request.
I have multiple questions surrounding the use of ResearchGate. Number one, should libraries be directing individuals to ResearchGate to ask authors for copies of their articles? Number two, should our document delivery service be providing copies of PDFs from ResearchGate to our library patrons? I am personally very hesitant to refer anyone to ResearchGate as I find most faculty researchers are not aware of who truly holds the copyright to their published articles. Thank you!
I first heard about “ResearchGate” at a copyright training I was conducting for librarians.
There I was, holding forth about Section 108 and Fair Use, when out of the blue, an academic librarian asked me: “What do you think of Researchgate?”
This question triggered my number one rule for lawyering: never assume you know an answer; always do your research. So even though my brain figured that “Researchgate” was a new scandal involving falsification of data, I instead replied: “I have to admit, I am not familiar with that.”
Good thing I followed rule number one!
But first, here’s what I have learned:
Notably, as the member points out, ResearchGate’s “Terms” for submitters reinforces the rights of authors:
As a member, when you post full-text articles or supplementary materials on ResearchGate, you do not transfer or assign copyright to us. Rather, you make the content available to the public through ResearchGate.
…about encourages users to respect the rights of others:
If you choose to privately archive or publicly post content, we encourage you to first confirm your rights before doing so. … As we do not have any information about rights you may hold, or any license terms or other restrictions which might apply to such content, we necessarily rely on you to understand your rights and act accordingly.
ResearchGate’s relationship with users is also governed by clauses on “Liability” and “Indemnification”—with ResearchGate attempting to pass all liability for a copyright infringement onto the users who supply content.
And finally, as also shown in their policies, ResearchGate also takes advantage of the “notice and takedown” provisions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to assure itself “safe harbor,” in the event a user posts infringing content.
What I found at ResearchGate.com was what looks like a thorough attempt to dot all the “i”s and cross all the “t”s to respect intellectual property. They probably have a very good lawyer.
But as I said, “always do your research,” so in addition to visiting their site, I also visited PACER to see if ResearchGate is being sued by anyone for copyright infringement. And boy, are they ever.
ResearchGate GmbH (its corporate name in Germany, where it appears to be based) is being sued by Elsevier, Inc., Elsevier Ltd., Elsevier B.V. and the American Chemical Society (“ACS”). The basis for the suit, as set forth in paragraph “three” of the plaintiff’s complaint, is the ResearchGate’s use of “Published Journal Articles” (which the suit calls “PJA”s):
This lawsuit focuses on ResearchGate’s intentional misconduct vis-à-vis its online
file-sharing / download service, where the dissemination of unauthorized copies of PJAs
constitutes an enormous infringement of the copyrights owned by ACS, Elsevier and other
journal publishers. The lawsuit is not about researchers and scientists collaborating; asking and
answering questions; promoting themselves, their projects, or their findings; or sharing research
findings, raw data, or pre-prints of articles.
And, just in case that doesn’t sound too bad, here’s the next paragraph:
ResearchGate’s infringing activity is no accident. Infringing copies of PJAs are a
cornerstone to ResearchGate’s growth strategy. ResearchGate deliberately utilizes the infringing
copies to grow the traffic to its website, its base of registered users, its digital content, and its
revenues and investment from venture capital. ResearchGate knows that the PJAs at issue
cannot be lawfully uploaded to and downloaded from the RG Website. Nevertheless, in violation of the rights of ACS, Elsevier, and others, ResearchGate uploads infringing copies of
PJAs and encourages and induces others to do so. ResearchGate finds copies of the PJAs on the
Internet and uploads them to computer servers it owns or controls. In addition, ResearchGate
lures others into uploading copies of the PJAs, including by directly asking them to do so,
encouraging use of a “request full-text” feature, and misleadingly promoting the concept of “selfarchiving.”[sic] ResearchGate is well aware that, as a result, it has turned the RG Website into a focal point for massive copyright infringement.
Yikes, that sounds dire, right? And very akin to the member’s concerns.
So, with all that established, I’ll share my thoughts, and address the member’s questions.
Number one, should libraries be directing individuals to ResearchGate to ask authors for copies of their articles? Number two, should our document delivery service be providing copies of PDFs from ResearchGate to our library patrons?
Questions like this may be informed by law (and risk management), but must always start with ethics.
The ALA Statement of Ethics has very clear language regarding intellectual property: We respect intellectual property rights and advocate balance between the interests of information users and rights holders.
When it comes to a source like ResearchGate—ostensibly trying to operate within the bounds of the law, but alleged to have a seamier side—the ALA’s further musings on this statement on copyright are also instructive:
Library workers are increasingly critical resources for copyright information in their communities. Consequently, they should be informed about copyright developments and maintain current awareness of all copyright issues. Library workers should develop a solid understanding of the law, its purpose, and the details relevant to library activities. This includes the ability to read, understand, and analyze various copyright scenarios, including fair use and other copyright limitations, using both good judgment and risk mitigation practices.
Library workers should use these skills to identify their rights and the rights of their users. Further, they should be ready to perform outreach surrounding copyright topics and refer users with questions pertaining to copyright to reliable resources. However, library workers should avoid providing legal advice. They may provide information about the law and copyright, but should recommend that patrons consult an attorney for legal advice. [emphasis added]
I can’t answer the member’s questions for any particular library. But based on the ALA Statement of Ethics, its further comments on copyright, and risk management principles drawn from the law, I can suggest a methodology for a library to apply when asking them.
First, if a librarian, using their own observations, and applying ALA ethics, believes a source to be dubious, it is clear that they are ethically obligated to “us[e] both good judgment and risk mitigation practices” about “relevant to library activities,” and to work with decision-makers at their institution to develop a clear position on that source.
This is not a simple nor easy exercise. Further (and frustratingly, for some) it may vary from institution to institution. Some libraries dance on the cutting edge of copyright. Others err on the side of caution. The decision to do either should be based on an informed assessment that considers the library’s mission, insurance, tolerance of risk, and its comfort level with the status quo.
The member is already applying personal experience and modeling this balancing. Remember the last part of the question: I am personally very hesitant to refer anyone to ResearchGate, as I find most faculty researchers are not aware of who truly holds the copyright to their published articles.
To that type of informed concern, there are two considerations I would add for libraries making this type of determination:
1) Under Section 108 of the Copyright Act, a library’s exemption from infringement can turn on their lack of awareness of a scheme to make exploitive commercial copies. Your library’s insurance may also deny coverage if a library is knowingly referring users to an infringer. So, if your institution is aware that a source is an infringer (which is different from suspecting a source is an infringer), that is a factor to balance.
2) On the flip side, libraries should not be willing (and generally have not been willing) to roll over to support the unchecked dominance of traditional commercial publishers. Without pushback, rates will continue to go up, while terms will get more onerous. But there is a difference between thoughtful pushback (like the current, organized fight against the McMillan Embargo), and systematic copyright infringement (like Napster).
Questions like this one show that librarians are thinking about the difference.
Thanks for a great question. It will be interesting to see if the case against ResearchGate goes the distance, and to see libraries decide where they stand.
 When this question first put the name in my brain, the “g” was lowercase.
 For over ten years, I was in-house counsel at a university, and had a reason to read “The Chronicle of Higher Education,” every week. Every year the Chronicle reported on one research-based scandal after another; it’s a miracle I didn’t hear the term “ResearchGate” before this!
 Am. Chem. Soc'y v. ResearchGate GmbH, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 98372, 2019 WL 2450976.
 Yes, this is one monster paragraph within the law suit.
A local county Music Educators Association has approached my BOCES and has asked if we would house & manage their music library. Apparently, the music library was at one point housed at this BOCES, but was then moved to one of the participating districts when BOCES said they would charge a fee for the service. It is my understanding that multiple school districts buy, share, make copies and physically loan choral and band sheet music to each other. One of the music teachers has indicated that the library consists of 581 choir pieces and that each piece has 100-200 copies (and that’s not counting the band music).
I’m concerned that the number of copies the teachers have made of each choir piece is a copyright infringement and also am unsure if it’s even legitimate to loan and share the original pieces among multiple districts for the purpose of shared usage and I’m hoping you can help point me in the right direction in terms of how a music lending library could work (legally!) in terms of copyright, licensing and fair use.
Yes, I can point you in the right direction…but I can’t take credit for drawing the map!
Since it pertains to a local “Music Educators Association,” this question brought me on a pleasant journey into the chartered territory of the “New York State School Music Association,” a/k/a “NYSSMA.”
NYSSMA is the organization for school music educators in New York. Its mission is to “advance music education across New York State for its membership and students in member school programs.”
Like libraries, schools, and BOCES, NYSSMA is chartered by the Regents of the State of New York. To enable meaningful participation on a local level, NYSSMA is broken into 15 zones.
In the member’s question, it sounds like a local zone of NYSSMA is asking a local BOCES for assistance.
Since both entities are chartered by the Regents, this makes sense; it’s like your cousin asking if she can store tools in your garage. Except in this case…you aren’t sure where your cousin got the tools. Or who might ask to borrow them.
As the member points out, this uncertainly could be cause for concern. This is particularly true because under copyright law, a license is required to not only duplicate music, but to perform it, so an entity providing unauthorized copies could experience more than one type of liability.
Fortunately, there are many helpful resources to address this, and the basics are set out in plain language on the page of NYSMMA’s national affiliate, the “National Association for Music Educators (“NAfME”).
On their helpful page, found at https://nafme.org/my-classroom/copyright/, NAfME outlines the basics of managing a music library for NYSSMA members.
As stated by NAfME:
“Unlike most educators, music educators must face copyright compliance frequently throughout their career. Although the thought of copyright can be intimidating and a complex subject, NAfME has a multitude of resources that can help you better understand U.S. copyright law.”
How does an institution considering providing this service get started? Any institution considering housing a music library (or script library, or an architectural plans library, or anything that will be licensed and/or loaned under particular conditions) for another entity needs to do these three things:
1. Research and assess the full scope of what will be required;
2. When the full scope is known, develop a budget, policies, job descriptions and a contract (or term sheet) to support what is needed; and
3. Finalize the arrangements in a way that mitigates risk, and makes the service effective and sustainable.
Since this type of analysis can reveal the complexities of what may seem like a simple service, it is not surprising to hear that at one point a fee was required for it!
As the resources on the NAfME site show, housing and managing a music library is potentially a very detailed endeavor. And while technology has made some aspects of the tasks involved easier, any institution providing such a service will need to make it a part of someone’s job.
So, after reviewing the basics on the NAfME site, it would be good to have a forward-thinking and specific discussion that addresses the following:
In addressing these questions, it is important to note that NYSSMA has access to numerous copyright-related resources as a member of NAfME. For instance, as noted on the NAfME “copyright” page: “Through an agreement with ASCAP and BMI, NAfME (or MEA) sponsored groups are granted performance rights of music managed by these organizations. (This covers only performances sponsored by NAfME or federated state associations of NAfME.) However, if members wish to record their students’ performance of any work, permission must be obtained through Harry Fox Agency.”
So awareness of NYSSMA’s rights, as parties explore how they could assist with housing and managing a NYSSMA-owned collection, would be critical. Solid and well-coordinated compliance with license terms would also be important.
I know this is just the overture to a full answer, but thank you for a well-composed question.
 For instance, if the collection is valuable, insurance coverage should increase.
 In researching this answer, I also enjoyed reading the discussion of the qualifications of a music librarian, found on the Music Library Association’s web site at https://www.musiclibraryassoc.org/page/MusicLibrarianship. I don’t know if a person with music librarian skills is needed for a service like this (likely not), but only the analysis I set out above could confirm that.
Our school district offers a Community Education program that offers courses on a broad range of topics to the community. In some of these Community Education classes the instructor may want to show a DVD movie or stream a movie that is related to the course. Would this violate fair use and copyright? How would this also change the outcome if our school district has a subscription with SWANK Movie Licensing?
Flying at 10,000 feet, the answer to the first question is: if the class in in person (not online), AND the institution is non-profit, AND the only viewers are the instructor and the students enrolled in the class, AND the viewing is in the classroom or academic facilities, AND the content is part of the curriculum, AND the copy was legally obtained…then the showing is allowed under Section 110(1) of the Copyright Act (“110”).
The answer to the second question is: if use of the precise copy is controlled by a SWANK license, then despite authorization under 110, the showing must be consistent with the terms of that license. For that matter, the use of any other content service for viewing movies (Netflix, YouTube, etc.) must also conform to the terms of the service’s license.
Swooping a bit lower to the ground (but not into the weeds): exercising rights under 110 is why it is important that: 1) class syllabi show the relationship of materials to the goals of a course, 2) institutions maintain lists of enrolled students, and 3) institutions have designated spaces for instructional activities.
This is why reading the fine print on content licenses is important, since contractual obligations can over-ride rights otherwise granted by law.
How does a school librarian help instructors stay within the bounds of the law or the license? A good rule for educational institutions is to have clear and pro-active policies and outreach for instructors who need to show movies. In this world where education gets hit with new laws, regulations, and policies every year, while clear policies are important, a simple message to instructors: “Need to show a movie in class? Ask us how!” is a great place to start.
 Here is the full text of sub-section (1) of 17 U.S. Code Section 110: [Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the following are not infringements of copyright:] “performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made….”
 What’s a sign that your institution’s policy is sufficiently “clear and pro-active?” Instructors not using their own personal Netflix accounts is Exhibit #1.
I'm working on a research project with other librarians who work with nursing schools from across the United States.
Our research question involves the restrictiveness of requirements for articles used in student writing assignments, i.e. limiting to articles published in the past 5 years and one author must be a nurse.
Our data collection plan involves collecting syllabi and assignments for nursing school writing assignments to analyze for the criteria that articles must meet.
We would like to know before we begin, do syllabi and course assignments constitute intellectual property that is protected by copyright laws?
Thank you for your assistance with this!
Yes, syllabi and assignments can be protected by copyright, so long as they are of sufficient substance and originality.
Of course, there is no precise formula for what constitutes “sufficient substance and originality.” However, a freshly-composed assignment of more than a paragraph or two should be enough to qualify for protection, and a typical syllabus—setting forth the course purpose, assignments, means of grading, and class-specific policies—should almost always qualify (even if wrapped up inside a larger institution-wide template to cover academic integrity, ADA accommodations, and grade appeal).
The trick, however, is know who—or what—owns that copyright. Some institutions will claim ownership, since the content was generated by their faculty (a concept called “work for hire”). But other institutions will expressly let their faculty own their work-product. So, there is no one rule for determining ownership, and that means there is not one method for obtaining permission.
But do you need permission? While that is always nice, in academia (just like anywhere else), not everyone is eager to have their own work assessed, and yet, there must be some way for analysis, commentary, and criticism of that work to be conducted. Which bring us to every information professional’s favorite copyright concept: fair use.
Fair use is the ability to use copyright-protected materials for purposes of education, commentary, and criticism. It was designed for projects like the one in this question. But just like with determining ownership, there can be no cookie-cutter answer, for as one court put it: “Determining fair use is a mixed question of fact and law.”
How can a project like the member’s address this “mixed question?” In a situation like the one presented by the member, here is a good approach:
Generate a careful summary or abstract of the project (which the member has done here), and the data collection methods.
Consider how many copies of assignments/syllabi the project will need to make, how they will be stored, and the use your project will make of them. If stored in hard copy, where will the copies be, how many must you create, and how will you restrict further duplication? If digital, consider how the electronic copies will be accessed and secured, perhaps warning users on a user-limited shared drive to only use the copies for the purposes of the project, and to not disseminate them further.
With all that assessed (but no copies yet made!), conduct and document a “fair use assessment,” using your institution’s policy and form for fair use (any research institution, or educational institution, should have these; for example, the great library team at Cornell has a well-developed checklist for their faculty and staff to use when contemplating the use or partial use of copyright-protected materials).
If you determine the use will be “fair,” and decide to proceed with making only those copies you need for your project (and include only the content needed to prove your point in any final product) save the fair use assessment documentation, because under Copyright §504, a good-faith belief by a library, archives, or higher ed institution that it is making a fair use of protected materials can limit the damages in the event it is accused of infringement.
So, to reiterate the answer to the core question: yes, assignments and syllabi can be protected. But to expand from there: that protection should not be a roadblock to an academic work assessing them. While it might present a small “speed bump,” the law of fair use provides options that are consistent with good scholarship practices and rigorous inquiry.
I am curious to see your project’s conclusions.
 Hon. Cardamone, in Weissmann v. Freeman, in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 868 F.2d 1313, at 1324 (1989), ruling on a case of copyright infringement in academia, while also over-ruling a lower court judge who was a bit ham-handed in assessing the original case (even judges have a tough time with fair use!).
 Or as the law puts it: “…the court shall remit statutory damages in any case where an infringer believed and had reasonable grounds for believing that his or her use of the copyrighted work was a fair use under section 107, if the infringer was: (i) an employee or agent of a nonprofit educational institution, library, or archives acting within the scope of his or her employment who, or such institution, library, or archives itself, which infringed by reproducing the work in copies or phonorecords…
We recently purchased equipment that is capable of converting VHS tapes to DVDs that will be used by staff and patrons. We were initially thinking of it being used for home movies, and such, but then a staff member raised the question about the legality of converting commercial (movies, TV shows) VHS tapes to DVDs. Are there copyrighting issues involved? If it's not legal to convert them, what language can we use in our literature to make sure they are aware that it is not allowed, and any penalty that they may incur if they do? (We won't be watching them when they use the equipment.)
Thank you very much for your response!
VHS-to-digital conversion can open up options for accessibility under the ADA.
Many people have treasured family memories they need to convert a more accessible format.
A converter can also help with the creation of critical and new works.
This converter will be a really valuable service for your patrons. But your staff member is right to be cautious.
“Ask the Lawyer” has previously addressed the issue of libraries and patrons making copies under various circumstances (search the “Ask the Lawyer” archives). In those previous answers, among other things, we reviewed the special rights libraries have to make and convert copies under Section 108 of the Copyright Act, which applies specifically to libraries and archives.
Those previous answers cover some of the fundamental elements of this question. They also each include a careful emphasis that patron duplication of audio-visual works (like movies) are mostly excluded from the protections of Section 108, even when the copy is being converted from a medium that is obsolete.
What does all this mean? The staffer is absolutely right—commercial movies might be a resource patrons are eager to convert using the library’s equipment. . . And that could create an infringement a concern
Fortunately, Section 108 has a remedy for this problem. So long as the converting machine displays a notice that “The making of a copy may be subject to copyright law,” the library will meet the requirements of 108 to avoid the imposition of liability for unsupervised patron use of the equipment.
The “unsupervised” requirement is critical, here. If a patron’s use of the equipment is supervised by an employee, or the patron’s behavior makes it obvious that systematic infringement is going on, 108 might not apply.
So, a few things to help you be cautious:
1.When setting up the new equipment, select a place where patron privacy can be honored and employees can’t “supervise” the use of the equipment.
2) Posting “The making of a copy may be subject to copyright law” is a requirement to limit the library’s liability for a patron’s “unsupervised” use.
3) Keep in mind that any obvious copyright violations (like someone stacking an entire collection of BBC miniseries next to the converter and generating multiple DVDs of each one) should be promptly addressed through your patron code of conduct.
Which brings us to the final part of the member’s question: what language, both posted and in a code of conduct, can position a library to observe that last bullet? Patron codes of conduct generally have copyright infringement sections, but if your library does not, a good start is:
The [NAME] library is committed to maximum content access through the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 108 of the Copyright Act, Section 110 of the Copyright Act, and Section 107 of the Copyright Act (Fair Use). However, use of library resources to generate or access copies beyond those rights cannot be supported by our library. Although patron use of such resources is unsupervised, reproduction equipment such as photocopiers, scanners, 3-D printers, and VHS converters are all marked “The making of a copy may be subject to copyright law.”
Any observable use of library equipment to access or make multiple copies in violation of copyright, trademark, or patent law is prohibited under this policy and will be addressed as a violation of this Patron Code of Conduct.
Thank you for this insightful question. I hope many weddings, graduation ceremonies, and birthday parties recorded in the 1990s find a new di
 What it actually says, relevant to this question, is: “The rights of reproduction and distribution under this section do not apply to a musical work, a pictorial, graphic or sculptural work, or a motion picture or other audiovisual work other than an audiovisual work dealing with news….” [except to make a copy when a format is obsolete, AND a copy cannot be obtained for a reasonable price] so long as “any such copy or phonorecord that is reproduced in digital format is not made available to the public in that format outside the premises of the library or archives in lawful possession of such copy.”
 The law states: “(f)Nothing in this section—(1) shall be construed to impose liability for copyright infringement upon a library or archives or its employees for the unsupervised use of reproducing equipment located on its premises: Provided, That such equipment displays a notice that the making of a copy may be subject to the copyright law[.]”
 This time it says: “(g)The rights of reproduction and distribution under this section extend to the isolated and unrelated reproduction or distribution of a single copy or phonorecord of the same material on separate occasions, but do not extend to cases where the library or archives, or its employee—
(1) is aware or has substantial reason to believe that it is engaging in the related or concerted reproduction or distribution of multiple copies or phonorecords of the same material, whether made on one occasion or over a period of time, and whether intended for aggregate use by one or more individuals or for separate use by the individual members of a group….”
I realize this is a lot of footnotes. I’m trying to summarize the situation in the article, but want to provide the footnotes in case any enterprising librarians want to read the law themselves.
 A scenario for which I would be hard-pressed to find a Fair Use or ADA justification for.
As the member shows here, there are a lot of questions within the big issue of “contributory infringement” via use of the internet in libraries. And because they all relate to legal liability, they are scary for library staff and leadership.
To take the edge off that fear while defining “contributory infringement,” please enjoy this bad joke:
“Contributory infringer who?”
“Contributory infringer who is liable if, knowing of infringing activity, induces, causes or materially contributes to infringing conduct of another.”
Ouch. Sorry. I know that really wasn’t funny. I have been teaching knock-knock jokes to my 5-year-old daughter, and they are harder to write than you’d think.
But while the joke was bad, the definition was good. So, what is “contributory infringement?” All (bad) jokes aside, contributory infringement—when a person/entity aids to infringement—is a recipe for serious liability, with the contributor “jointly and severally” liable along with the main infringer.
And yes, as the quote from the MPLA says, unlicensed exhibitions of movies in a library can result in a finding of liability for the library. However…
The MPLA is representing an industry. This “warning” statement is a good example of an industry taking advantage of the complexity of the law to issue a statement that, unless carefully unpacked, will make the reader fear assertions that are grossly overbroad.
Deconstruct the statement. As the member fears, at a superficial level it seems to state that every copy of motion picture content accessed through a library’s wi-fi and played on any device might be a “contributory infringement” without a license. Ouch. That would be a recipe for disaster, indeed.
But this is a typical industry over-step. Fortunately, we fight such over-steps with information, and information is the librarian’s stock-in-trade.
Entire books, law journal articles, and Supreme Court opinions have been written on this topic, but I am going to focus on three bits of practical information that address the member’s concerns.
First, there are obviously sections of the Copyright Act that allow performances of audio-visual works in a library that would otherwise be infringing: Section 107, 108, and 110, depending on the circumstances (including the type of library) can all apply. I won’t unpack these sections here—the applications are too fact-specific—but let’s just say: “There are ways.”
Second, a user accessing content on a library computer may be doing so under their own personal license (Hulu being a possible example). There is no requirement in the Hulu license that a user access their personal Hulu account on a device they personally own; in other words, there is no concern if they access it on a library computer (so long as it is only for personal use). On the flip side, there is no permission from Hulu to use my personal account, via my personal computer, to show a movie to 20 unrelated people and charge admission. So, it’s not so much about the streaming, as what I do with it. This will vary from platform to platform, but the conditions of use will be in the license.
The third factor is the most important for this question, and is what the rest of this response is about, since it applies to the majority of the member’s hypothetical concerns.
To combat the fear that any re-posting or access to audio-visual copyrighted material via a library user account, website, database, or wi-fi connection is a potential infringement the library could be contributing to, every library should register under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), and have a policy for responding to reports of infringement.
Why? Because under the DMCA, service providers may avoid liability for copyright infringement that occurs "by reason of the storage at the direction of a user of material that resides on a system or network controlled or operated by or for the service provider." 
This arrangement allows services like news aggregators (think Huffington Post), content providers (think YouTube) and internet access providers (think Verizon) to function without performing a chilling gate-keeping function, giving them what’s called a “safe harbor” from contributory infringement.
To qualify for this “safe harbor,” a library must be ready to show that it:
(A) (i) does not have actual knowledge that the material or an activity using the material on the system or network is infringing;
(ii) in the absence of such actual knowledge, is not aware of facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent; or
(iii) upon obtaining such knowledge or awareness, acts expeditiously to remove, or disable access to, the material;
(B) does not receive a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity, in a case in which the service provider has the right and ability to control such activity; and
(C) upon notification of claimed infringement . . ., responds expeditiously to remove, or disable access to, the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity.
So powerful is this “safe harbor,” that sites hosting infringing content are routinely found non-liable, so long as they designate a DMCA “agent” with the Copyright Office and meet the above elements, and can show they acted promptly when the agent was notified of alleged infringement.
Of course, any library considering this approach must do so with its eyes wide open. The DMCA is not beloved by libraries; the ALA has some choice criticism of the advantages the “notice and takedown” process gives content owners, and the rough road the process presents to fair use. Nevertheless, the DMCA remains a legal tool that addresses all of the member’s hypothetical concerns and solutions.
To illustrate, let’s run through the member’s examples a bit.
First, the member lists the different types of technology access and use that could be used as a basis for a claim of contributory infringement. The member is right to be concerned, because regardless of the ownership or type of device used in the library (library computer, or patron-owned device, phone, tablet, desktop computer), if an unlicensed movie is being shown at the library (with or without the use of library wi-fi), it runs the risk of being an infringing performance. But so long as the library is not aware of someone using the library’s wi-fi or website to show, post or share infringing content (or the use is not so flagrant that the library “should have known”), and the library meets the other elements listed above, DMCA “safe harbor” can apply.
Of course, this means the library must be able to show it does not have “actual knowledge” that an infringing performance is happening. If the library is hosting obviously infringing activity (like a person sitting on top of the reference desk ripping movies in plain view while singing “I am pirating a copy of “Lego Batman, hooray!”), “safe harbor” might not apply. But if the library is hosting someone quietly accessing a copy of “Lego Batman” on their personal computer (perhaps with a future fair use defense due to using the content in a documentary on deconstructing traditional notions of masculinity via comic-book-based animated children’s movies), and the library has no knowledge of the action, it would be tough to show “actual” knowledge.
NOTE: again, this tension, and the fact that what looks like infringement can often be a fair use, is one reason the ALA and others have an issue with the DMCA.
How does a library relying on the DMCA determine the line between genuine lack of awareness and what it “should know”? A library’s bar on using library resources for obvious and intentional copyright infringement should be in both its internet use policy, and its patron code of conduct. “Obvious and intentional” use of library resources to infringe copyright can include:
These examples all bring serious intellectual property concerns, and libraries must be positioned through policy to deal with them. But through a combination of the DMCA and respecting patron privacy, libraries do not need to consider blocking access or specifically restricting specific content to avoid contributory infringement.
It’s an imperfect balance, to be sure. The ALA and others are right to hold the line on concerns with the over-use of the “notice and takedown” provisions of the DMCA. But within that imperfect system is the secret to the member’s concerns.
The member’s final three questions are:
Does this mean that we have to block access to these sites or provide proactive messaging at each computer, and/or monitor their computer use?
Should messaging that addresses this issue be included in our wi-fi and/or computer use policy?
Is this something that if we provide computer screens or privacy walls we would reduce or eliminate our role as a contributory infringer?
The answers to these questions are:
Thank you for a good, complex question. For libraries that have not yet done so, a DMCA policy and registered agent are worth (very carefully) considering.
 Fair use, library-specific protections that apply to audio-visual news, charitable and educational exceptions.
 As of August 22, 2019!
 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(1).
 If your library is part of an accredited educational institution and the movie is being shown as part of a class, check out the exceptions under Section 110 of the Copyright Act!
 Library IT staff and leadership may, of course, consider blocking or granting lesser priority to certain types of online traffic (access to WorldCat v. access to Blizzard, for instance), simply for utility’s sake. That is another topic beyond the scope of this response, but one I’d love to see a panel about.
 Higher education libraries, careful coordination with other operations may be needed on this, due to your institution’s obligations under 34 CFR 668.43, which does require certain warnings be given to students.
Our library will be hosting a live music event in the local auditorium this summer. The musicians are all local (one is a library employee). The performers are all volunteering their time and there will be no admission fee to attend the event. Do we need special licensing if the musicians perform covers of published songs? Is licensing needed for a performance if it is all original music? If covers are done would making an announcement that no recordings are to be made safeguard against copyright infringement?
When a library schedules a live musical performance what should they be concerned about in terms of public performance? Does the library need to have any coverage in place if the musical group is playing covers of song by other artists? Is it the musical groups responsibility to obtain that permission? In this instance a local television news crew would like to cover parts of an event with musical performances. The concern is that some of the artists will be playing music that they may or may not have the rights to. What should the library consider in this situation? Even if the news crew was not covering the event, is there some type of infringement the library should be concerned about?
It's a musical double act at “Ask the Lawyer” today!
Libraries are hitting their stride as community centers and curators of cultural experience, so it is no surprise that live musical performances are being offered as part of their programming and outreach.
These two members’ questions arrived within one week of each other.
The first question is like a good pop song: a straightforward premise, with an array of practical (but catchy) sub-questions.
The second is more like the best jazz performance: concerned with the “notes that aren’t there,” and basically asking: “what could go wrong?”
To address both submissions, Ask the Lawyer presents: “Ask the Lawyer Library Live Musical Performance Matrix,” and some additional guidance, below.
All songs composed by performers
Some songs composed by others (some “covers”)
Admission charged for profit
Chartered libraries in NY, and their supporters, should not be charging for access to events for a profit.
Chartered libraries in NY, and their supporters, should not be charging for access to events for a profit.
Chartered libraries in NY, and their supporters, should not be charging for access to events for a profit.
Performers are paid
(whether or not admission is free)
The contract between the performer and the library, Friends or other benefactor group should specify that all songs are owned by the performers, and ideally gives maximum rights to record the performance and use the footage to raise funds for the library.
The contract between the performer and the library, Friends or other benefactor group should specify that if the performance of songs owned by a third party is recorded, proper licensing was obtained by the performer or venue, and the performer indemnifies the library for any claim of infringement.
The contract between the performer and the library, Friends or other benefactor group should specify that if the performance of songs owned by a third party is recorded, proper licensing was obtained by the performer or venue, and the performer indemnifies the library for any claim of infringement.
The contract between the karaoke machine provider and the library, Friends or other benefactor group should specify any restrictions based on the license held by the provider.
No compensation to performers
Admission is free
This group wrote their owns songs, and they are willing to perform for free? They must love the library! Just make sure your library also has a contract confirming 100% ownership of songs and addressing other priorities (see “contract” comments below chart).
Okay if performance of covers is not “transmitted”.
Just make sure your library also has a contract addressing other priorities (see “contract” comments below chart).
Okay if performance of covers not “transmitted” to the public.
Just make sure your library also has a contract addressing other priorities (see comments below chart).
The contract between the karaoke machine provider and the library, Friends or other benefactor group should specify any restrictions based on the license help by the provider.
No compensation to performers;
admission proceeds are used to benefit library
They wrote their owns songs and all the proceeds are going to the library?
Okay, so long as the performance of the covers is not transmitted to the public, AND no objection is received from copyright owner (unless they got and can show proof of a license).
Okay, so long as entire performance is not transmitted to the public, AND no objection is received from copyright owner (unless they got and can show proof of a license).
The contract between the karaoke machine provider and the library, Friends or other benefactor group should specify any restrictions based on the license help by the provider.
Wait! Did we mention it’s an entire musical!?!
Your library knows a group that wrote their own musical? That’s awesome. Proceed…just make sure the contract has their guarantee that the work is original, spells out how the library can use the footage for fund-raising, and addresses the contract priorities listed below.
No performance without a license to the entire musical.
No performance without a license to the entire musical.
A karaoke musical? So cool. But definitely the contract with the karaoke machine provider needs to show an adequate license, even if it is not transmitted or recorded.
What if the news shows up?
Excellent. More exposure for a band with talent and originality, and for your library.
Excellent…more exposure for the group and the library. Even if the crew snags some brief footage of a cover song, a reporter’s recording for purposes of a genuine news story is not a “transmission” of the type forbidden by 110(4). But make sure your 110(4) criteria are well-documented.
Excellent…more exposure for the group, and the library. Even if the crew snags some brief footage of a cover song, a reporter’s recording for purposes of a genuine news story is not a “transmission” of the type forbidden by 110(4). But make sure your 110(4) criteria are well-documented.
My worst nightmare would be the news covering me doing karaoke. But again, if the right licensing is in order, a reporter’s recording for purposes of a genuine news story is not a “transmission” of the type forbidden by 110(4).
There are a few things I am sure you’ll notice in this chart:
First, I keep mentioning having a “contract.” No performance should be given in a library (or at a venue with sponsorship by the library) without a contract that confirms the date, performance fee (even if free), intellectual property considerations, public relations/promotion/image release, contingencies for cancellation, and clauses that address liability for any injuries or legal claims based on the performance.
This need for a performance contract applies to any library arranging for a speaker, musical act, magician, artists or other third party (non-employee) to bring programming to your library. For acts that bring risk (of alleged infringement, personal injury, etc.), the contract should require the contracting party to provide a certificate of insurance, and to indemnify the library for any damage caused by the performer.
The contract does not have to be extensive, but it should cover the fundamentals listed above. It can require that the performer obtain all necessary permissions, or can provide that performance licensing be covered by the venue (with a license from ASCAP or BMI). A good general practice lawyer who handles performance and liability issues should be able to develop a template for your library (although even a good template will need to be adjusted from time-to-time).
Second, you’ll see an array of factors in the chart above, like “performer not paid,” or “it’s a musical!?!” These factors are drawn from 17. U.S.C. 110 (4) (a part of the copyright law), which allows certain charitable uses of non-dramatic literary or musical works without a license.
Here is the complete text of 110(4):
[The following is not an infringement of copyright]
(4) performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work otherwise than in a transmission to the public, without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage and without payment of any fee or other compensation for the performance to any of its performers, promoters, or organizers, if—
(A) there is no direct or indirect admission charge; or
(B)the proceeds, after deducting the reasonable costs of producing the performance, are used exclusively for educational, religious, or charitable purposes and not for private financial gain, except where the copyright owner has served notice of objection to the performance under the following conditions:
(i) the notice shall be in writing and signed by the copyright owner or such owner’s duly authorized agent; and
(ii)the notice shall be served on the person responsible for the performance at least seven days before the date of the performance, and shall state the reasons for the objection; and
(iii)the notice shall comply, in form, content, and manner of service, with requirements that the Register of Copyrights shall prescribe by regulation;
This section of the Copyright Act was crafted with just the members’ type of event in mind. As usual with Copyright law (which giveth and taketh away, when it comes to fair use and other infringement exceptions) careful reading and careful attention to details is important before relying on an exception. But if you document meeting all the factors, 110(4) is a great boon to libraries (and other charitable organizations and efforts).
So as you see, with some careful attention to details, a show can go on. Or as these slightly modified lyrics (fair use!) from the great Shannon (circa 1983!) summarize:
Let the music play.
But what’s the venue say?
If there’s a license you
Can play other people’s tunes.
Let the covers play
If your library doesn’t pay,
and don’t transmit your groove
Then the tunes are free to use.
 Anyone who has seen “Spinal Tap” knows that there are an amazing variety of things that can go wrong.
 To “transmit” a performance is to “communicate it by any device or process whereby images or sounds are received beyond the place from which they are sent”—this includes a livestream, video, or broadcast.
 This is partly why I gave you a chart. That, and I love charts.
 As of this writing, I am 46. When this song came out, I was 10, and the song, along with many people’s hair, was HUGE.
 Parody lyrics are not legal advice. Use the chart, consult the law, and don’t have a concert without a contract!
We are parodying words to a popular song to create a video celebrating our library's anniversary. The song is 50 years old. We will be using the music but changing the lyrics. We will be videoing staff members singing. Can we post this video to our library website? Can we use it in public settings? Are there any restrictions on use? Thank you.
When this question came in, I called the member library to get a bit more information: What was the song? Would the video would be used for fund-raising? How is it being put together?
You know…boring lawyer questions.
Since libraries are NEVER boring, I of course got interesting answers and more information than I bargained on. With the permission of the member, and since this answer is not confidential legal advice, I am going to share a dramatic re-creation of our discussion here:
LAWYER: Hi! I am Stephanie Adams, the attorney for the council’s “Ask the Lawyer” service. I wanted to check in on a few things for your question here.
LIBRARIAN: Oh! Thank you for calling.
LAWYER: My pleasure. Now, I just have a few questions….what song are you thinking about using?
LIBRARIAN: Well, our library is turning 50, and we want to celebrate it. We thought we’d pick a song that was from the same year we started. As it turned out, this was a bit difficult, because it’s a challenge to find a song from 1969 that isn’t depressing.
LAWYER: An upbeat song from 1969? Wow, now that I think about it, that probably is a tall order.
LIBRARIAN: Yes! But we found one. “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies came out in 1969.
LAWYER: Aha! “Da da DAda DA da…” Yes, that is catchy. What are you thinking about doing with it?
LIBRARIAN: Well, we want to do a version that [REDACTED TO PROTECT SURPISE]. So, just like I wrote, we want to know if we can use the original recording for the music, or maybe just play our own version…one of our librarians is in a band. And we’d like to put it on Youtube, or perhaps our website. Or maybe just play it on computers in the library?
LAWYER: Hmmm. Do you plan on using it in connection with any fund-raising?
MEMBER: No, no. Just for fun and celebration.
LAWYER: Okay. Well, that’s helpful. But I can see why you sent in this question.
LIBRARIAN: Yes. I know there could be some copyright issues. But everywhere I look, I see libraries doing their own parody video versions of songs. The ALA even did a parody of a Taylor Swift song! So I figure, there has to be a way.
LAWYER: Many ways, in fact. And of course, just like you say, many, many, ways to have some concerns. Okay, I need to hit the books. I’ll be back in touch soon!
The first thing I did, after this call, was check out Youtube. The member was right: the internet is alive with clever, original, library-produced parody videos! How had I missed these? I really need to crawl out of my law cave every now and again.
That said, after a few fun moments of sharing some library/parody videos with my office people, I crawled back into my law cave to address the question.
In general, what does a library making a parody video have to consider?
Although many people think doing a “parody” is an instant ticket to a Fair Use (section 107 of the Copyright Act) defense, the member’s caution was right-on: the use of a musical recording (which is also use of a musical composition and its written lyrics), must jump multiple hurdles before it meets 107’s criteria.
As Justice Souter put it in the famous “2Live Crew” case:
Parody, like other comment and criticism, may claim fair use. Under the first of the four §107 factors, "the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature . . . ," the enquiry focuses on whether the new work merely supersedes the objects of the original creation, or whether and to what extent it is "transformative," altering the original with new expression, meaning, or message. The more transformative the new work, the less will be the significance of other factors, like commercialism, that may weigh against a finding of fair use. The heart of any parodist's claim to quote from existing material is the use of some elements of a prior author's composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author's work. But that tells courts little about where to draw the line. Thus, like other uses, parody has to work its way through the relevant factors. [emphasis added]
In other words, parody doesn’t mean an automatic ticket to a Fair Use defense; the new work has to create a new message while also partly commenting on the old. This is a high bar, even when the other factors (like a non-commercial use) may be in a library’s favor.
2 Live Crew’s version of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman,” which used both the music and AND (some of the) lyrics of the original, hit that bar: “It is th[e] joinder of reference and ridicule that marks off the author's choice of parody from the other types of comment and criticism that traditionally have had a claim to fair use protection as transformative works,” wrote Souter in 1994.
Only this “joinder of reference and ridicule” protected 2Live Crew as they made use of Orbison’s musical composition and lyrics. Had they left that “reference and ridicule” out, had they simply recorded a cover version of the song and changed a few lyrics without engaging in true commentary about the original, that wouldn’t have had that protection, and their use would have been infringing.
So, when planning a parody video, a library has to be honest: is it a true parody allowing Fair Use, or is it a fun riff that should get a license?
Using our “Sugar, Sugar” scenario, let’s explore the difference:
The original video for “Sugar, Sugar” shows Archie, Veronica, Sabrina and the gang at a fair in Riverdale. Archie’s band strums and sings “Sugar…Aw, Honey Honey,” while Sabrina runs a kissing booth. The whole things is a montage of Sabrina transforming the attendees into various animals with her magical kiss (cost: $1.00). It is charming (although of course rampantly sexist).
Now, for a comparison of a fun riff versus a true, Fair Use-defensible parody.
A fun riff on this cartoon music video would simply change some of the lyrics and create a new, non-referential video. Perhaps the chorus, instead of “Sugar, Sugar,” would be “WorldCat. Aww…WorldCat, WorldCat,” and the video would be a montage of people at computers singing about how exciting databases are. It would be funny and make a point, but there would be no commentary on or ridicule of the original.
A fair use-defensible parody would go deeper, perhaps saying something like: “Budget. Ow…Money, Money,” and the video would be a montage of librarians doing what it takes to raise money for supplies and transformative programming. It would riff off the original to criticize budget cuts, but just as important (for our Fair Use analysis), it would be a comment on the exploitive but subversively transformative commercial nature of the kissing booth in the original.
Have I lost you yet? I’m sorry. Fair use is something not even federal judges get right, and the nuances of the case law make it a very unreliable defense for all but the most incisive parody-driven comment and criticism.
The bottom line: When a library or other institution wants to do a fun riff on a song, the safest bet is to get a license.
So if your library decides your video will be a fun riff and not a fair use-packing parody, what are the options?
The librarian mentioned another source in our discussion: YouTube.
YouTube has spent the last few years working with ASCAP, BMI and various other rights holders to license songs for their use on the video service. Ads that run while YouTube videos feature these songs generate revenue that goes, in part, to the rights holders. This enables “YouTubers” (i.e. content providers) to use the songs (although there are certain requirements for every license), and gives the rights holders a steady revenue stream.
I visited YouTube’s website and looked up “Sugar Sugar.” Sure enough, “Sugar, Sugar” is licensed to YouTube for both direct play (i.e. to use as the music accompanying a video) or for a cover (for a YouTuber to generate and publish their own version of the musical composition).
Of course, any departure from the original recording or lyrics is not quite a “cover;” arguably, it is a derivative work, which is a separate right under the Copyright Act. But when the YouTube license allows for either the song to be played, or a “cover” to be generated, YouTubers have a lot of options. So whether the original version is used with fadeouts to the library’s custom recording, or the member library simply puts their voices over a copyright-protected musical recording, the YouTube license should cover it.
If YouTube is not your cup of tea, the other solution is to go to the rights holders (in the case of “Sugar, Sugar,” reportedly over 12 parties!), and ask for permission. BMI has a license they offer to not-for-profits, which allows up to three songs per year at a rate of $00.08/1,0000 page hits. This type of exercise could be tedious, but depending on what you want to do, could be the best option.
In Closing: A Comment About Fair Use
That said, I am mindful that an unacceptable by-product of all this “easy licensing” could be the erosion of Fair Use. As just an example, one of my favorite parodies is a simple lip-synch and video re-creation of the Hall & Oates song, “Private Eyes” (if you haven’t seen this, give yourself 5 minutes when you need a boost).
Because of the keen mockery and recontextualization of the original video’s choreography and messaging, I would argue that, if sued, the parody’s creators would have a Fair Use defense. But they don’t need one to make such a defense, because they operate with the YouTube license. And their parody makes money for the song’s rights-holders every time the video is viewed. That seems to be working out for everyone, but use of a work for legitimate commentary and criticism should not depend on the permission of the rights holder.
This is why all people who believe in the open flow of ideas and information must remain staunch defenders and users of Fair Use. It is a critical asset that should be vigorously promoted whenever possible.
Thank you for a great question, and happy library-versary!
 CAMPBELL, aka SKYYWALKER, et al. v. ACUFF ROSE MUSIC, INC. (U.S. Supreme Court) No. 92-1292. Argued November 9, 1993 -- Decided March 7, 1994
 This was an enlightening moment. I didn’t know that “Sugar, Sugar” was first played by comic book band “The Archie’s” on their TV show in 1969! Or that “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” (a staple of my ‘90’s young adulthood) made her debut in the Archie comics in the ‘60’s. Really, until I got this question, I was horribly ignorant of a critical area of Americana. I blame my parents, who only let me watch PBS and Canadian television during my childhood.
Our library is always seeking ways to promote literacy, exercise, and park visits with community partners. One proposal we received was to take some books apart, laminate the separate pages, and mount them on display posts throughout a park, creating a moving, learning experience.
I have a copyright concern. Can we “dismember” the books and laminate the pages and still respect the books’ copyright?
A “Path Through Learning!” This sounds like a really cool idea.
The member is right, though: to put this cool idea into effect as described, a library would need the permission of the copyright holder.
It’s hard to believe, but liability is just a rip and a lamination away.
Why is that?
Although the “first sale” doctrine allows the purchaser of a book to resell and display the book—and even to make creative book arrangements in display cases and front windows--it is not a defense to cutting images from the book and re-mounting or laminating them.
This is because courts have found that re-mounting or laminating covers or pages torn from a magazine or book creates a “derivative work” that is an infringement of copyright. 
“Derivative works,” are works that incorporate, “recast, transform, or adapt” part or all of a “pre-existing work,” without meeting the element of a “fair use” defense, or transforming what they’ve borrowed to the point where the original can’t be discerned.
Of course, an essential element of a derivative work is the “pre-existing work…” meaning, the work in its recognizable and copyright-protected form. If I pulped my comic book collection and made a piñata out of it, that would not be a derivative work. But sequels, adaptations, companion materials, and, yes, laminations, can run afoul of this right held by a copyright holder.
How do sellers of mounted, and perhaps laminated baseball cards do what they do? Since nothing has been ripped or separated, there is insufficient “transformation” to make it a derivative work.
So where does that leave the “Path Through Learning” concept? Although it would have an educational purpose, based on the case law I found, a copyright owner could have a viable claim for an unauthorized “derivative work” being used to illustrate the path. Further, unless there was some intrinsic commentary or criticism of the works selected, a fair use defense would be weak to non-existent. So as proposed, it is risky indeed, and the member is right to be concerned.
The good news is that I have two solutions.
First, based on the case law, protecting (via lamination, display box, treasure chest, etc.) and displaying entire copies of the books, with the pages open to a certain spot, could be an allowable display. Just make sure they aren’t being marked or altered.
Second (and probably best): ask for permission. The “Path Through Learning” is a charming idea. I bet many authors and publishers would be delighted to give permission. After all, you’re promoting their book! Simply reach out, describe the project, and ask the rights holder if you can create the separately laminated pages for it. It can’t hurt to ask, and they might say yes. Of course, when they do, get the permission confirmed in writing.
Thank you for this interesting question.
 Rosebud Entertainment, LLC v. Prof’l Laminating LLC, (U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Norther Division, 958 F. Supp. 2d 600 (magazines), and Mirage Editions, Inc. v. Albuquerque A.R.T. Co. (books).
 I winced just typing that! I love my comic book collection.
 Allison v. Vintage Sports Plaques, 136 F. 3d 1443 (11th Circuit, 1998)
 I am sure the member has come up with a better name for this.
Does the TEACH Act allow a school to stream entire movies, if the movies could otherwise be shown in their entirety in class?
The TEACH Act was adopted in 2002 to enable the “digital transmission” of otherwise copyright-protected content for educational purposes.
Schools meeting the Act’s requirements can stream readings of poetry, images of paintings, and lines of computer coding, without fear of infringement claims. This allows regular teaching activities—like analyzing a poem, assessing a painting, or teaching HTML--to happen online, without fear that the duplication or transmission of the copyright-protected content will bring a lawsuit.
The TEACH Act positions online learning to use content as it would be used in a traditional classroom—as well as to novel and innovative things via distance learning technology.
But there are a few aspects of the “traditional classroom” the TEACH Act cannot replicate, and a critical one is: watching entire movies.
Per Section 110(1) of the Copyright Act, entire movies can be shown during an in-person class (if they are part of the curriculum…the law doesn’t allow a trigonometry class to kick back with “Wonder Woman” after finals are shown, unless they are calculating the angles of the bullets bouncing off her bracers).
But there is no equivalent exception in the TEACH Act for streaming an entire video as part of an online course.
In fact, in very plain language, the Section 110(2) of the Copyright Act states that only a “portion” of a film can be shown. As stated right here:
…the performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or reasonable and limited portions of any other work, or display of a work in an amount comparable to that which is typically displayed in the course of a live classroom session, by or in the course of a transmission…. [emphasis added].
Okay, I admit it: it’s possible the “very plain language” is only plain to lawyers (and copyright scholars—many of whom are librarians--who leave some lawyers in the dust on these issues).
The “House Report”  below, explains how this language means performance of an entire movie is not allowed:
The exemption for instructional broadcasting provided by section 110(2) would apply only to “performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or display of a work.” Thus, the copyright owner’s permission would be required for the performance on educational television or radio of a dramatic work, of a dramatico-musical work such as an opera or musical comedy, or of a motion picture. [emphasis added]
So what does this mean? Schools that want to stream entire movies as part of an online course—even if those movies could be shown during an in-person class--should not rely on the TEACH Act as their protection from infringement.
What are the other solutions?
Thank you for this question!
 There are a lot of them, including the requirement that the material used is presented “…as an integral part of a class session offered as a regular part of the systematic mediated instructional activities….”
 The TEACH Act is also comprised of Copyright Act §112, but as the “House Report” for that section says “[Since the] performance exemption provided by section 110(2) applies only to nondramatic literary and musical works, there was no need to exclude motion pictures and other audiovisual works explicitly….” [emphasis added].
[The member provided a link to a story about an elementary school principal putting on her pajamas and using “Facebook Live” to read her scholars a weekly bedtime story.]
I always love ideas like this but am afraid to promote them because I have heard that this is a copyright violation. Is it? If it is, what are our options to do something like it in a legal and ethical way? Thank you!
Reading to kids is one of the best thing we can do for them. If the law gets in the way of that, there is something wrong with the law!
That said, honoring the rights of authors and illustrators who create stories to charm and educate is one of the best ways we can make sure there is always something new to read.
And it’s the law.
The member’s concern is justified; copyright law rewards creativity by empowering rights holders to control how and when their work is duplicated--in this case, “performed”. A reading on “Facebook Live”—no matter how many cute, be-jammied scholars it enriches—could infringe those rights.
But as the member also suggests, respecting copyright does not need to be the end of the line; there are many ways this type of real-time, remote reading can take place.
Below, please find my “Top 5 Ways for a Teacher to Remotely Read a Bedtime Story to Lots of Kids in Different Places Without Fear of Committing Copyright Infringement.”
1. When choosing a book to read, select a work in the “public domain”…meaning, the book is no longer protected by copyright. As of 2019, this means works published before 1924 (in the U.S.) and other select situations.
For example, the “Brothers Grimm” who were writing in the 1800’s, are not suing anymore (nor are their heirs). Just make sure the publisher hasn’t found a new way to assert the copyright of the copy you read from (a new version, new illustrations and layout, a slightly less sadistic version of the original, etc).
2. Write your own story.
This one is my favorite. Who knows? You might discover you’re the next Eric Carle!
3. Hold a writing contest amongst the students that includes parental permission to read the entries/winners online.
This could also bolster interest in the event, since kids could hear their own work read, and see their own pictures online.
4. Explore making the reading exempt under the TEACH Act (section 110 (2) of the Copyright Act).
The TEACH Act exempts certain digital transmissions of work from the classroom environment. It has several highly specific requirements, so educators should connect with their institution’s attorney and IT department to see if this option can work for them. While not the solution for every “good night” reading, with some planning, it could be a way to make online reading sessions a part of a routine curriculum.
5. Explore getting permission from the rights holder! While not all authors will be in a position to agree, many will say “Yes, of course!” when asked if a teacher can livestream a reading of their book (of course, if you also want to show their book as well as read it, you will need permission from the illustrator, too).
Reaching out to an author or publisher takes time, but many children’s authors are very accessible. My high school friend, Grace Lin, is a well-known children’s book author (and recent winner of a Caldecott Honor for “A Big Mooncake for Little Star”). I reached out to Grace on Facebook to get her take on this issue (and got her permission to share her thoughts).
For Grace, whose work contains lovely and carefully rendered illustrations, such a request would be about intent and quality. She said if the reading was more about the not-for-profit reader and audience connecting over her story, and not the video dwelling on the pages (effectively copying them), she would consider giving permission. On the flip side, Grace felt that serious duplication (with the video dwelling on the pages) could be an unwelcome duplication.
Like many children’s book authors, Grace is accessible via her website, www.gracelin.com, and I encourage would be night-time-story-readers to reach out to her!
Thank you for this great question. Copyright is an important law to honor in the educational environment. But finding ways—lots of ways—to give children an early and deep love of books is an even greater service to the world. It’s one of the reasons librarians are so important.
 There are six distinct rights given by a copyright: reproduction, , derivative works, distribution, performance, display, and (for sound recordings) digital transmission. You can see the full list here: https://codes.findlaw.com/us/title-17-copyrights/17-usc-sect-106.html
 Small note: the reason books can be read aloud in class (from k—grad school) without fear of infringement is because of an exception in Section 110 (1) of the Copyright Act. My solution in number “5,” above, is based on this exception.
 How can you tell if a work is in the public domain? One of the great treasures of the universe, a chart for determining public domain availability, is maintained by Cornell University at: https://copyright.cornell.edu/publicdomain.
A community member is interested in gathering at the library for a non-staged, dramatic reading of a play published in the UK in 2016. The idea is offered as a potential library program, though it could also be viewed as a separate community meeting without library sponsorship. It is my rough understanding that, regardless of whether an audience is brought out for the performance or not, regardless of who is 'sponsoring' it, this would be in violation of the creator's (who is still alive) copyright claim to the work. Further, that the library would most likely be the liable party.
Am I right?
This question has two parts: 1) liability for copyright infringement based on a live reading (without staging) of a dramatic work; and 2) liability for events at library facilities.
Let’s tackle part 1 first.
Section 110 of the Copyright Act sets out a number of exceptions for educational and charitable use of copyrighted works. Unfortunately, “dramatic works” (plays) are largely excluded from those exceptions. So while Section 110 is generous (for instance, there is a total exemption from liability for performance of non-dramatical musical works at horticultural fairs!), “performance” of dramatic works (even without staging) is not as excused as other types of use.
The other exception that could apply to the member’s question is of course “fair use.” I won’t take up too much of this “Ask the Lawyer” to discuss that option, since the event described here does not sound like it would meet the criteria. 
For this reason, any library or venue asked or planning to host a reading of a dramatic work—even without staging it, even without charging admission—should be very cautious. Unless there is a confirmed exemption under 110 (which would be for classroom use, or for a performance for people with visual impairments), or a documented “fair use” under 107, proper licensing should be obtained.
And now for part 2.
Most libraries have some form of policy, and maybe a “facility use contract,” allowing groups or individuals to use their space. Some charge a small rental fee, others do not. Some have express restrictions on use by businesses or political groups, others do not.
What’s important to the member’s question is that any use of library facilities should be governed by clear, uniformly applied, mutually-understood terms that:
When it comes to copyright, this last part is essential, since the copyright law allows for “vicarious” liability that can include “innocent” (meaning, they didn’t know about it, or didn’t instigate it) infringers.
This is what the last Congressional committee amending the Copyright Law has to say about “vicarious liability” for performances:
Vicarious Liability for Infringing Performances.
The committee has considered and rejected an amendment to this section intended to exempt the proprietors of an establishment, such as a ballroom or night club, from liability for copyright infringement committed by an independent contractor, such as an orchestra leader. A well-established principle of copyright law is that a person who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner is an infringer, including persons who can be considered related or vicarious infringers. To be held a related or vicarious infringer in the case of performing rights, a defendant must either actively operate or supervise the operation of the place wherein the performances occur, or control the content of the infringing program, and expect commercial gain from the operation and either direct or indirect benefit from the infringing performance. The committee has decided that no justification exists for changing existing law, and causing a significant erosion of the public performance right.
As a not-for-profit institution, a library may have some more defenses than the average night club owner, but there is still a threat of liability.
So how do venues reduce the risks posed by “vicarious” liability? Often, they ask the main performer, or the entity renting the facility, to “indemnify” the venue for any liability related to the performance. To ensure they are actually protected, they also demand a certain amount and type of insurance, and require that the venue be a “named insured.”  Later, if they are sued for an infringing performance, the venue will invoke the indemnity, and be defended by and have their damages paid by the renter or performer.
So, to recap, the following factors are potentially relevant to both parts of the member’s question:
This assessment of risks and ways to mitigate them is called “risk management,” and the member’s question is a great example of how to start the process. So, what was that question again?
…regardless of whether an audience is brought out for the performance or not, regardless of who is 'sponsoring' it, this would be in violation of the creator's (who is still alive) copyright claim to the work. Further, that the library would most likely be the liable party.
Am I right?
Except for would changing “the liable party” to “a liable party”: yes, the member is correct…there is a risk. How can this assessed risk be managed? One of four ways:
Thank you for your careful question!
Exeunt lawyer, stage left.
 For a thorough discussion on that, I recommend the Congressional “Notes,” to section 110 of the Copyright Act, found at https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/110. These are exceptions education and information management professionals should know.
 See Section 110(6) of the Copyright Act. NOTE: The exemption extends only to the governmental body or nonprofit organization sponsoring the fair…the on-site concessionaires do not benefit from the exemption. Not fair.
 That said, it is possible that a live reading of a dramatic work could be a “fair use.” For instance, if a group wanted to use excerpts from six plays to illustrate varying depictions of a certain archetypes in drama—something that requires a partial performance of each work to make its point—that could be a “fair use” requiring no permission. But such a use would need to be more than a simple reading of the play, and the overall performance would need to be carefully assessed to show it met the four “fair use” factors.
 That’s a whole other column!
 For those of you out there who have booked a convention at a hotel or conference center, this might sound familiar (and tedious) to you. But this type of protection allows business to get done.
I have been reading the legal arguments undergirding the Controlled Digital Lending initiative (controlleddigitallending.org). The legal arguments are outlined in the white paper here: https://controlleddigitallending.org/whitepaper.
Our library has a DVD collection that has been heavily used over the years for teaching, research, and recreational use. Circulation of that collection has been restricted to members of our campus. There are fewer and fewer DVD players available on campus now and so we are facing significant sunk costs with a collection that may become unusable. Hence, I am wondering whether we could reformat DVDs that we have purchased over the years, put those physical copies in a dark archive (i.e., no longer circulating), and stream the digitized copies one user at a time to verified members of our campus (current students, staff, and faculty). Would the doctrines of 1st sale and Fair Use apply, given that there would be a one-to-one relationship between the physical copy purchased and digital copy loaned, as well as noncommercial use?
This is a great and important question, and it rests on an critical issue.
With that in mind, before you delve into this answer, I encourage readers of “Ask the Lawyer!” to check out the CDL “Statement” on www.controlleddigitallending.org/statement.
Okay. Did you check it out? Interesting, right? Now, on to the answer….
Controlled Digital Lending (“CDL” ) is an effort to assert the rights of content users—as opposed to those of content owners—in the next regime of copyright law.
As described in the CDL “Statement”:
CDL enables a library to circulate a digitized title in place of a physical one in a controlled manner. Under this approach, a library may only loan simultaneously the number of copies that it has legitimately acquired, usually through purchase or donation. For example, if a library owns three copies of a title and digitizes one copy, it may use CDL to circulate one digital copy and two print, or three digital copies, or two digital copies and one print; in all cases, it could only circulate the same number of copies that it owned before digitization.
Rallying librarians from an impressive array of institutions, CDL asserts an extension of current copyright doctrines and seeks to confirm rights critical to the world of information management.
But although it is a hybrid argument of Fair Use and the First Sale Doctrine, CDL is not the law. Rather, it is a concerted effort to influence—and perhaps become—the law.
As I see it, CDL is also a deliberate and potentially powerful answer to the established trend of content providers using contract law to impose limitations on copyright’s “First Sale” doctrine. Here are some examples of this trend:
Because of the billions of dollars in revenue such contracts protect, the entertainment, publishing, and other IP industries will fight tooth and nail to not only resist CDL, but any extension of Fair Use and the First Sale doctrine. Considering the lobbying power and commercial heft of these industries, the CDL position will need all the recruits and allies it can get. It will be a showdown fought through usage, lawmaking, and most likely, law suits.
The CDL’s organizers know this might be hazardous combat. Right in their “Statement” is the caution:
Because the following analysis is general, any library considering implementing controlled digital lending should consult a competent attorney to develop an appropriate program responsive to the specific needs of the institution and community.
This warning in the Statement is well-justified. The stakes for generating infringing copies (which is what copyright owners will argue CDL digital copies are) and distributing them (which is what copyright owners will argue CDL-using libraries are doing) can be high, with the violator liable for damages and attorney’s fees, and stuck in a courtroom battle for years.
So what would a “competent attorney” advise their client to do in this case? I don’t speak for all competent attorneys, but in a case like this, I would strongly advise an institution NOT to make “CDL” copies unless the action was part of a highly assessed, planned, and well-calculated strategic plan that considers the benefits and accepts the risks.
How does an institution do that? Any institution seriously considering CDL should form a “CDL Committee” consisting of the institution’s librarian, risk manager/insurance liaison, a representative of the institution’s academic wing (if applicable), and an administrative decision maker (an officer of the institution). The group should consult with (but not necessarily include) a lawyer.
The group would assess what use their institution could make of CDL, get advice from the lawyer about those specific uses and the risks, check their insurance coverage, assess what is being done at peer institutions, and (perhaps most important) consider how this overall issue impacts their mission. There would possibly be, at some of the bolder institutions, some acceptance of calculated risk.
If the group’s overall assessment leaned toward CDL, the committee could create a “CDL Assessment and Use Policy” to govern all its uses of CDL. This way, the decision to use CDL would be rooted in the institution’s mission, while the process would be informed by the library’s assets and users’ needs. This is critical because if the institution was ever sued for infringement, a good array of back-up material, showing a bona fide belief in Fair Use, and consistent with that of other participants’ in the CDL effort, could help them assert their position and limit financial damages.
With regard to the member’s particular scenario (trying to get more use out of an extensive collection of aging DVD’s), if I were the lawyer consulting with a committee, I would probably advise against that particular use for CDL. Unless the transmission is per section 110 of the Copyright Act, the risk of a suit for unlicensed transmission of a motion picture is just too high. But I’d also want to assess each movie on a case-by-case basis. While the combination of First Sale and Fair Use might not simply allow the restricted streaming, other solutions (a news exception, a license) might.
I am sorry I cannot give a more definitive answer, but as the CDL organizers themselves point out, CDL is on uncertain ground. The authors of the “Statement” don’t come right out and say it, but they are trying to fight fire with fire…offering a bold and critical counterpoint to the current copyright scheme through which rights owners tightly control digital dissemination of works in print.
Libraries, these days, occupy ground zero of many of society’s struggles, and the next regime of IP law is one of those. On the battlefield of intellectual property, troops are massing at the no-man’s land between digitization and the First Sale Doctrine. Led by librarians, there is an army that hopes to not only hold the First Sale line, but officially extend it to a practice that is more convenient, green, and aligned with current technology: CDL.
Does your library want to join that battle? Does it want to explore making select works available, under closely controlled circumstances, without requiring a person to pick up a hard copy? By making a deliberate, well-planned decision to have a CDL policy, your institution can answer the famous question:
“There’s a war coming…are you sure you’re on the right side?” 
 The signature list is like a “Who’s Who” of library world.
 The person at your institution who makes sure you have insurance, and transmits claims information when there is an issue…or that person’s supervisor.
 At least until a heavy hitter wins a case or two using the CDL argument.
 Wolverine to Storm in X-Men, movie (2000). I wish I had it on DVD.
A teacher would like to reproduce an entire article from a published magazine. They state that because it is only 10% of the entire magazine, it falls under fair use. My interpretation has been that it is 10% of the article, since the article is a published work on its own.
The “Ten Percent Rule” has been kicking around the world of education for decades! This is a good chance to bust this myth, since as we’ll review, it is not a reliable stand-alone formula for “Fair Use” (copying without needing permission).
But we’ll start with another area of the law. This question involves not only Fair Use, but Section 108 of the Copyright Act, which applies specifically to libraries.
Under Section 108(d), the teacher (or any library user) may make one copy of:
…no more than one article or other contribution to a copyrighted collection or periodical issue…if—
(1) the copy …becomes the property of the user, and the library or archives has had no notice that the copy or phonorecord would be used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research; and
(2) the library or archives displays prominently, at the place where orders are accepted, and includes on its order form, a warning of copyright in accordance with requirements that the Register of Copyrights shall prescribe by regulation.
So in this scenario, if the other above-listed criteria are met, the teacher can make one copy of one hundred percent of the article.
But after that one Section 108 copy is made, unless the school obtains a license to duplicate the article, the only subsequent copies can be those authorized by Section 107 (“Fair Use”). This question asks: does copying an article from a larger publication meet Section 107’s criteria?
The answer is “it depends” (in law, that is often the answer!). But what does it depends on? If only the answer was a simple “Ten Percent Rule” (whether ten percent of the article itself, or ten percent of an original compilation)…. but it isn’t, even in the educational environment. Instead, the overall circumstances, when viewed through the lens of the four Fair Use “factors,” are what govern this answer.
There are many excellent model policies out there on how to apply Fair Use in academia, an every academic institution should have their own. So I will not use this “Ask the Lawyer,” response to duplicate what’s already out there, but I will take this opportunity to emphasize: duplication based solely on the rationale that what is being copied is only 10% of a larger article or publication is not determinative of Fair Use, even in an educational, not-for-profit setting.
A string of recent cases, delving deeply into how the four “Fair Use” factors are applied when making excerpts available in academia, shows things just aren’t that simple. Commonly called “Cambridge I, II, III, and IV,” these cases involve claims by Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and Sage Publications against Georgia State University, and showcase the most in-depth, frustrating wrangles about Fair Use in academia ever to be seen.
The most recent ruling in this saga, Cambridge University Press v. Albert (“Cambridge IV”), was issued on October 19, 2018. If you feel like reading the clear, cogent writing of a federal judge obviously frustrated by another federal judge’s inability to figure out Fair Use, check it out.
As re-emphasized in Cambridge IV, the third factor of Fair Use is the “amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.” But the opinion goes on to clarify that the amount used (ten percent or otherwise) is not a factor to be considered in isolation. Rather, all four factors are to be applied in a way that reinforces the purpose of the Copyright law: promoting the progress of scholarship and creativity. And in academic publishing, the opinion makes clear, the impact on the market for an article can be just as determinative as that unlicensed copies’ not-for-profit context or academic purpose.
So how can the member’s issue be resolved? When confronted with a scenario like the one submitted by the member, a librarian should not feel the need to argue with a teacher. Rather, the librarian should rely on their institution’s attorney-vetted Fair Use policy and form to enable the teach conduct and document their own assessment of Fair Use.
Why do this? First, a good Fair Use policy and form will walk the teacher through the Fair Use analysis, saving the librarian time (and sanity!). Second—but just an important—the creation of a written record documenting a good-faith determination of Fair Use will potentially help both the teacher and the institution by mitigating any damages for infringement. And third, in education, getting these things right is a good example for students.
So once the teacher in this scenario makes their one 108 copy, provide them with a copy of the institution’s Fair Use policy and form. If your institution doesn’t have a policy or form, this is a good time to get one, since these days, even municipal entities can be found liable for copyright infringement.
 I like the one here: https://copyright.cornell.edu/fairuse. The careful reader will note that the form Cornell maintains does list 10% as a guideline for assessing Fair Use, but cites that factor as but one of many aspects to consider and document.
 Or as the Constitution calls them in Article I, Section 8, clause 8 “science and the useful arts.”
Does our library incur any liability when a program presenter uses our facility and presents a program at our behest that includes music, either a previously-issued recording of music not original to the presenter, or a live performance of a piece of music composed by a person who is not the presenter? What about a presenter who just contracts to use the venue, without library sponsorship of the program? What about the capture of such a performance and our streaming it or recording it for later posting on our website or broadcasting it on our community television as a public service? If so, what is the best way to protect ourselves?
This is a huge question!
I say “huge” because it has about fifteen different answers, and many of them depend on the nature of the performer, the songs performed, and the way the audience entered the performance.
But I will limit this reply to 5 answers I think are most helpful to the average library:
Answer #1: Yes, a host institution can face liability for an on-site infringing performance by either itself, OR by a non-affiliated presenter. In a copyright case, everyone who contributed to the infringement is generally named as a defendant. So even if the library is simply the “innocent infringer” providing the venue, there is a risk it could be sued.
Answer #2: Yes, there are several things a library can do to protect itself! When it comes to a performance by a third party, the best option is a properly worded contract.
For any use of its facilities, the library should have a stock contract that provides for the following:
1) verification that the performer has all the licenses and permissions it needs to perform;
2) precise language requiring the user to “indemnify and defend” the library for any legal claims related to the event (including infringement); and,
3) proof that the user has the right insurance to back up to their indemnification.
The contract should also take into account what type of entity your library is, and how it occupies its location (Tenant? Owner? What type of insurance do you have?).
A lawyer familiar with insurance, real property, copyright, and premises liability law should be able to put this together for you.
Answer #3: That said, there are several types of performance that are exempt from copyright infringement claims. For example, under §110 (4) of the Copyright Act, it is not a violation to perform a musical work live and in person, or even to play a pre-recorded song, so long as the performance is “without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage and without payment of any fee or other compensation for the performance to any of its performers, promoters, or organizers” and there is no “direct or indirect admission charge.”
In other words: no transmission + no money + no commercial advantage = no problem.
Of course, “commercial advantage” can be a tricky phrase. If the song is being performed at the library’s annual fund-raiser, even if the performers are donating their talent, the use is not allowed. When you think about it, that makes sense—what if the copyright owner doesn’t want to help the library with its fund-raiser? Congress was very careful in its commentary to clarify that commercial use under 110(4), even if it is for a charity, is not allowed.
Further, is important there can be no “payment of any fee or other compensation for the performance to any of its performers, promoters, or organizers” (this, again, is to prevent the free use of copyrighted material under the “guise of charity”).
That said, Congress has commented that the exemption would not be lost if the performers, directors, or producers of the performance, instead of being paid directly “for the performance,” are paid a salary for duties encompassed by the performance (like the salaried local high school music teach conducting an otherwise qualifying performance of the “Show Choir” at the library).
And finally…110(4) can apply whether the performance is by your library, or by an (uncompensated) third party. The devil is always in the details, so check with a lawyer before using this exemption, but don’t forget it’s available!
Answer #4: If your library is regularly playing lots of music or tv, you should evaluate if your library needs a license under a performing rights society such as ASCAP, SESAC, or BMI.
A “performing rights society” is an association, corporation, or other entity that licenses the public performance of nondramatic musical works on behalf of copyright owners. They notoriously bring lawsuits against public places like bars and restaurants for failing to secure the proper licenses.
Now, this is not guidance I typically give a library, and ASCAP, SESAC, and BMI don’t make a habit of suing libraries. But there’s a first time for everything, so if your library routinely has more than one radio or tv on (that doesn’t sound like a typical library, but libraries are anything but typical these days), and you are playing music on more than one radio on a regular basis, rule that need out.
Answer #5: The member’s final question addresses recording a performance at the library, and posting it online.
As the question suggests, this is where you have to be very careful. A performance that might be allowed under 110(4) will become an infringement if posted to the Internet or “transmitted” in any way. Under 17 U.S.C 1101, it could even result in a claim by the performer! So if the intent is for your library to record, stream, broadcast, or otherwise transmit the on-premises performance, the precise circumstances should be examined very carefully, and you should make sure you have the right permissions.
So, does this mean you have to force every parent lovingly recording their child’s rendition of the theme from “Moana” during Musical Story Hour to put down their phone and just watch the performance? No. While there may be sociological reasons to do that, if your library isn’t urging or facilitating the recording or transmitting, it would be enough to put in your program “Please simply enjoy the performance, and please do not transmit any recording of it.” Basically: be able to show that you didn’t allow, contribute to, or facilitate, any infringement.
And will Disney sue the parents of a cute kid belting out a super-sweet rendition of “How Far I’ll Go” at the local library? Unless it goes viral, it’s not too likely. But either way you’ll be able to rest easy, knowing your policy requires them to do the right thing.
Thanks for the questions!
 Maybe they are one of those rock stars that hate libraries. I have heard that Metallica leaves a trail of fines and broken spines in the wake of every city they play.
 I am of course kidding about Metallica. Please don’t sue me, Lars!
 I checked the PACER database of federal law suits and could not find any cases brought by them against a library.
 For more on this, see the “Ask the Lawyer” guidance titled “Transmission of a Television News Broadcast.”
 I am a curmudgeon about people being so busy recording a moment, they don’t actually see it.
 Since I have a 4-year-old, I have this song memorized.
We are planning to put together a public page with information on various artworks donated to our university. We'd like to post an image of the art, information on where it is on campus, information on the artwork itself, etc.
Our question is with regard to copyright. I know the artist still holds the copyright, so my question is whether there is an exception to the copyright law that will allow us to post an image of the artwork for these purposes? We're looking into adding a watermark to the image and setting it to not allow users to save the image directly (although we know they could still take a screenshot).
Thank you in advance for your advice!
This sounds like a great project…a public page providing a guided tour of art throughout the campus, with maps, information, and pictures to help the viewer find the works.
But you’re right, if they haven’t expired, the rights are still the property of the artist—or their heirs, or any third party they were sold to. And the digital image you create could infringe those rights.
There is no one catch-all “exception” to copyright that completely avoids this, but there are some steps you can take to keep your institution on the safer side of the law.
Here they are, in descending order of strength and certainty:
1. Verify that the works are actually still protected by copyright. Anything from before 1923, for instance, is no longer protected. If you want to showcase 50 works, and 25 of them are from before 1923, you’ve just reduced your concerns by half!
2. If your campus has an art registrar (a position distinct from an admissions registrar, but with a similar flair for detailed record-keeping), ask them if the donation came with any assignment or license of copyrights. Sometimes, the donor—especially if they were the artist—will give limited duplication and display rights for purposes of promoting the work. While by no means a certainly, it is worth checking out.
3. If the rights are still valid and no license has been obtained previously, it is possible to ask for permission now. A simple letter—perhaps sent in coordination with your department for Institutional Advancement—could ask:
Your lovely work, TITLE, was donated to our university in YEAR. We are hoping to secure your permission to duplicate the work so we can show a full-color reproduction on our website. The image would be used to illustrate an online and print guided tour that showcases our more valued works of art, including TITLE (the “Work”).
If you still own the copyrights and can give permission, please check one of the circles below, sign in the space below, and return this letter in the accompanying self-addressed, pre-stamped envelope:
o I hereby license the university to use the Work without any restrictions, in any medium whatsoever, for any purpose whatsoever.
o I hereby license the university to duplicate, publish and display the Work solely for the use described in this letter, in both print and via the internet, with no further restrictions or conditions.
o I hereby license the university to duplicate, publish and display the Work per the following terms:_________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________.
Thank you for considering this courtesy to our university.
Very truly yours,
ACCEPTED AND SIGNED:________________________
4. “Claiming Fair Use,” version 1: This takes advantage of the formula for using a copyrighted work without permission, created by Section 107 of the Copyright Act. Here’s what you do: carefully write out a description of your initiative, and why it is important that the public know of and have a visual cue be able to find these works. Then take a photo of each artwork…not head-on and alone, but at an angle and with a live person—perhaps a student—interacting with the work. Make sure the art is not duplicable from the digital image, and make sure that image is more about the person viewing the work, and its location, than the art itself. Generate a description of this image that speaks to what is happening in the photo, including how people interact with the work. Include not only the image, but these observations in your guide, letting people know they can see the actual work in person. Have a lawyer review it, and then retain the documentation, because even if it is later found that your use is infringing, a not-for-profit educational institution’s good-faith belief that is was fair use can mitigate damages1.
5. “Claiming Fair Use” Version 2: This is also an approach under 107. Generate very low-resolution, watermarked images as described in the member’s question, and again, document the value of being able to use a limited visual element to help people find that specific work. Have a lawyer review it, and then retain the documentation, because even if it is later found that your use is infringing, a not-for-profit educational institution’s good-faith belief that is was fair use can mitigate damages.
And there you have it: no magic bullet, but some options that, if combined, can help you create an infringement-free, beautiful guide to the art on your campus. Of the five options, “1,” “2,” and “3” are by far the most prudent, so try those first, and then, only if you need to, consider options “4” and “5.”
I hope fate is kind, and some of your artworks pre-date 1923, or their owners are generous and easy to find. Good luck!
1 17 U.S.C. 504(c)(2)
The director of the college print shop has come to me for copyright assistance. Our faculty often ask for photocopies of materials for distribution to students in class. She asks the faculty member if they have the appropriate permissions for making copies but is not always convinced by their answers. Is there any form she can ask faculty to sign attesting to their right to reproduce the materials that will protect the college in the case of copyright infringement? Thank you!
This question seems simple, but it actually involves some high-end concepts of business law and liability.
Most libraries, museums, theaters, and other units within large institutions are actually part of the same entity. In other words, although they may have a distinct identity within their institution (“The Michael Library” “The Peter Museum” or “the Catherine Gym”), there is only one actual legal entity (“Romanov College”).
Many people find these niceties hard to grasp, but here is why it is important: in this scenario, the single entity (the college) includes the on-campus copy shop. This means that what the shop does, the entity does…including alleged infringement.
This same unity generally applies to employees, too. In a body of law called “Master and Servant,” if an employee is performing a task related to their job, and not deliberately violating employer policy or the law, for purposes of the legal system, the employee’s actions will generally be imputed to the institution.
This is why institutions are best served in this area by educating their employees about copyright, and documenting the employees good-faith efforts to abide by the law (it is also why many HR manuals have warnings about the consequences of not following policy: it limits the institution’s ability to protect you).
This puts lot of pressure on the employees who staffing the in-house copy shop. What are their responsibilities? Do they need to educate their co-workers on copyright risk? Are they expected to protect the entire college? Each institution has different policies and job descriptions that answer those questions differently.
That said, is there a simple approach that can help with this? Yes. For the in-house copy shop (NOT for an on-campus contractor), below is a framework to address copyright priorities with diplomacy, tact, and helpfulness. It is designed to be used with an institution’s “Fair Use Assessment” form, and to route people to the person responsible for permissions at your institution.
NOTE: All that said, any copyright-related form not custom-designed for your organization should be reviewed for cohesion and consistency with other institutional policies, including those in the employee manual. Never use any copyright-related form without considering your institution’s unique needs and approach to copyright and liability! If your institution has an in-house lawyer, compliance officer, risk manager, or insurance carrier, make sure they are part of finalizing any such form or solution.
[INSTITUTION NAME] COPY SHOP COPYRIGHT HELPER
Hello! Thank you for coming to the [INSTITUTION NAME] copy shop to arrange duplication of your class materials.
As an instructor who generates your own copyright-protected material, you know the value of copyrights to others, and you know there are penalties for improper, unauthorized duplication.
Please follow the process below. When you check “yes” to 1 or 3, we are happy to assist you with your copies!
1. Do you have written permission from the copyright holder or their agent to make copies?
If “yes,” attach the permission, and let’s get copying!
If “no,” please move to question 2.
2. Do you have verbal permission from the copyright holder or their agent to make copies?
If “yes,” please confirm the permission in writing, return to us and check “yes,” above, and we’ll get right on this for you!
If “no,” please move to question 3.
3. Do you regard this copy as a fair use?
If “yes,” please fill out the attached [INSTITUTION NAME] fair use assessment form, and we’ll get your copies made!
If “no,” or “I don’t know,” please move to question #4.
4. Do you find this process frustrating and need help arranging permission to use this material, or more input on fair use?
If “yes,” please see XXXX at OFFICE LOCATION, who assists with permissions at INSTITUTION NAME. You can also call them at NUMBER or reach them at EMAIL. We hope to see you again soon!
MATERIALS (Title, number of pages):_______________________________
 This is one of the reasons many institutions opt to host a separate company for on-campus duplication services.
 I know! The law needs to move on. Perhaps “Captain” and “team member” can replace this.
 That said, never assume that is the case! Every allegation of liability must be carefully reviewed by a lawyer, as there are many exceptions and precise formulas that control such things.
 Demonstrable, good-faith effort to abide by the law can actually limit damages when copyright infringement is attributable to a not-for-profit education institution.
 If you don’t have either or one of these, share this RAQ with the decision-maker at your institution who could make that happen. Both the form, and a person who can facilitate permissions, are worthwhile risk management investments.
We are finding that librarians within larger institutions (like colleges and museums) are the go-to resource for copyright questions, which could also include institutional copyright concerns. What should a librarian do if the "question" they are presented with is really an allegation of copyright infringement?
“Ask The Lawyer” has touched on this topic a bit before. In our a 9/19/17 RAQ post “Skating the Line Between Helpful Information and Legal Advice,” we discussed the risks posed when patrons and co-workers confuse the helpful attitude and boundless information provided by librarians with legal services.
The bottom line from that guidance was:
When [asked for legal advice], librarians must emphasize the boundary between good service and legal advice. Here is a formula for that:
I [the librarian] provide access to library materials based on the law and policy of my profession and institution; you [the user] should consult your own attorney regarding any legal concerns about your use of the materials being provided.
The current question takes this issue one step further: what if, when asked to play this front-lines role, the librarian is alerted to a potential claim of infringement against their institution?
Here are a few examples of how this can emerge:
Coach to librarian: “I thought I would check with you…this guy called us and said we used his photo of the volleyball team on fliers without his permission. But we’re not-for-profit, so copyright doesn’t apply, right?”
Curator to librarian: “We used a photo of the artist to promote the current installation on Facebook and some photographer is claiming we need a license? But the artist said it was okay!”
HR Director to librarian: “You are our go-to on copyright. This person says they generated it on their own time, but we own everything our employees create on our computers, right?”
Before anything else, it is important to say: many institutions have an established protocol for handling ANY threat of litigation, be it copyright infringement, slip-and-fall, or breach of contract. So first and foremost, librarians at larger institutions should know their institution’s policy or procedure for when a lawsuit is threatened. The risk manager, business manager, in-house legal counsel, or the employee who coordinates insurance coverage is often the point person for this.
When your institution has such a protocol, the reply to questions that reveal a threatened claim of infringement should be “That sounds like it could be a claim of copyright infringement. You should refer that the XXX, who handles claims.” And whether or not the inquirer follows through, to protect both the librarian and the institution, the librarian should then e-mail XXX to say “Today I referred Coach/Curator/HR Director to you, as they were contacted by someone who might have a legal claim.” This makes sure the legal hot potato doesn’t stop at the library, even if the other employee doesn’t follow through.
Of course, not every place will have an XXX, and not every person will seek advice the moment the threat of a claim arises. Here are some alternate versions of our three scenarios:
Coach to librarian: “This guy called us about three months ago and said we used his photo of the volleyball team on fliers without his permission. We also put it on t-shirts. Can you look at this “cease and desist” letter?”
Curator to librarian: “Remember that awesome installation? Well, I’m forwarding you some emails between me, the artist, and his photographer. They say we owe like $2,000.00 in licensing fees, but it’s fair use, right?”
HR Director to librarian: “I need to send this letter about work-for-hire, can you review?”
In these scenarios, institutional debate or engagement with the claimant is well under way. Even though things might be further along, and tempers hotter, the priority is still to end the engagement and get the matter in the right hands as soon as possible. So, even if your institution doesn’t have an XXX, and the situation arrives at your door a little more “hot,” the best thing to say to your co-worker is: “This sounds like a legal matter. We need to connect you with our attorney.”
If your co-worker has been so kind as to refer the (often angry) claimant to you without warning, and you are now on the phone with them, it is generally wise to:
1. Listen, and make notes of what the claimant is saying.
2. DO NOT ARGUE, DEBATE, or SUPPLY INFORMATION.
3. Use your customer service skills to simply say “This sounds very important. I have made a note, and will make sure someone gets back to you by [date].”
4. When arranging appropriate follow-up, minimize internal e-mail discussion, which could become discoverable evidence. Remember, the back-and-forth the employees engage in, unless it involves an attorney providing legal advice, is not subject to attorney-client privilege.
5. Get that legal hot potato to your attorney or insurance carrier and get out!
I realize that budgets are tight in the not-for-profit world, and not everyone has an attorney in-house or on call. This is where your insurance carrier could be a key player. Most bigger institutions have some form of coverage that addresses copyright. Your carrier does not want you to spend time arguing with a claimant, generating potentially damaging evidence! So in the absence of a lawyer, your insurance liaison and carrier (who will use a lawyer) might give your institution a place to send the “hot potato.”
The bottom line: every institution has a slightly different way it approaches litigation risk, but every institution should have an established way. Making sure library staff are aware of and comfortable with their institution’s protocols, and are supported in those protocols by trustees, officers and key personnel, are the keys to this issue. The statutory damages and mandatory attorneys’ fees often involved in copyright litigation make this a high risk management priority.
Librarians should be on the front lines of information access and fair use, but not the first line of defense for copyright litigation. Hopefully your institution appreciates this critical distinction, and supports it.
Or there’s always law school….
 I am sorry if any of these fictional scenarios have triggered stressful memories.
 If there isn’t one, I pose an alternative in a few paragraphs, but in most instances, there is.
 See the helpful script in paragraph two to remind people you are not a lawyer.
 Some alert carriers right away, others are wary of having a high claim number. Some carriers want to know the moment there is even HINT of a claim. This is something the person responsible for insurance will know.
 I am writing this guidance to be shared with such stakeholders, if it can be helpful.
Recently, our library has been given a collection of photographs that were previously on display in a local business location. These are photos of the customers of the business, many are children. These photos span several decades and are important to many.
We would like to digitize these photos and make them available via the internet because we believe these to be of sentimental, cultural, historical and academic value to our region and beyond.
The photos were given to our library by the business that had previously displayed them and also produced the photos. What are the issues of rights and permissions raised by making these images freely available online, especially given that many of those in the photos are children? Thanks for your help.
To answer the member’s questions, we must start with the fundamentals.
When accepting a donation of culturally significant photos, an archive should have a donor agreement or other documentation that addresses the following things:
Does the donor solely own the physical photos?
Is physical ownership being given to your institution?
Who authored the pictures? If not a company, what is their name and birthdate?
Does the donor solely own the copyrights?
Is copyright ownership being given to your institution? If not, what permission comes with the physical donation?
May the receiving institution license use by others (a “transferable license”)?
Were the copyrights registered?
Are there any reservations or conditions on this gift?
If donated as part of a will, obtain a copy of the will.
What is the value of the gift? (for tax purposes, if the donor wants to claim a deduction)
Confirming the scope of the donation, the conditions, and value of the gift creates a firm basis for future decisions, including how to address the potential risks of posting pictures of minors.
It is also helpful to get as much additional information as you can at the time of the donation:
To the best of the donor’s ability, what is the date, place, and identity of those in the pictures? What else of significance is being depicted?
What type of equipment was used to product the images?
Why were the images gathered?
Who collected the images?
Why is this collection significant; why should it be preserved and made available to the public?
Why does this collection fit into the mission of your institution?
Knowing as much as possible about the provenance and purpose of a collection makes it easier to access the protections built into the law for journalism and scholarship. And with that background, it is easier to assess the risks when the collection involves human subjects.
Those risks include:
Will this content be used by the institution in a way that violates New York’s bar on use of names and likenesses for commercial use? 
Are there any ethical considerations that bar including these images in the collection?
Is this depicting any personal health information?
Are there special sensitivities we must consider and plan for?
Will the names of those depicted be included in the metadata of the digital archive? If so, why is that necessary?
When it comes to minors (those under 18), additional risks are:
Will this reveal a minor’s youthful offender status?
Will this reveal participation in the social services system?
Does this depict an illegal act?
If the answer to any of the last eight questions is “yes,” a consultation with a lawyer, and perhaps an an image-by-image review, may be warranted. But while that may time time and resources, it may be worth it, since there still may be a way to digitize the photos and make them available via the internet…especially if they have sentimental, cultural, historical and academic value to our region and beyond.
 At an academic institution, if the images depict human subjects (of any age) consult the Institutional Review Board (“IRB”). Depending on how you design your project, it could be important.
 Here is the actual text of the law: “§ 50. Right of privacy. A person, firm or corporation that uses for advertising purposes, or for the purposes of trade, the name, portrait or picture of any living person without having first obtained the written consent of such person, or if a minor of his or her parent or guardian, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
 Depictions of exploitation, enslavement, abuse, or images that could be considered an “illegal sex act” (as defined by §130 the penal law) for instance. From the sound of it, that is not the case here, but at “Ask the Lawyer!” we try to be thorough.
A member asked about a request for the library to provide copies of photos from yearbooks for a class reunion.
One of the reasons I enjoy doing “Ask the Lawyer,” is the diversity of questions, and the often esoteric subjects I get to research as a result. This question is a prime example.
While the liability for copying copyright-protected yearbook photos is, in theory, the same as copying any other published, commercially-generated or amateur picture, I always like to check and see if the specific circumstances in the question have some directly on-point case law. So when this question came through the pipeline, I hit Lexis-Nexis® to search for cases of “yearbook infringement.”
Well. I found:
What I didn’t find was a string of case law based on simple copying of yearbook photos for non-scholarly or non-journalistic reasons, like promoting reunions, which is the nuance posed in the member’s question. But I suspect that is because when a claim based on such an action is threatened, if it has any teeth, it is quickly settled. Insurance carriers do not like litigation.
So, when your library gets a request for a might-still-be-protected yearbook photo, does it mean the request must be denied? No. Remember, if the use is non-commercial, and the other criteria are met, libraries can make copies under Copyright Act Section 108. Further, Under Section 107, patrons can make the copies themselves, and can claim fair use. But like with all things copyright, the devil is in the details. It all depends on the basis for the request, and the amount of content used.
Where must we draw the line? Somewhere between these two examples:
Example #1: A patron has requested the library copy a yearbook pages featuring Timothy McVeigh for use in coverage related to the Oklahoma City bombing. That person could get both a 108 copy, and a copy under fair use. This is especially true if the image selected actually showed it was from the yearbook, and was included as part of an essay, book, or documentary exploring the roots and reasons for the actions of a domestic terrorist.
Example #2: A patron has requested the library make copies of the individual photos of 100 less notorious graduates to promote Starpoint High School’s Class of ’86 reunion on Classmates.com. That request would not have that same protection at Example #1. If the original photographer or their heir could show it was an infringement, they could claim damages (even if the photo’s copyright wasn’t registered), and the library could find itself without a defense.
So how does a librarian deal with this type of request? As always, help the patron get access to the information they need, but protect the library. If the request is in person, once they have been given access to the book, your job is done (don’t help them with the copy machine). If the request is remote or inter-library, and you know they plan a purely commercial use, you can’t make that copy. This might be perceived as harsh—the requester is probably just a volunteer trying to organize a simple good time! –but you can let them know that the request they made exceeds your authority.
Bear in mind, it’s 2018. If they access or check out the yearbook and take pictures with their phone without your assistance, that is not something the library can control, nor be held responsible for. The patron themselves might have liability, but your institution will not…unless your library is part of the school organizing the reunion, in which case… seek back-up!
Please note: this highly restrictive answer has nothing to do with the fact that somewhere in the Town of New Hartford, NY, there is a picture of me in a Def Leppard t-shirt with 80’s hair.
 This is not a paid commercial endorsement of Lexis. It’s just the service I use. But for the record, I have preferred it since law school, where “Lexis or Westlaw?” is the equivalent of “Coke or Pepsi?”
 Stanton v. Brunswick School Dep’t, 577 F. Supp. 1560 (January 23, 1984). She won!
 Cantor v. NYP Holdings, Inc., 51 F. Supp. 2d 309 (June 4, 1999). He lost! (Not enough original content in his work).
 Granger v. Klein, 197 F. Supp. 2d 851 (March 29, 2002). Josten’s got an early dismissal of most of the claims.
 Unless you are a member of Congress and can introduce legislation to change the Copyright Act.
More than once we have received requests to provide digital copies of audio files from institutions that wish to make them accessible either through headphones or as ambient sound as parts of public exhibitions. The exhibitions presumably charge some sort of fee. We have had requests both for commercially released recordings and for archival, unpublished recordings for which we do not own either composer or performers rights, some of them dating prior to 1972.
Some of the questions raised from this issue:
This one is tricky.
It’s tricky because it stands on a no-man’s land comprised of fair use, library law, contract, and licensing. This is a place where libraries boldly go on a routine basis, but lawyers fear to tread. But we’ll try and parse it out.
To do so, we need to remember some “Considerations”:
Consideration #1: Section 108 (d) of the Copyright Act allows a library to duplicate and distribute, for non-commercial use, a “small part” of an audio recording based on a request of a patron or another library.
Consideration #2: Section 108 (e) of the Copyright Act allows a library to duplicate and distribute, again for non-commercial use, the entirety of an audio recording based on a request of a patron or another library, IF a replacement copy cannot be purchased for a reasonable price.
Consideration #3: Disappointingly and tragically (but predictably), musical works are excluded from Section 108. What does that mean? Here’s an example: a recording of Robert Frost reading a poem may be duplicated under 108...but a recording of that same poem set to music may not.
Consideration #4: Although Congress legislated that 108 protections don’t apply to musical works, it has also stated:
…it is important to recognize that the doctrine of fair use under section 107 remains fully applicable to the photocopying or other reproduction of such works. In the case of music, for example, it would be fair use for a scholar doing musicological research to have a library supply a copy of a portion of a score or to reproduce portions of a phonorecord of a work. Nothing in section 108 impairs the applicability of the fair use doctrine to a wide variety of situations involving photocopying or other reproduction by a library of copyrighted material in its collections, where the user requests the reproduction for legitimate scholarly or research purposes. [emphasis added]
Which brings us to…
Consideration #5: A library can make a partial or complete copy if it is a “fair use.” Fair use is determined on a work-by-work basis, applying the four factors set out in Section 107 of the Copyright Act.
Consideration #6: An initial “fair use” can meet the requirements of 107 (say, 10 bars of music contrasted with another in a documentary film), but a subsequent, related use might not (the same 10 bars in an TV ad for the same documentary).
Consideration #7: None of this matters if the copy is coming from a license (a contract) that imposes greater restrictions a library.
Bearing these seven “Considerations” in mind, let’s check out the member’s questions in relation to the scenario they provided:
More than once we have received requests to provide digital copies of audio files from institutions that wish to make them accessible either through headphones or as ambient sound as parts of public exhibitions. The exhibitions presumably charge some sort of fee. We have had requests both for commercially released recordings and for archival, unpublished recordings for which we do not own either composer or performers rights, some of them dating prior to 1972.
Question: What do requesting institutions have to do to acquire the necessary rights to play audio at their exhibitions?
Answer: If the work is protected by copyright, and they can’t justify a fair use, they need a license to play the audio at their exhibition. As the member points out, if the library providing the copy is not also the rights holder, the requesting party needs to work with that third party for permission to play the copy in public (unless it is a fair use).
But that is a secondary consideration for the library who might be providing the copy. Remember “Consideration #6:” the initial basis for the request could be allowed under 107 or 108, even if a latter use in not allowed. Combine that with what we established in “Consideration #4:” Congress knew that subsequent uses might not be legitimate. So, to protect libraries, and to protect the sharing of knowledge for purposes of scholarship and creativity, they made it very clear: if the first basis for the copy is legitimate, and the providing library has no knowledge of plans for infringing uses, the providing library will not be liable for infringement.
This is hard, because librarians are both helpful, and tend to be relentless gatherers of information. If a patron requests a copy and discloses an infringing use for that copy, it cannot legally be provided. This is true even if the requester subsequently gets a license (since there is no guarantee the license would retroactively extend to the providing library), although at that point, any damage claim would likely be moot.
Question: Does it matter if audio is provided via headphone or open speakers?
Answer: The number of speakers (headphone or otherwise), the location of the devices, the size of the audience, and the capacity of the venue matter can all matter to an analysis of fair use. But again, unless the exhibition is the only reason for the request, that information should not impact a providing library’s 108 or 107 analysis, unless the precise use is disclosed as part of the immediate basis of the request.
Question: Does it matter if an entire recording is played vs. an excerpt?
Answer: If the requesting institution is relying on a fair use defense, absolutely, yes. The amount of the work used is one of the four factors.
Question: Are excerpts of certain duration allowable regardless of securing permissions?
Answer: Recent case law shows that even the tiniest duration can be infringement, if fair use factors are not met. But don’t let that stop you from providing a 107 copy! If the fair use factors are met, it is conceivable that a person could use the entire work. There is no set formula; fair use can only be assessed on a work-by-work basis.
If excerpts of a certain duration are allowed, is it the duty of the holding institution to create the audio files of the excerpted portion rather than providing the audio of an entire work?
This is not a binary question, it is an algorithm. Here we go:
Question: As many exhibitions occur at locations remote to the holding institution, actual on-site checks for compliance are prohibitive. Does this change anything in terms of how permission forms should be crafted?
Answer: As quoted above, it was the intent of Congress that a library not be liable for subsequent unlawful use.
For a 107 copy, this starts and ends with the library’s assessment of the fair use for the copy at the time of the request. Your forms should solicit information only about the immediate need for the copy, and assess if the request is within your institution’s comfort zone. Your forms should not ask about prospective future uses, which may be beyond your control, nor should you feel any obligation to police the use, which is impossible.
Here is food for thought: forms should promote making a 108 copy whenever possible. 108 protection, while narrower, is far less subject to debate; 108 factors are clear and easy to document. “Fair use,” on the other hand, is often in the eye of the beholder. Judges must not only apply four factors of analysis, but as recent case law has recently re-affirmed, the four factors are not so much weighed, as considered in relation to each other. It’s a tough analysis that unfortunately inspires erring on the side of caution. So use 108 whenever it can apply.
A lot of questions, a lot of answers, and a lot of food for thought. This is a rapidly evolving area of law, so check back in on this issue in a year or so. The Copyright Office, various library organizations, and Congress all know that the law isn’t quite up to the challenge of technology (108 still uses the word “phonorecord,” which my Spellcheck actually refuses to recognize), so this complex web will continue to evolve.
And in the meantime, if someone requests a copy of audio by Anthony Barré, use it as an excuse to read Estate of Anthony Barré and Angel Barré v. Carter, et al. (a/k/a Beyoncé and Jay-Z), because it’s a good illustration of why this response is so very, very convoluted!
 House Report 94-1476.
 The factors are:
(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
 Estate of Anthony Barré and Angel Barré v. Carter, et al. No. 17-1057 (E.D. Lou. July 25, 2017). In this case, pop star Beyoncé used very small clips from Anthony Barré’s recorded spoken word performances in the song “Formation;” the court ruled that while the amount of Barré’s work used very small, and was but a small part of the song, the overall factors did not make the use fair.
 Cambridge University Press v. Mark P. Becker No. 1:08-cv-01425-ODE (N.D. Ga. Mar. 31, 2016)
I am working with an artist on a future display at our library. He is a regionally known professional artist. He is working on an engraving that makes use of a short poem by a deceased, well-known poet. He has learned that the poem is still under copyright and that the poet’s estate is active, but believes that unless it gets renewed, the poem should be in the public domain by the end of the year. If the exhibition is to be before that time, should he apply for permission to use it? If so, is that likely to be expensive?
This is a great question, since it shows how libraries not only provide access to information, but serve as patrons for the arts. This nurtures local culture, spurs community creativity, and brings special attention to a library.
As the member points out, though, this role also comes with its own set of legal issues, including copyright concerns.
“Ask the Lawyer” was created to provide practical guidance and tips to libraries, museums and archives on the front lines of culture. So, while there are many excellent treatises out there on copyright, fair use, contributory infringement, estate law, and contract law—all of which are showcased in this question—rather than wax philosophical, this answer will try, above all, to be useful to a librarian as they work with their community to nurture new art.
With that in mind, here is a checklist flowchart of “red flag” issues, and potential solutions, to help you find the smoothest legal road for bringing custom art to your library.
Bringing Custom Art to Your Library
Contract Development Flow Chart
Step 1: Establish the vision and shared goals for the projectWork with the artist to develop a carefully description of the project.
NOTE: In other words, is the artist considering any permission they might need, or fair use they need to make? In this exercise, they should rely on their own lawyer (sometimes provided pro bono by an arts organization), and never on input from the library.
NOTE: All discussions should make it clear that until a formal written agreement is reached, discussions are just speculative, and not a contract for services.
Step 2: Establish how it is being paid for
NOTE: if the artist is being paid (and they should be), or is selling anything based on the end result, and the materials are not becoming part of the library (like a mural or a custom Narnia-inspired wardrobe that is actually a built-in bookcase), the library should not purchase the materials…but the artist can factor the cost into the final price.
Step 3: Establish ownership
This step controls a lot of the latter considerations.
NOTE: If the answer is “yes,” a plan for jointly managing the asset should be developed. Generally, to avoid this complication, you want the answer to be “no.”
Step 4: Establish clear boundaries
This can help avoid confusion and stress later.
NOTE: “Nothing except moral support” is a great answer.
Step 5: Confirm critical responsibilities
NOTE: Unless you are co-authors on an exciting joint venture with a very well-developed contract and express insurance provisions, clearance and permissions should never be done by your library. Further, when you develop a final agreement for the work, it should contain a clause stating that the artist is the sole author of the work, the artist is responsible for obtaining necessary permissions, that all necessary permissions have been secured, and that the artist will hold harmless, indemnify, and defend the library (and its trustees, employees and volunteers) in the event a third party claims the work is infringing any copyright, trade mark, image right, or right to privacy.
Step 6: Protect the library!
You can tell by the questions on the worksheet that my final guidance on is this: when developing a public art project, be picky about the details, and turn them into a good contract.
Because there are too many variables amongst the libraries (public libraries, college/university libraries, hospital and prison libraries, museums, private archives), I cannot offer a standard template for this. A public library is in a different place than a library within a college or museum; they all live in different regulatory universes, have different vulnerabilities, and have different rules and obligations. This is why simply “borrowing” a template from another institution is often a bad idea.
However, I can say that any good contract will address the above-raised issues, and if you have used this worksheet in advance, assembling such a contract will be easier.
Step 7: Promote Culture, Enjoy Art
I know: nothing kills inspiration faster than the word “indemnification.” This worksheet brings up a lot of messy details that, if brought up at the wrong time, can hamper creativity.
But I have found that addressing these details early actually helps a project move forward. It gives the library and the artist clarity about their roles. It gives the security of assurance about vital details. Most importantly, by inspiring forethought about possible impediments, it makes challenging projects possible.
So revel in the details, make room on the walls, and let the art flow!
 You’ll see that throughout this checklist I also refer to the artist as the “author.” The copyright law uses “author” as a catch-all term for the creator, whether they are a writer, photographer, sculptor, etc…
 I know, if the library can buy the materials, they’re tax free! But both the state of NY and the IRS are pretty clear on this.
Is it permissible to create an anthology of 20-30 poems, all by British poets, to be distributed to an entire grade level of students to be used for annotation and instruction? [It’s been suggested] that "since they're all available on the internet" they should be able to printed, collected, bound, and sold to students. A few things that I am unclear on are:
1. Does it make a difference that they are British poets whose work is in the public domain (as I understand, 70 years after death of author)
2. Does it make a difference that the collections are intended to be SOLD to students?
3. If they are, in fact, available through sites such as Project Gutenberg and https://www.whitemarketpodcast.co.uk/blog/2015/10/08/public-domain-poems-for-national-poetry-day/ are they okay to copy, bind, and sell?
I wandered lonely as a cloud…wondering “is there a way to create our own custom array of poems by Wordsworth, Keats, and Burns?”
The answer is: Yes. If a poem was published before 1923, or meets certain other criteria, it is in the public domain. Being in the “public domain” means it is free from copyright protection, and that any would-be publisher may generate, duplicate, and sell their own version of it—with or without new illustrations, new original commentary, and other non-infringing works.
When taking on such a project, the critical factor for worry-free re-use is publication before 1923. For such poems, status in the public domain is assured.
For poems published after 1923, the analysis is a bit trickier. There is no hard-and-fast rule; the place of publication, the manner of claiming copyright protection, and the life of the author are all relevant. Cornell maintains an excellent chart that breaks down the factors to consider when assessing if a work is in the public domain.
Public domain status, or permission from the copyright owner, is something a would-be publisher should verify on their own. It should not be assumed, even if the poem is free for download on the internet. Even Project Gutenberg puts terms and restrictions on its content (see the Project Gutenberg License), and does not guarantee that a work is in the public domain (check out PG’s statement on this issue).
Once a would-be publisher has a method for confirming that the poems are in the public domain, it does not matter how many poems they use. When working with public domain material, there is no limit on how many works can be assembled, duplicated, and distributed.
That said, there are a few serious caveats.
First, a publisher must truly verify that each and every poem was published (not written, but published) before 1923, or that any post-1923 publication meets the factors on the chart.
Second, a publisher must make sure they are not infringing someone else’s updated version of a public domain poem. All of Chaucer’s works may be in the public domain, but a new translation, or a copy with new cartoon illustrations, is not. To avoid any charge of copying, it would be best to re-type the poems. Do not copy a recently annotated version. Do not scan a newly illustrated version. Do not simply cut-and-paste. For the final compilation to be owned and then sold by the new publisher, the typing should be done by an employee, as part of their work.
Third (but very important!), if preparing copies of public domain materials for sale, take care that trademarks are not a part of the newly compiled content. As an example…a publisher can re-print a pre-1923 poem about Coca-Cola, but can’t use the Coca-Cola logo to sell the copies (unless its for commentary/criticism, but that’s a fair use question…). Make sure the school has the rights to any images that are used.
Overall: The member’s question models the sense of caution when using previously published material. But with the above caveats in mind, a new publisher can relax, share some poetry, and say:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
Poems flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
Thinking I will have no legal bills.
 While rare, some copyright owners simply announce that their work is free to use, or free to use with very limited restrictions. Such an announcement should be verified and documented before being relied on.
 If the end product is simply a gathering of public domain material, it might not have sufficient originality to be subject to copyright. But if new illustrations or instructional materials are included, it might.
A couple committees at the college my library is at want to present copyrighted films in the theatre as part of an educational film series. They are under the impression that as long as there is an "educational component" to the screening that it falls under fair use.
The showings would not be part of a course, although there are brief lectures by Faculty introducing films and related concepts. The screenings are open to the public. No admission is charged.
Does this fall under fair use?
The short answer is: no, this scenario is not a “fair use.”
But that’s not the end! “Fair use”—which is found in Section 107 of the Copyright Act—is not the only exception to copyright infringement.
There is another way. Section 110 of the Copyright Act provides:
[T]he following are not infringements of copyright:
(1)performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made[.] [emphasis added].
In the cold, scary, expensive world of copyright infringement, section 110 is breath of fresh air. Unlike section 107, which creates a four-factor “fair use” formula so esoteric, you can consult three lawyers and get six opinions, Section 110’s exceptions are well-defined and clear. 
So, can a gathering of instructors and students in a theater on a college campus meet these clear 110 requirements? Yes!
The problem is, as used in 110, the term “students” is not broad enough to apply to the member’s precise scenario. While the 110 term “instructors” includes guest lecturers (if their instructional activities remain confined to the class location and syllabus), the 110 term “pupils” is generally regarded as meaning only enrolled members of a class.  In addition, it is best if the syllabus for the course, whether for credit or a certificate, supports a conclusion that the viewing context really is a class—not recreation (even if it is enlightening recreation) masquerading as academia. 110 is a powerful exception to infringement, but it has its limits.
107 and 110 exceptions to infringement can sometimes get conflated. Here are some examples of how they do (or do not) apply, using one of my new favorite movies:
1. “Black Panther” uncut and shown on campus as part of an open-to-all, educational film series about would not be allowed under either fair use or 110. Any such showing must be licensed.
2. “Black Panther” partially evoked in very small, carefully-chosen selections for an open campus forum on “Women in Major Motion Picture Fight Scenes” could be allowed under “fair use,” but film stills and excerpts must be limited to only what is needed to make a point.
3. “Black Panther” shown in its entirety to students enrolled in a “Comics and Society” class would be allowed under 17 U.S.C. 110 (1)…so long as the movie genuinely contributes to the substance of the course, is shown only to enrolled students, and the copy they watch is not pirated.
What’s the take-away? Educators should apply “fair use” when needed, but remember that section 110(1) creates exceptions to infringement, too. It’s no vibranium, but is a powerful part of an educator’s arsenal.
 Care must be taken to ensure there is no re-transmission of the content. Another section of 110 does allow for limited re-transmission for online learning, but to qualify, the institution must adhere to all TEACH Act requirements.
 There are more than this, and of course, they all come with rules. Read the statute before relying on 110 to protect you from infringement.
 See House Report 94-1476
 Special rare metal in “Black Panther;” also, what Captain America’s shield is made from.
A teacher would like to reprint a student workbook we can no longer find in print. We tried to get permission from the company that bought the publisher out, but they said they couldn’t help. At this point, can we prove that we have made a good faith effort to receive permission?
It is frustrating to know just the right resource for a class—and be unable to access enough classroom copies.
Just as vexing is going the extra mile to seek permission to make your own…only to be told that you’ve reached a dead end.
And yet, class must go on. We tried to ask…now can we just make those copies?
Unfortunately, a “good faith effort to receive permission” is not a defense from liability for copyright infringement. Further, introducing evidence of the “good faith effort” to doing things the right way might work against a defendant, since it might limit their ability to claim they are an “innocent infringer” (someone who has no basis to know they are infringing, or made a reasonable but erroneous assumption of fair use).
Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule. If the purpose of the copies is to enable commentary and criticism, excerpts sufficient to illustrate the instructor’s point (and no more) may be duplicated. And a library making an archival or preservation copy under §108 of the Copyright Act might duplicate the entire book (once, but not for classroom use). But copies for students, whether or not they are sold, do not fall into these categories.
The best solution in this situation may be to find a stalwart staff member who likes to play detective, who can hopefully track down the actual copyright owner. This can sometimes be determined on copyright.gov, can sometimes be determined from author’s websites, and can sometimes only be distilled by triangulating the information from about five different sources.
And sometimes, even after a herculean effort, the answer cannot be found. But no matter what, unauthorized duplication of copyright-protected work without permission can lead to liability and damages…and a defendant showing they tried to ask for permission before doing the copying might make things worse.
When it comes to digitizing large theater and music program collections, it is well-established that a library can digitize anything before 1923, and that if there are no copyright notices on them, can digitize anything before 1978. But if there are multiple "copyrightable" elements in the works (advertisements, photos, actor biographies, illustrations, etc.) is it okay to digitize them? What is the risk in digitizing a program when there is a copyright notice on one or more element in the program, but not all of it? If a theater or musical society is defunct, is it okay to digitize the programs associated with it beyond 1978 or when it may have a copyright notice?
This is a complex issue (although not nearly as complex as assessing a library wing full of dramatic and musical works). To unpack this, I will take advantage of a form suggested by the topic: the opera libretto.
ALTO: Can works with no copyright notice before 1978 be safely digitized?
BASSO: Beware, if they were previously unpublished or the trademark is still monetized.
ALTO: What about text works with multiple works inside them?
BASSO: A compilation notice may protect the whole system.
ALTO: What about a work included in an unregistered collection?
BASSO: Beware! That work may have a separate protection.
ALTO: If a theatre organization has folded, can their work be duplicated?
BASSO: The copyright could have been transferred, so…it’s complicated.
SOPRANO: So you’re saying…[crescendo] you DON’T KNOWWWWWW?
Okay, enough of that.
The bottom line: There is no bright-line rule I can provide to give assurances for works that are post-1923 (and, for unpublished works like journals or private recordings, items authored prior to that date). Between image rights, trademark, privacy, and overlapping copyright terms, projects like the one described in the question can bring an array of legal considerations. Adding music to the equation—which is exempted from §108, the law that allows certain copying at libraries—only heightens the concerns.
The key to designing a digitization project that can survive this type of risk assessment resides in the question: why does the collection, and the particular items in it, need to be digitized in the first place?
If the answer is, “for preservation,” then documenting, on a work-by-work basis, that either there are no protected elements in the work, and that all 108 factors have been met, is the key (NOTE: this would likely involve restricting some of the collection to on-site access only).
If the answer is, “for ADA adaptability,” then documenting, on a work-by-work basis, that the digitization was only for purposes of making an accommodation is the key.
If the answer is, “so the whole world has easy access to high-resolution, searchable, meta-tagged copies of the material,” then verifying, on a work-by-work basis, that no valid copyright or other bar to duplication and online publication is the key. Materials still under copyright could not be available for download, but could be listed as on-site and available for copying if allowed per §108.
If the answer is, “so the whole world has internet access to low-resolution, water-marked, searchable, thoughtfully meta-tagged copies of representational selections of each title (whether under copyright, or not), presenting the bare minimum of what’s needed for researchers to determine what we have on site and available for §108 copying,” then carefully following the four “fair use” factors is the key.
If the answer is, “so the whole world has internet access to our carefully curated, scholarship-oriented, presented-with-commentary-and-criticism, non-market-disrupting, selective array of material carefully culled to represent the breath and scholarly value of our larger collection of theatrical and musical materials available for §108 copying” then designing an end product that meets the four “fair use” factors is the key.
I realize this is a chicken-and-egg reply: if you can’t clear answers on what you can do with the material, how can you envision what to do with it? My reply to that is: trust that your mission to provide access to information is supported by the law. Think about the materials, develop a theme as to why access to them is important, acknowledge any potential boundaries, and a legal solution can be found. Bring in a lawyer to advise on specifics when needed, like a decision to invoke “fair use,” to set up clear parameters for copyright determinations, or how to best document use of §108.
Since access is your mission, copyright should only inform, not deter it
Sometimes, you just need a lawyer. This RAQ can cover a lot of helpful general ground, but some things—like designing a particular fair use, or crafting the legal parameters for a specific project—can only be done through confidential legal advice based on viewing the precise materials and circumstances.
We are in the process of transferring old VHS tapes to DVD and then to a secure internet cloud.
The tapes are ours ranging from 1988- 2001, we taped specific classes with numerous instructors who were aware of the taping process. Since the tapes belong to us are there any copyright issues in reproducing and offering access to for a fee through our Lakeside Learning Center, or reproducing as a DVD and selling?
We also have very old cassette tapes of a similar nature. We possess them and instructors being taped were fully aware.
We would like to offer these as an MP3 for paid access.
Putting the tapes on the cloud: it is great that educational institutions are saving and promoting their accumulated knowledge this way. But aside from the copyright issues the member asks about (which we’ll get to at the bottom of this reply), the transfer and publication of legacy instructional material can bring some additional legal considerations.
Here are some “red flags” for converting video of your past lectures for digital re-sale.
In New York, the commercial use (including sales of instructional DVDs, as mentioned in the question) of a person’s image, likeness, and name must be with written permission. Of course, for employees whose routine duties include being recorded (like newscasters), that consent is addressed at the start of the job. But for instructors who may have been aware they were being taped in 1988, but weren’t aware that the tape could be acquired by paid viewers later via the Internet, there could be some risk that a past instructor might object to being included.
Further, in the event the instructor was an employee covered by a collective bargaining agreement or other employment contract at the time of filming, they could have some rights you need to consider. A quick check with a Human Resources department should be able to confirm if any past or current agreement poses any complications.
And finally, in the event the instructor who was filmed was not an employee, but under a speaker agreement--perhaps speaking for a small fee—an institution must exercise caution, since awareness of being filmed does not constitute permission to mass-produce the product and sell it in the marketplace. If possible, sending a note to the former speaker, thanking them for their past participation and offering a small fee in exchange for their signature on written permission for the new use, is best.
The bottom line: there are a lot of possible permutations to the “image use” issue. To avoid them, whenever possible, verify that your institution has written, signed permission to use a person’s image before selling any newly converted recordings.
Accuracy and Reliability Disclaimer
In the event any of the instructional materials relate to a trade, profession, or other topic governed by prevailing standards, law, or regulations, a disclaimer that carefully clarifies that the content was generated in 1988 (or whatever year applies), might be wise.
Of course, if the content is opinion-based, that is not an issue. But if the person is relating an objective best practice, regulation, or law, making sure a viewer is warned that the information could be out of date is critical.
It’s a long shot for the scenario posed by the member, but in the event there is any trademarked material (for instance, a set of instructional booklets with a prominent logo) be wary before digitizing and charging for access. The incidental use of another entity’s trademark could create an alleged infringement. Fortunately, as can be seen in a lot of reality TV, this can be avoided by simply blurring the mark!
The member is correct; if the institution (through its employees) is the entity that created the recording, and there is no written agreement to the contrary, the institution owns the copyright, and can duplicate, sell, and create derivative works based on the content.
However, care should be taken to verify that no independently owned content is contained within the video (a person reading a poem, for instance). While under many circumstances such inclusion can qualify as a “Fair Use,” that is not always the case (for more on this caveat, see the “Recently Asked Question” posted on Saturday, January 27, 2018).
 Please note: this issue is different from digitization projects by libraries who own, but did not produce, the content!
Amazon.com sells audiobooks. One of the formats is an MP3 CD. The image of an example box says the MP3 is transferable.
My question is, if I bought one of these audiobook MP3 CDs for the library, would it be copyright infringement for me to transfer the audiobook MP3? What if I wanted to transfer it to a google drive so that it could be shared amongst a teacher and her students? Would that be copyright infringement?
Just wondering on the dynamics.
The answer to all of the questions is: Yes, buying an MP3 audiobook on CD, copying it, and putting the copy on a drive accessible to others, unless the CD’s license authorizes it, would be copyright infringement.
An audiobook’s license is what that defines the permission a user has to copy the file. A typical license for an audiobook contains something like this:
When you purchase [Vendor] Content, [Vendor] grants you a limited, revocable, non-exclusive, non-transferable license to download or stream such [Vendor] Content to your computer and/or other device(s) solely for your personal, non-commercial use. You agree to not otherwise copy, reproduce, distribute or use the [Vendor] Content other than as expressly set forth herein. You will not sell, transfer, lease, modify, distribute or publicly perform the [Vendor] Content in any manner and you will not exploit it commercially. ”
Some licenses do allow transfer of audio books onto multiple devices, and some may even provide for one person to transfer the MP3 to another; the permutations are only limited by the soft and hardware containing the copies, and the business plans of the publisher.
Which brings me back to the member’s question. In the scenario presented, it is not quite clear if “transferable” (as used on the cover of a CD) means transferable between devices, or between owners; only by checking the actual licensing information on the product would you be able to determine that.
It is rare for the owner of an audiobook to simply offer limitless transferability, but the fine print, not the cover, is where you’ll find out for sure. And that is the dynamics (a good word for something as in flux and digital rights management)!
 Unless the recording is in the public domain, the conversion is for ADA accessibility purposes, if the use is a “Fair Use,” or some of the other very narrow exemptions apply. But we’ll just focus on conventional, copyright-protected audiobooks that a publisher is selling for money.
 The mystery is killing you, right? This is an excerpt from the Audible license.
Is public domain based on the copyright of the work OR is it based on when the author died OR perhaps it is based on something else?
Basically, how do you know if something is in the public domain?
The Public Domain…intellectual property’s frontier. These are the adventures of those working with no copyright. Their mission: to use pre-existing content, to explore not being sued for infringement, to boldly go where no legal protection has gone before..!
[Insert inspiring theme music here!]
Sigh. If only this question was as simple as putting on a spandex unitard and exploring the galaxy. Unfortunately, it isn’t, and there is no one hard and fast rule for assessing if something is in the PD (Public Domain), and thus available for use without licensing, permission, or any concern about copyright.
So what do you do if you want to work with material you think might be in the PD? You have to analyze it.
A work has several ways of getting into the PD:
1. It lacks sufficient original authorship to have ever qualified for copyright protection. Example: a simple, non-descriptive list of characters in a play.
2. It qualified for copyright but was never protected. Example: a play published in the US in 1957 without a copyright notice.
3. It was once protected, but the protection expired. Example: a play published in 1988 without a copyright notice, and without subsequent registration within 5 years.
All three of these can be tough to assess. There is, however, a great chart maintained by Cornell, that enables some determination related to #2 and #3.
Do you need to assess if something is in the Public Domain? Check out the chart. With the right information about a work (the author/owner, date of publication, and circumstances of publication) it can be used to determine if a work is in the Public Domain. But take care! When working with the chart, make sure you verify every relevant variable. Have someone knowledgeable, or an attorney, double-check your conclusion.
Once you’ve done that, you can voyage to the undiscovered territory, secure in the knowledge that no one can sue you for infringement (based on copyright).
 “The public domain” should not be confused with “copyleft” practices such as Creative Commons licenses, or “Open Source” agreements that authorize use under very light restrictions; such licensing is still based on the underlying property having a protectable copyright.
When digitizing radio broadcasts of cultural significance (such as a talk show confronting social issues), must a library, museum, or archive remove any separately copyrighted songs before posting the recordings?
This question assumes that the library, museum, or archive owns or has a license to use the overall recording of the broadcast.
When digitizing radio broadcasts for online (not-for-profit, academic) access, there are a number of legal issues to consider: intellectual property, contract, privacy, preservation, etc. But the question focuses on copyright, so this answer does, too.
And that answer is…yes, including copyright-protected songs in digitized broadcasts poses a risk of an infringement claim--but that risk does not need to trump the basis for preserving the broadcast in the first place.
How does the law help a digital archive strike that balance? Here are some options:
Option 1: If the copyrighted songs are not important to the broadcast, and can be removed without affecting the integrity of the broadcast, remove them.
If the basis for preserving and providing access to the broadcasts (capturing a moment in time, showing a spirit, confirming an approach) is not served by the presence of the songs, the best legal option might be to remove them, noting the redactions in a manner appropriate to the archive.
That said, I can only imagine a few scenarios where this is this case. So, next we have…
Option 2: Ask for acknowledgement of Fair Use, and permission
If not onerous, asking the copyright holder to acknowledge the Fair Use of their valid copyright, and to consent to such use in case later rights holders disagree, can be a wise step.
HOWEVER, as it can alert an owner to a potential claim, this should only be attempted with careful, customized input by an attorney, with due consideration as to how to avoid making an adverse admission, and what the implications could be if the rights to the song are later transferred (since one person’s Fair Use is another person’s rip-off).
Most importantly, such acknowledgement should only be sought prior to the recordings being posted. That is because the library, museum, or archive may want to protect their ability to simply claim…
Option 3: Fair Use
Including the songs could be non-infringing if the use meets the requirements of “Fair Use.” This is a posture taken by many online archives, and with good reason: Fair Use is a creature of both case law, and convention, so for most scholars and librarians, it is important to hold the Fair Use line, letting the world know that this important exception to infringement is alive and well.
That said, a “Fair Use” defense is assessed via a four-factor analysis (see the footnote); in this type of case, each broadcast recording and song would be subject to its own analysis.
While there is no case law directly on point, the recent case of Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Ltd. P’ship, 737 F.3d 932 (4th Cir. 2013), which involved the use of a proprietary logo during a documentary film, states “[f]air use…protects filmmakers and documentarians from the inevitable chilling effects of allowing an artist too much control over the dissemination of his or her work for historical purposes.” [emphasis added].
Using option 3 will require some clear-eyed assessment by the project leaders and institutional decision-makers. Is the entire song truly necessary to preserve the integrity, spirit and tone of the original? Does the overall recording transform the song into something different than its original? Does the manner in which the recording is presented make is difficult for the new version to supplant the market for the original? If not, the library, museum, or archive might want to consider…
Option 4: Fair Use “Lite”
With the Fair Use “Lite” approach, the institution would redact all but the first and last moments of the copyright-protected song (leaving any parts the hosts/guest are talking over) claiming Fair Use for the remaining portions. This could be done by a fade-in, fade-out technique, or another aural cue that the recording is departing from the original.
If it doesn’t destroy the integrity of the project, “Fair Use Lite” is worth considering, because the smaller the portions of the songs, the stronger your Fair Use claim might be, since factor 3 will weigh more in your favor. If there is any original dialogue over the song, that, too, can be left, with a claim that the content is “transformative” (factor 1).
If the decision is made to keep the recordings intact, or to use at least part of them, it may be helpful to have the basis for the claim available to the public; something like:
These recordings capture an important moment in time. The songs played, content shared, and material included in these revealing broadcasts were all selected by the original broadcasters for a reason; these digital versions are valuable because they paint an accurate and complete picture of the sound and feel of the times.
To the extent any proprietary material is present, its inclusion in this larger work is a Fair Use, warranted by the importance of presenting the material as a whole. Critically, please note that this use is not-for-profit, for educational purposes, and no commercial use of this content is made, nor allowed. If any content or restriction in this archive concerns any person, please contact NAME, at EMAIL.
And finally: prior to posting any digital archive, if it is an option, an institution should consider registering the copyrights to the MP3 files. This will position the institution to enforce any restrictions it places on use of the sound recording (like disallowing commercial use)…even if the purpose of the digital archive is to promote access and dissemination of the material!
As more audio content is archived and stored for cultural, historic, and academic purposes, this issue will grow. I expect we may have some case law directly on point soon.
 When confronted with this issue, it is worthwhile to take a close look at the songs involved. Some pre-1972 sound recordings do not have copyright protection, an issue playing out in what is known as the “Flo & Eddie” line of cases (just look up Floe & Eddie, Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc., and you’ll see what I mean). Of course, the underlying musical composition might be protected, even when the recording is not…but the recording may be less protected than you think!
 Congress provides a list of four factors that guide the determination of whether a particular use is a fair use. Those factors are: (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. 17 U.S.C.S. § 107. These factors cannot be treated in isolation from one another, but instead must be weighed together, in light of the purposes of copyright. This balancing necessitates a case-by-case analysis in any fair use inquiry. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit's precedents have placed primary focus on the first factor. A finding of fair use is a complete defense to an infringement claim: the fair use of a copyrighted work is not an infringement of copyright. 17 U.S.C.S. § 107.
A member collaborating on a conference asked for some general legal advice to keep in mind when selecting a name for the event (“branding”).
Branding and trademark questions are some of my favorite “Ask the Lawyer” submissions. Since GLAM institutions attract innovators and creative professionals, new products and services emerge from them at an impressive rate. And because the people driving the development tend to have degrees in esoteric areas of the humanities, you get a lot of cool logos and names.
There are a lot of resources out there on how create strong trademark, but what most of those resources don’t consider is people developing marks in an inter-institutional, collaborative environment. So, I’ll take this opportunity to set out a few general questions for you cooperative trailblazers to keep in mind when co-branding your next collection, conference, or information management tool.
#1. Whose mark is it, anyway?
Any development of a brand (which usually includes some or all of the following: developing a name, generating a logo, registering a domain name, creating a #hashtag and other hallmarks of a social media existence, determining a promotional strategy, and maybe even creating a new corporate entity) should only happen after the parties agree on who will own it. This agreement should be in writing.
[Pro tip: if you are at a larger institution, you might want to check with the PR/marketing department before formally taking ownership, or even partial ownership, of a new brand. Think of it as helping them properly accession something into their collection.]
#2. How will we (the colloborators) use it?
It is critical that the collaborators on a brand share a general understanding as to how the mark will be used (this is what I refer to above as the “promotional strategy”).
Every collaborative venture will handle this differently, but the important questions are:
· What is the purpose of the mark?
· What good or services is it associated with?
· To what uses is this mark restricted? Or…is the mark deliberately unrestricted?
· Who is in charge of the mark on social media?
· Can a collaborator use it in the context of their own venture?
· What media will the mark be used in?
· How, if ever, will the mark be retired?
#3. How do we protect our mark?
Once the group know who owns it, and how it will be used, it’s important that the underlying copyright supports that strategy.
· Who owns the copyright to the logo design (if it is sufficiently original)?
· Will we register our mark with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”)?
· Who maintains the mark?
· Who monitors the mark?
· Who is in charge if a use departs from the promotional strategy?
· Are there any grant funding terms that effect ownership of the mark?
#Always. Does the mark we’ve picked infringe?
The question of infringement should not drive the creative process, but it should be at the forefront of every branding initiative.
Trademark infringement is established when a plaintiff demonstrates that it owns a protectable mark, AND the defendant’s use of that mark is "likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive as to the affiliation, connection, or association of such person with another person, or as to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of his or her goods, services, or commercial activities by another person." Grady v. Nelson, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 172759, at *17 (D. Colo. Dec. 15, 2014).
Just like copyright infringement, trademark infringement is not excused by educational or not-for-profit use. So, at every stage (picking the words, picking a logo, registering the domain, etc.) care to check that your new mark isn’t stepping on an old one is absolutely critical.
In a collaborative venture, where it is easy to assume that someone else is handling something, proof of this step being taken, in a timely manner, should be clear and well-documented (and preferably reviewed and confirmed by a lawyer with malpractice insurance).
 A saucy bit of branding I recently observed, meaning “Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums.”
 And I mean a LOT. Most intellectual property-focused firms or lawyers have a FAQ or helpful article on their website/blog on “how to build a strong brand.” To be fair to all of them, the link I have provided is to the same type of material, hosted by the American Bar Association.
 Not all “protectable trademarks” are registered. If a mark has been routinely used in commerce, the owners may have “common law” rights.
Can a faculty member, who no longer requires students to buy a textbook, duplicate and share (with the students) the supplemental instructional resources provided by the publisher? The resources can be both digital and hard copy.
Sometimes, an instructor will try and solve both these problems by removing the book from the syllabus, while keeping a few choice materials on hand from the instructor copy supplied by the publisher. This seems like a win-win: the students have one less book to buy, while the lecture notes, visual aids, and LMS can carry forward the valuable content retained by the instructor. But is this scenario allowed?
The answer lies in the specific product’s license. And while there are countless publishers with every permutation of license, that answer will probably be: NO.
How can this be? Isn’t it Fair Use? Didn’t the institution or instructor already buy the materials?
This is where things get interesting.
First: how can this be? It is a very deliberate tactic by the publisher. Responding to a market resisting expensive textbooks, academic publishers are always developing new ways to incentivize purchasing. One technique is selling student materials “coupled” to instructor-side materials via a license. The license conveys a copy, rights of duplication, and perhaps digital sharing for instructor-side materials, conditioned on a requirement that the textbook be “adopted” (officially required) in the course syllabus. The instructor, who is getting free materials, adds the book, and the contractual requirement is met (until it isn’t).
This approach is some pretty clever lawyering (and marketing), since it uses copyright, often some trademark, and a lot of contract law to give instructors more rights than they have under copyright law (to duplicate, upload, etc)…and then yanks those rights away, if the book is no longer required. The fact that these rights are financially under-written by students is one of the unsung tensions of higher ed.1
Second: Fair Use. There are many circumstances in which limited duplication of instructor-side materials could qualify as Fair Use (teaching a course critically analyzing instructor-side materials would be one of them). But simply continuing to use the rights from a license the purchaser has departed from (by no longer adopting the textbook into the syllabus) is not one a Fair Use…it’s just a violation of the contract, and potentially, of copyright. Both could bring penalties; one contractual, and one statutory.
Finally, “First Sale Doctrine”: Some rights to the instructor-side hard copy might be retained under the “First Sale Doctrine,” which allows purchasers to re-sell, read, and retain physical copies once they are in the market.2 But beware…the license could contain a contractual requirement to return the instructor-side materials when the license is no longer valid (this would be done through a rental or other restricted acquisition provision).
The answer to a question like this is almost always in the specific license from the publisher.3 Deviation from those terms, unless there is a very clear case of Fair Use, is not wise.
1 My tone is cynical, but on the flip side, this is how the authors and creators of instructional works get paid. We can discuss the equities of this system another day!
2 The First Sale Doctrine is taking a beating from the increasing reliance on digital copies. But that is yet another topic, for another day!
3 Something our member suggested, when posing the scenario. WNYLRC has savvy members.
We have video recordings of campus speakers that we are interested in digitizing and publishing to an online platform. They are currently on VHS and/or DVD and available in the Library to be checked-out.
The speakers include writers and poets who recite their published, copyrighted works to the college audience. Is it possible for us to post the recordings of these readings (as well as question and answer sessions) online? Most likely there was no signed license agreement when filmed.
Part of the mission of higher education institutions is to bring important, provocative, and enlightening speakers to their communities. Over the years, this results in an impressive roster of authors, artists, professionals, politicians, comedians, dignitaries, and civic leaders, having spoken on campus. Sometimes, all or part of this roster was captured on film, video, or audio recording.
The rights to those recordings—and what can be done with them in the digital age—can present a complicated situation. Each individual recording comes with a suite of considerations that can make a digitization project difficult. But in a scenario like the one posed by the member, critical points of analysis can be assessed, so a way forward is found. Here are those critical points:
Assessment Point #1: Who owns the copyright (to the recording)?
First, it is useful to establish who owns the copyright to the actual recording. Since copyright to a recording vests in the person who created the recording, not the person being recorded (unless it was a selfie), this is sometimes easy to assess. As we say in the biz: “who pushed the ‘record’ button?”
If the recording was made by an employee of the institution, and there was no contractual agreement otherwise, then the copyright to the recording is owned by the institution. If it was recorded by a student who just happened to be there, or a third-party attendee, the school doesn’t own it (which becomes an issue in the subsequent steps). Awareness of this factor is a good starting point for what lies ahead.
If your institution owns the copyrights to the recording, you can skip points #2, #3 and #4, below.
Assessment Point #2: Is this recording part of the library’s collection?
Just because the educational institution owns the physical copy doesn’t mean it is part of the library’s collection. For purposes of numbers 3 and 4, below, if your institution doesn’t own the recording, in order to convert and/or conserve it under Copyright Act Section 108 (the section giving special rights to certain libraries), the original recording must be formally cataloged and included in the library’s collection.
Assessment Point #3: Is the library in a position to convert the copy to a digital medium?
If the copy is formally a part of the library’s collection, and it is on a format considered “obsolete” under section 108 of the Copyright code (so long as the devices are no longer manufactured, VHS is, for example, is considered “obsolete”), the library may convert it to a digital format, and loan it out as provided by the §108. NOTE: this does NOT mean you can include it in an online digital collection, for anyone to access any time, but it takes you one step closer to it!
Assessment Point #4: Does the library need to conserve the copy?
If the original copy is deteriorating, it may be duplicated as set forth in Section 108. NOTE: this also does NOT mean you can include it in an online digital collection, but it makes sure than once you can, your original copy is safe, and backed up for posterity.
Assessment Point #5: Did the institution have any right to record, and/or to use the image of the person who was recorded?
This requires scouring the contracts of the institution. Most speaker contracts these days include terms controlling the right (or not) to make a recording, but, as reflected in the scenario posed by the member, in the past this was not the case. This assessment is critical, especially since at academic institutions, other departments at the institution may want to use the content to promote and celebrate the institution…but in New York, the commercial use of a person’s image, without their written consent, can carry both civil and criminal penalties.
Assessment Point #6: Are there any concerns with trademark?
The risk posed in #5 is increased if the speakers’s name and image is currently being used for purposes of a trademark (like “Maya Angelou” which is protected under Federal Trademark 86978575), or if a trademark was on display during the presentation. This means any arguably commercial use (like selling copies, putting it on the school’s website or catalog, or selling a t-shirt promoting the collection) should only be done in consultation with an attorney.
Assessment Point #7: Are there other copyright concerns?
This is the meat in the sandwich of the member’s scenario. Going through the above steps, even if an institution:
1) owns the recording;
2) includes the recording in the library’s catalog;
3) meets the 108 criteria to convert it from an obsolete format;
4) meets the 108 criteria to make preservation copies;
5) has permission to use the name and likeness of the speaker in any and all formats, for whatever reason, forever;
6) verifies there are no trademarks involved…
…if the speaker read a copyrighted work during the recording, that “performance” of a copyrighted work MIGHT be subject to its own copyright, and thus, bring with it a host of new restrictions, cramping the bounds of your digital usage.
What a pain, right?
Fortunately, there is solution. For any library at an educational institution contemplating digitizing the institution’s recorded guest speakers, if the written record doesn’t reflect clear permission to record and use the content, writing to the original speaker, or the current copyright owners, to ask for permission, may be the best solution. A sample request, with the variables notes in CAPS, is right here1:
You may recall speaking at INSTITUTION on DATE. During that performance, you read [INSERT TITLE(S)] (hereinafter, the “Works”).
Our on-campus library seeks to include a copy of that performance, recorded on FORMAT, in an online, digital collection to be called TITLE (the “Collection”). We would like to include the recording in an online Collection, so it may be accessed by the public, for purposes of enjoyment and scholarship.
To that end, we ask the following:
1. Are you the sole copyright owner of the Works? Yes No
2. If you are not the owner, do you retain the right to give permission for their reproduction, distribution, performance, and display? Yes No
If you are not the copyright holder, or do not hold the rights, please let us know who does: _____________________________________________________________
If you are the copyright holder, please consider the below requests:
3. Copyright License
May [INSTITUTION] have a non-transferable, irrevocable license to reproduce, duplicate, display, perform, and, by virtue of the recording being part of the Collection, prepare a derivative work of, the Work(s), solely as performed by you and recorded by INSTITUTION on DATE? Yes No
We would like to use your name and picture to promote the Collection. May [INSTITUTION] use your name and likeness, including but not limited to photos or images of you, the recorded sound of your voice, for the purpose of promoting the Collection in hard copy, on the institution’s website, and via any other medium existing now, or later developed? Yes No
Thank you for considering this request. I included a self-addressed, stamped envelope, in the hope of a favorable reply.
Of course, the risk of asking is that they say “no”…and that they demand you stop using the recording of the derivative work! That is why in all of this, any contracts should be assessed by an attorney, so the rights of your institution are protected, and any requests for permissions should be carefully considered prior to submitting the request.
So, the answer is (and I appreciate it took a long time to get there!): unless the recording were news coverage—which is assessed under a different array of laws—permission (given either at the time of the arrangement, or many years later) for digital duplication and distribution is required, but can be arranged well after the event.
1 NOTE: This approach is for educational institutions that were also the original recorders of the work to be digitized, who are seeking a wide degree of latitude on their use. This approach is NOT suggested for digitization efforts involving content generated by third parties at non-educational institutions. It also does not cover recordings of musical works (that would be a whole other answer!).
We are aware of the requirement to have a movie license to show a movie in a public forum, such as in a public library and the restrictions associated. My question is: are there restrictions to providing access to television programming, such as news events, in a public setting?......
The lawyer answers:
There is a simple answer to this question, although it stands on a mountain of conflicting law, international disputes regarding IP, and arguments about music rights.
Section 110 of the Copyright Act allows an entity to have one medium-sized tv (of a kind commonly used in private homes…no JumboTrons), showing a broadcast of anything but songs, so long as there is no admission charged, and the programming isn’t re-transmitted (streamed, split for viewing on another device, etc).
The member then took her question to the next logical place…
Taking this a step further, do live streaming of such events accessed via the Internet have such restrictions? i.e. during the recent hurricanes, a public library provided viewing access to live streaming news events to members of the public (public forum). Is such legal? Can a public library "broadcast" internally - for the viewing ability of the public - show television programs, news reports, live streaming videos, etc.
The lawyer answers….
This is where things get complicated. There are any number of law review articles, commentaries, and cases debating how copyright law, communications law, and contract law intersect on this issue. While “streaming” has become a catch-all term for any audiovisual (or audio) work accessible via the internet, the precise technology behind the display plays into the analysis. Further, many news sites require log-in information connected to an individual person to get full access, so the person whose account is associated with an allegedly non-conforming or infringing use could face personal consequences.
The bottom line: an institution would need to exercise caution on a case-by-case basis to re-transmit information, since the 110(5)(a) exception might not apply. But if the content is on one screen, no admission is charged, and there is no re-transmission, it might be possible.
The member then asked the “Ultimate YouTube” question:
While not, in my opinion the same as showing the news, a television program, etc.....The following is known about YouTube "terms of service: "Content is provided to you AS IS. You may access Content for your information and personal use solely as intended through the provided functionality of the Service and as permitted under these Terms of Service. You shall not download any Content unless you see a “download” or similar link displayed by YouTube on the Service for that Content. You shall not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content for any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content. YouTube and its licensors reserve all rights not expressly granted in and to the Service and the Content.
This question highlights exactly what I had to talk about above: that the licensing terms of the websites may bring further restrictions than the copyright law. That said, here is an important point for libraries, the guardians of information: Section 110 is not the only exception to infringement for the transmission of audiovisual works. Fair Use, in Section 107, and the “Library and Archive Exception, in Section 108, can also apply.
As to Section 108, the capture and archiving (and perhaps, later, lending/copying) of streamed content goes beyond the scope of this reply, but it’s an issue to keep in mind. Nowadays, a great amount of valuable content is “born digital,” and the meaningful archiving of such content may fall within a particular library’s mission. For this, any library should consider exactly what it wants to do, the precise nature of the source material, the precise legal concerns….and develop a strategy to do it. This will only get more important in the decades to come.
 Trust me. It’s a mess. Just do a search for “Berne” and “homestyle exception” and “WIPO.”
 This answer does not address playing audio works, which fall in part under 110, but require different analyses (yes, more than one).
 For instance, in the case Joe Hand Productions, Inc., v. Maupin (2016, U.S. District, EDNY), the court assessed a claim based on a saloon owner using a Roku device to display a Mixed Martial Arts fight accessed through his Cablevision account. The court refused to dismiss the claims for both copyright infringement and violation of the Federal Communications Act. As of this writing, that case is still in its pre-trial phase. Of course, the saloon probably pulled in a lot more money for hosting an MMA re-transmission than a library will pull in for providing emergency news access, but the financial rewards of the performance are not the only factor.
 I appreciate that during a time of extreme need, when lives are on the line, a cost-benefit analysis might also cause someone to throw caution to the wind and just re-broadcast the content without doing a Fair Use analysis! I don’t advise that, but I don’t want readers to think I am a heartless legal robot.
 Consider the various databases of valuable research/data that have changed format and content due to administrative changes in the federal executive branch, for instance.
Can we film a story time done at the library using copyrighted books, and then either stream the event live over Facebook for a one-time showing, or film and upload the story time to our library's YouTube channel? The purpose would be so that patrons who cannot come to the library will still be able to participate in story time and gain early literacy benefits.
This is a lovely idea, but any library considering something like this should get assurance that the work is in the public domain, or have permission from the authorized licensor (who is not always the copyright holder), before filming/streaming.
A great example of a permitted derivative work is a commercially published audiobook. Check out the credits on an audiobook listing—they generally recite two copyrights: the first for the original work (used with permission), and the second for the audio recording. This is how the law both limits and promotes such recording.
A few other legal considerations approach this scenario, but don’t quite apply:
That said, because a live reading could promote the works featured, I imagine there are publishers who would grant a limited license for such an endeavor. However, depending on their contract with the author(s), a publisher might not be able to! In any event, asking permission is a case-by-case exercise.
The good news is that the reading itself, at the physical location of the library, is allowed so long as it meets Section 110 (4) of the Copyright Act (this probably isn’t news to most librarians).
Very often, attorneys are perceived as throwing cold water on project like this, and hopefully this answer has shown why that is usually our only option. That said, if there is ever a specific work a library wants to plan an event around (a specific book, etc), it is worth it to investigate the status and licensing posture of that work. You never know what you’ll find when you check the status, or the ability to get permission, for a specific work.
I wish you all good reading.
 No longer protected by copyright…and for that matter, not affixed with a trademark the owner could claim you infringed.
 Because it technically “makes a copy” as it goes, streaming is often considered duplication. If you ever feel like causing a healthy debate, ask three intellectual property attorneys and a U.S. Supreme Court Justice to comment on this line of case law.
 Per Section 101 of the Copyright Act: A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. [Emphasis added.]
This answer was inspired by some recent questions…
In the quest to give excellent service and maximum access, librarians must apply intellectual property guidelines--a skill the average person has not honed. Library users, observing this skill (or having been alerted to a copyright concern by a librarian), may then ask for legal advice.
Here’s an example:
LIBRARIAN: We have that copy Moulin Rouge you wanted!
PATRON: Thank you! I am planning to generate a version of it with my commentary over it.
LIBRARIAN: How interesting. Are you planning to get permission, or claim Fair Use?
LIBRARIAN: Perhaps you would be interested in this book on copyright, too.
It is professionally appropriate for librarians to promote awareness of copyright, trademark, and the other laws that govern the use of content. But what can happen next can be risky:
PATRON: Thank you for the copyright book! I am pretty sure my use will be considered “Fair.” What do you think?
LIBRARIAN: I am so glad you found the book helpful. As to any use of the DVD we provided…that is a question for your lawyer.
Unfortunately, the most attentive librarians are often the closest to this exposure, since they are the most dogged about providing access—exploring the furthest reaches of Fair Use and Section 108 to do it. However, it also means that the pressure to go one step beyond, and advise the patron about what they intend to do with the materials, may be frequent. When it occurs, librarians must emphasize the boundary between good service and legal advice. Here is a formula for that:
I [the librarian] provide access to library materials based on the law and policy of my profession and institution; you [the user] should consult your own attorney regarding any legal concerns about your use of the materials being provided.
In the event any of the service happens in writing, it is helpful to confirm this in writing. This doesn’t have to read like an official “notice,” but can simply be a nice note:
Hi [NAME]. We were glad to help you find [RESOURCE]. As I mentioned, if you have legal concerns about the material you borrowed, you should consult an attorney.
By that way, I am not suggesting that every patron question needs a disclaimer! But for those areas where librarians are actively applying intellectual property law, or providing access to law-related resources, the boundaries of excellent service and legal advice can blur. Users, who have a high-trust relationship with their librarians, might not appreciate that boundary. Tightening the focus and emphasizing it protects the patron, protects the institution, and protects the librarian.
An instructor has loaded many scanned pages from a cookbook (possibly multiple cookbooks) into her class Blackboard page so that students do not have to purchase a textbook. In the samples I've received, I don't see any acknowledgements of the original author(s). Is this permissible? Thank you!
[Note: The syllabus, which set out the basis for compiling recipes from a variety of regions and cooking styles, was also provided as part of this analysis.]
At first glance, this looks like a simple “Fair Use” question: is it okay, for use in a class, to copy and compile recipes from different sources and regions? But this scenario is also a stealth “Section 102” question: what exactly constitutes copyrightable subject matter?
We’ll take the “102 Question” first: is what the instructor duplicated entitled to copyright protection by a potential plaintiff?
Answer: Since the duplicated materials are very simple recipes, without photos, lengthily narratives, or illustrations, probably not. Per well-established case law, a plain, unadorned recipe, which is effectively a set of instructions with very little creative expression, is not sufficiently original to warrant copyright protection.
We’ll take the Fair Use question next: if any of the recipes do have enough original expression to be protected by copyright (let’s say one has a cool picture of Jacques Pepin in the background), is copying them and compiling them together a Fair Use?
Librarians know, perhaps better than anyone, that Fair Use is a shifting exception to copyright infringement where the purpose, character, amount, and effect of the use all must be weighed to arrive at an answer. In this case, with the recipes taken from a variety of sources, and arranged to support a compare-and-contrast cooking experience at a not-for-profit educational institution, if only very little from each original source was taken, there is a strong Fair Use argument to be made. And of course, that argument would only need to be in defense of a claim based on content meeting the requirements of Section 102!
So, back to the original questions: is the posting permissible? The answer is: most likely, yes! However, the safest thing for the faculty member and the institution to do, going forward, would be to generate newly typed, bare-bones versions the recipes (it’s one thing to know you’re right, it’s another to not get sued in the first place). I would also advise they leave any maps, images, or other separately copyrightable materials that can easily be sued on, out, unless they have permission to use them.
And finally, regarding the issue of acknowledgment: unless the original author or publisher used a “Creative Commons” license allowing duplication with attribution, there is no need to attribute the source…if anything, attribution is helpful evidence for a plaintiff, and not particularly helpful to a defendant. So there is most likely no benefit to crediting the source…although in academia, of course, citation is at the very least a professional courtesy, as well as a gateway to credibility.
 17 U.S.C. Section 102 is the section of the Copyright Code that defines and lists copyrightable subject matter.
 Publications International, Limited, v. Meredith Corporation, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit…a case is worth reading both for its clear explanation of the idea/expression dichotomy, and for the Judge’s commentary on the yogurt-based recipes allegedly infringed by the defendant.
 This is why cookbooks often have photos, fun commentary, and a stylized way of giving instructions…the author and publisher are making sure they can protect the work.
 This is rather liberating advice to give. In most cases, I can’t advise generating re-typing versions of a publication to avoid a claim of infringement. But if you’re just listing “required ingredient and the directions for combining them to achieve final products,” (see the above-cited case) without taking someone’s original narrative, pictures, or other creative elements, and not copying their web site or other digital elements, you’re home free.
I have had several requests by faculty to approve the coursepacks they have put together. All of them contain articles from various journals; some contain book chapters (1 chapter or less than 10%) as well, and they are intended to be sold in the campus book store to recoup copying costs. The rationale given to me is that they can do this for the 20 or more students in their classes because it is educational use. I have repeatedly pointed out Federal rulings on coursepacks, the difference between a single copy and multiple copies, but am usually met with disbelief, consternation, and occasional comments as to my qualifications for my job. Therefore, in case I am indeed wrong in my thinking, I thought I'd ask your advice and your opinion regarding coursepacks.
You are not wrong in your thinking. You are protecting your institution. Further, by educating your faculty, you are helping them educate students.
That said, you are up against a tough issue. It is one of the strongest copyright myths out there: the strident belief that if a copy is for educational and/or a not-for-profit use, it can’t be an infringement.
Of course, all myths come from somewhere, and the origin of this one is easy to pinpoint: Fair Use—an exemption from infringement—considers educational and commercial factors.
But librarians and other information professionals know that Fair Use involves additional factors, and requires case-by-case analysis. To Illustrate this (and helping faculty), many larger higher education institutions maintain excellent, easy-to-use guides.
Here are some of the better ones I couldn’t presume to improve upon:
Given the wealth of excellent material out there already, I have nothing new to add, unless you would find posting this short, punchy bit of doggerel helpful:
When it comes to coursepacks, here’s the rule:
Copyright applies in school.
Sure, not-for-profit education
Can help a “Fair Use” designation,
But articles, books, and chapters used
Without a license can get us sued.
Ten percent is no sure guide…
Fair Use factors slip and slide!
So if the work’s not satirized,
Nor juxtaposed, nor criticized--
But copied just to help them learn--
Then I’m afraid we must be stern.
Don’t become some lawyer’s mission!
Let us help you get permission.
If someone used your dissertation,
Perhaps you’d want some compensation?)
You have a license from me to post this, if it will help. Sometimes a short couplet can succeed where charts and paragraphs fail (but maybe leave off that last part).
I wish you a strong heart, and much support, as you protect and guide your institution.
Comments and shaky poetry © Stephanie Adams (2017)
 This is unfortunate, because Fair Use does offer a great deal of protection to academia, as can be seen in the recent case https://www.copyright.gov/fair-use/summaries/cambridgeuniv-becker-11thcir2016.pdf. But it is not a simple or over-arching protection!
Patrons have suggested we provide photocopies of the daily crossword puzzles out of the newspaper because of other patrons doing the puzzle out of the library's current newspaper, thus ruining it for everyone else. We are told that some libraries provide this service, but we are concerned about the legality. Can you please advise us?
Topic: Providing copies of newspaper puzzles for patrons
Date Submitted: July 28, 2017
WNYLRC ATTORNEY’S RESPONSE
I would say, “This is quite the puzzle,” but fortunately, Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Code makes this an easily solved dilemma.
But first, I have to commend you for being cautious, since the situation is absolutely governed by copyright. The puzzles, jumbles and other games in newspapers are what newspaper syndicates call “features.” In a 1970 case, a "feature" was described as: “a literary or artistic creation prepared for publication in newspapers.” The court recited: “Comic strips are features; crossword puzzles are features; gossip columns are features; columns of information and opinion…are features [emphasis added].” So in fact, your situation brings what we could call a “double copyright” concern: both the newspaper, and the crossword feature itself, can be infringed.
However, per Section 108, your library is allowed to make one copy of a published article from a newspaper, so long as:
How can this solution play out in a busy library? I advise making one copy as you describe, and making it available with a notice such as:
“As a courtesy to fellow patrons, please let staff know if you would like a copy of the crossword. The original version in the newspaper should not be written on.”
Since Section 108 is the key to making the copy, and it requires that the copy be made for a patron, I advise against making several copies in advance. However, to make sure the newspaper stays accessible throughout the day, making a temporary master copy to work from is okay….so long as those copies aren’t later compiled/used for something that goes beyond 108’s reach.
Hopefully, this will create satisfied crossword aficionados, serene newspaper readers, and peace in the periodical section!
 * United States v. Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate, Inc.
 In other words…if it becomes clear that the local crossword club is using your library to make the copies for its annual competition, the copying is no longer allowed.
 It is worth noting that the Library of Congress considers crossword puzzles to be “games” that are to be registered as “textual works,” since Section 108 does not extend to pictorial or graphic works.
We have several VHS tapes that our anthropology professors use in the classroom. Our campus will be phasing out VHS as the players break down. We would like to send these to a vendor to create DVDs or digital files. We feel we have done the due diligence searching for a replacement. In most academic libraries media materials are purchased for distribution to the classroom for educational use. Making a copy would be of little benefit if use is not allowed in classroom, face to face instruction.
WNYLRC ATTORNEY’S RESPONSE
From: Stephanie C. Adams
Date: June 27, 2017
This question starts with 17 USC 108(c), which allows for duplication of “obsolete,” formats, but limits the accessibility of digitized copies “to the premises” of the library.
The inquiring library set out the other 108(c) factors: the obsolescence of VHS (manufacture stopped in 2016), the lack of commercially available copies, and the published nature of the work. So as you say, what’s left to determine is: Does the “premises” of a library in an educational institution include the whole campus?
“Premises” is not defined in the Copyright Code, nor is it commented on in the lawmaking notes (vis-à-vis this question). I found no case law directly on point. So we’ll go to the lawyer’s last resort: common sense.
Section 108’s bar on digitized preservation copies leaving the premises of the library is very rigid, and it is likely the boundaries of your library are, too. If the library has a finite space that is reported in things like strategic plans, accreditation reports, and campus maps, then the “premises” would most likely be deemed to end at the door, not flow throughout the campus. A quick search on this issue show this is the emerging consensus. So yes, the DVD’s you make as a result of this format shift are, at first, trapped in your library.
This creates a ridiculous conundrum: you need to shift the format so the educational material may be accessed, now that the format is no longer supported. But in transferring the information to a digital format, you are shackling it to the premises. How can you provide access?
 The Section 110 exemption for “classroom use,” requires that the viewed copy be “lawfully made,” and your digital copy, to be “lawfully made,” must stay on site. So I do not feel safe advising you to use that route…although it is uncharted territory.
You have two options:
First, it is important to remember that the shift of format does not necessarily change the license your institution purchased when it first acquired the VHS tapes. This is a point strongly emphasized in both 108, and the lawmaker notes accompanying it. If your institution had a license to use the copies for classroom room, directly from the owner/publisher, that license might survive the shift. That could be determined from the purchase records or license text on the video itself.
Second, the Association of Research Libraries’ “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries” was drafted, in part, to address this situation (see page 18). In the Code, the ARL posits that when a preservation copy is made, further access can be granted under Fair Use. This does come with limits however: “off-premises access to preservation copies circulated as substitutes for original copies should be limited to authenticated members of a library’s patron community, e.g., students, faculty, staff, affiliated scholars, and other accredited users.” Further, the Code states that preservation and Fair Use copies should not be accessed simultaneously, and technology controls should be used both label the copy as required by 108, and to restrict further duplication.
This Fair Use solution to your problem has been adopted into the published policies of many institutions (here are a few examples). As there is no case law on point, I cannot say it is a slam-dunk defense, but I can say that if you adopt your own policy for carefully following this emerging standard practice, and then document that you follow it as you embark on this journey to ensure continued access to educational material you rightfully purchased, you will be in good company if content owners decide to sue for infringement, and recent case law about fair use will likely weigh in your favor.
There is a good deal of writing and advocacy on this issue, and hopefully in another few years, I will have a more definitive answer to give you!
A law practice in is litigating a case. They have contacted us asking for all relevant materials.
We have provided considerable materials from our records and archives, however, we have stopped short of providing a full digital copy of a book that might still be under copyright (based on publication date).
If they sent a representative to our archives, we would allow them access to the book. They would be able to read it and even make their own copies of relevant sections. I believe this is covered under the "fair use" provisions of the copyright law(?).
However, this is not the case, they want us to send them a full digital copy version of the book and I don't believe this is permissible under "fair use" or any other clause. What is your understanding?
Aside from my general admiration of libraries, one of reasons I relish “Ask the Lawyer” is the chance to answer questions that might never otherwise come my way. This question is one of those!
Could duplication of an entire copy of a work for use in a court case meet the requirements of Fair Use?
Case law says… yes, it could. In a 2003 case, a court found that duplicating an entire copy of a plaintiff’s autobiography, so it could be submitted as evidence of his bad character (he admitted to intentional homicide), was a Fair Use. In 2014, it was found that duplication of extensive content from a blog, introduced as evidence of an alleged ethics violation, was Fair Use. And back in 1982, bootleg copies of erotic films, created to bolster a nuisance claim, were also found to be “fair.”
These cases, and others like them, draw from legislative history and precedent stating that the reproduction of copyright-protected works for litigation or other judicial proceedings
 Bond v. Blum, 317 F.3d 385 (4th Cir. 2003), cert. denied 540 U.S. 820
 Denison v. Larkin, 64 F. Supp. 3d (N.D. Ill. 2014)
 Jartech, Inc. v. Clancy, 666 F.2d 403 (9th Cir. 1982)
often meets the “Fair Use” criteria. So…the lawyers who have made this request of your archives, if they make this copy, should be able to defend their actions.
That said, Fair Use depends on the complex interaction of four separate “factors” which in this case will largely out of the library’s control. What if the firm posts the content online? What if it is used in PR material related to the case? As a part of the chain of duplication, the library could then be implicated in an action based on a use not previously disclosed to them.
The right of libraries and archives to make whole copies, without worrying if the Fair Use criteria are met, is governed by Section 108 of the Copyright Code. Section 108 provides a precise formula for making—and providing—one hard copy of a published work:
[T]hat the reproduction or distribution is made without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage;
[That] the library or archives has first determined, on the basis of a reasonable investigation, that a copy or phonorecord of the copyrighted work cannot be obtained at a fair price;
[That] the copy or phonorecord becomes the property of the user, and the library or archives has had no notice that the copy or phonorecord would be used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.*
Applying these criteria is tough. While the advantage to be gained from the duplication is unlikely to be a direct “commercial advantage” (although perhaps there will be a commercial benefit to the court case), is the proposed use for litigation “private?” Can it be determined if another, commercial copy is available? Further, the request that it be in digital format speaks to ease of further duplication, and this part of 108 is not about format-shifting.
The bottom line: unless you are satisfied that this “108 criteria” are met, since the Fair Use factors will be out of your archive’s control, the best bet is just what you suggest: let the attorneys make the copy themselves!
*NOTE: Different criteria would apply if this work was unpublished, or if the duplication was for preservation or ADA access purposes.
We’ve recently had some questions regarding the ability to provide access to dissertations, theses, and other cataloged graduate work. How does the law govern these questions?
Many college and university libraries make it a practice to bind and inventory the academic work of their graduates—a tradition that showcases the achievements of the institution, maintains an important bond between the library and the faculty (who often sign the final copy, to signify approval), and allows graduates to cite and showcase their work. These collections are often honored institutional assets: a neatly reproduced, annually increased, and routinely cataloged series of books occupying a special space in the library.
(When a graduate later becomes famous, they can also pose a persistent and annoying theft risk…but that is not the topic at hand!)
With the dawn of the digital age now at high noon, some college and university libraries are also including these home-grown works in home-grown databases. This requires a digital infrastructure that not all academic libraries can afford or support, though, so for many, the old-school binding and shelving of graduate work is still the default practice. Many institutions are now also considering whether or not to digitize their back catalog, and of course are also seeking ways to promote, provide and oversee appropriate patron access to what they have.
Overall, these “old school” copies can pose an interesting access challenge. They are generally listed in the library’s catalog, and considered a part of the active collection. But what rights does the institution have to them? How is access to them governed by copyright law, which often depends on the distinction between “published” and “unpublished?” Can they circulate, be accessed via inter-library loan, be reproduced for archival purposes, or be digitized? How much can the original author—now an alum—control them?
To answer this, I must use the phrase that is the lawyer’s most trusted companion: it depends.
We’ll take the relevant factors in order of appearance:
First, it is important to confirm: the work of a student, even if directed and overseen by a faculty member or faculty committee, is owned by that student. Student-generated work*, even if the topic was suggested by someone else, and even if the content is vigorously critiqued by someone else (and then presumably re-written), is an “original work of authorship,” and the moment it is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression,” it is owned by the author (the author). Of course, the student can sell the ownership, or donate it—but unless that transfer has been recorded in writing, it remains theirs…and then their heir’s…for the life of the author, plus 70 years.**
Second, generally, the permission to reproduce the academic work is a creature of a contract between the author (the student) and the institution (the college or university). This permission can run the range from a completely unlimited license of all the rights of copyright (to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, create derivative works), to a very limited license (to make one hard copy and add it to the catalog). This permission might be revocable, or irrevocable. It might be exclusive, or non-exclusive. It could even make use of Creative Commons licenses to create a very liberal mode of access. Critically, though…these terms can vary from institution to institution, from year to year, from student to student. There is no bright line rule.
Third, depending on the extent of the license, and other factors, the thesis or dissertation may, or may not, be “published,” as that term is defined under the Copyright Code. The ability to replicate, digitize, and create archive copies under Section 108 will be governed, in part, by publication status. Section 108 is a great asset for libraries and archives, often allowing duplication of entire articles and works…but it requires the well-documented alignment of precise factors. [NOTE: A copyright registration that included the date of publication would take care of this factor. Some institutions and authors do register these works…and if they are put in the catalog for lending, registration should be effected before circulation begins, since to do otherwise could compromise the author’s rights].
Fourth, and finally, the policies of the college or university will govern access, too. There could even be a day when an aged alum, having lost their treasured copy, may show up demand access to the library’s…only to be told that although they are without a doubt the copyright owner, they have to fill out a form, or renew their card, or wait until the Reference Librarian is back from break, so they can access their work.
That said, they are the only one who might not have to do a 108 analysis before making a copy!
*Work that is actually co-authored by a faculty member and a student is subject to the rules of co-ownership.
**As you know, copyright duration varies. A great breakdown of how to calculate duration is here: https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ15a.pdf
At a recent WNYLRC webinar, we discussed the ownership of materials generated by library staff. Who owns the massive amount of original work generated by an active, engaged library staff?
The answer is: it depends.
Let’s start with the fundamentals:
FIRST: Copyright vests the moment an original work is fixed in a “tangible medium of expression.” Trademark is established through either registration or use on the marketplace. Patent can protect useful articles and unique business operations. Trade secret law can protect confidential information that gives your institution a unique edge. What does this mean? It means that the e-mails, presentations, displays, unique business solutions, archive collections and other valuable work-product generated by library staff are all assets that can be owned.
SECOND: Unless there is a contract, policy, or other express documentation to the contrary, an employer owns the copyright to any work produced by an employee as part of the scope of their employment (this is one of the reasons why it is always important to ensure staff have updated job descriptions). For trademark, patent, and trade secret, similar rules may apply. Be warned…if not set out clearly, this “express documentation” can take many forms: it can be buried in a union contract, can be inferred from a hire letter, or might even be derived from a habitual business practice. For both the library and its employees, there should be a clear policy.
THIRD: Not only copyright, trademark, patent, and trade secret law governs the control of employee work-product. The ethics of the profession may influence ownership. If your library serves a particular industry, like education or healthcare, the work-product is controlled by privacy regulations. It is important that the initial ownership arrangement between the library and its employees consider the other terms that may govern the work product, and it is critical that any policy reinforce the obligation to safeguard certain information.
So how does a library set up to ensure it owns the valuable work product it pays its staff to produce, but doesn’t encroach on the employees’ right to generate their own intellectual property when not at work? As more and more people “work from home,” use their own laptops, and may even compose work product on their cell phones, it couldn’t be more important to observe the following:
A carefully considered policy on employee work product. This policy should be harmonized with the ethics and mission of the institution, its policy on employee use of technology, and its regulatory compliance obligations. This does not have to be extensive; just a few clear, concise paragraphs in the Employee Handbook.
Clear hire letters and routinely updated job descriptions. Remember, in order to determine if something was created as part of an employee’s “scope of employment,” both parties need a clear notion of what that employment is!
Routine copyright, trademark, and patent registration of critical employee-generated IP. If your archives are known for a particularly good compilation of old photographs, for example, consider registration of the compilation with the Library of Congress (even if the images already have their own unique registration). If you gave the compilation a unique name, consider trademarking it. If your library developed a unique way to search the archive, explore a patent (before disclosing it to any other party!).
And if the asset is not only employer-owned, but critical, make the necessary archive and recovery copies, and make sure that back-up is controlled by the employer (locked cabinet, separate hard drive, employer-licensed cloud service).
What can an employee or institution do if there is confusion regarding an employee-generated asset? The best option is to promptly consult a lawyer. Remember…what people do and say during the initial phase of a dispute can later become evidence, while timely input can hopefully avoid unnecessary debate, and find a “win-win.” That said, there is no replacement for clear hire terms, current policies, and routine IP asset management. Staff and the great work they generate are critical assets of libraries and archives, so clarity is definitely worth the effort!
Our question concerns the copying of college textbook chapters for students where the required textbook is either backordered by the bookstore day one of semester or where a late enrollees’ textbook is out of stock.
One current solution involves a limited checkout of a text for the first four weeks of a semester, and only for library use for reading or photocopying. We keep a printout of the standard Copyright notice on the copier to warn against excessive copying. After four weeks, students must have access to the book on their own and textbook copies remain solely as desk copies for faculty.
However, what is advised when multiple classes do not have textbooks in stock and late enrollees are more prevalent? What does copyright permit in terms of copying textbook chapters or providing e-links to textbook chapters on LMS (Blackboard, etc.) in such cases?
It’s 2017. Digital access to academic resources having been a factor in academic life for over 20 years, it would be reasonable to think I would have clear, well-established guidance to give you.
However, as of 2016, the United States was still struggling with Fair Use, and the law doesn’t give us the bright-line rules we are hoping for. Rather, particularly with regard to textbooks and digital access, recent case law has diminished them.
Very comparable to the circumstances you described is the case Cambridge University Press v. Mark P. Becker No. 1:08-cv-01425-ODE (N.D. Ga. Mar. 31, 2016). In Cambridge, a court in Georgia, after trying to use a simpler, equally weighted Fair Use analysis, and relying on the ill-fated “10% standard” of duplication, ruled that when creating digital copies/excerpts of textbooks:
(1) the first factor, purpose and character of the use, weighs in favor of fair use because [a university] is a nonprofit educational institution;
(2) the second factor, the nature of the work, is “of comparatively little weight…particularly because the works at issue are neither fictional nor unpublished;”
(3) the third factor, the amount of work used, must be viewed through the lens of “the impact of market substitution as recognized under factor four, in determining whether the quantity and substantiality . . .of [d]efendants’ unlicensed copying was excessive;” and
(4) the fourth factor, the effect of the use on the potential market for the work, “concern[ed] not the market for Plaintiffs’ original works . . . but rather a market for licenses.”
This case shows that a when it comes to textbooks, while courts will give strong deference to educational institutions, there is no “magic formula” (like 10% of the content) they will apply to ensure Fair Use. Rather, courts will apply a nuanced analysis that changes from work to work, and from use to use—making general guidance a challenge.
With all that in mind, my answer to the inquiry is:
First, the ability of the student/patron to physically access or check out the book is a great service by your library; with the required copyright notices posted, and no attempt by the library to collude with students in making prohibited copies, you are taking good advantage of section 108’s exemptions of libraries from liability for infringement. In addition, providing access to textbooks within the structure outlined above is a great incentive for students to visit the library.
Second, your actual question—can my library use digital access to help students who were late registrants or otherwise unable to secure a physical or full digital copy?—requires application of the Fair Use factors on a work-by-work basis, which as we can see, is an increasingly intricate and fact-specific exercise. You must apply the four factors not just on a work-by-work basis, but while considering the specific purpose of a particular use.
There are also some practical tips that can help you avoid being sued for infringement.
Tip #1: To answer questions like this, I always put myself in the shoes of the potential plaintiff.
· If I were the publisher, would I view the digitized access as cutting into my potential revenues?
· Is there an easily obtainable license for the excerpt, that the library is just choosing to ignore?
· Can I, as the publisher, easily put a price on the damages?
All these factors, if the answer is “yes,” can lead to the publisher instructing their lawyer to file suit.
However, even if all of these are true, I, the publisher, would also ask…did every person who accessed the digital copy already have a copy on back-order (and not return it)? If they bought my book, and were only using the digitization as a place-holder, I, the publisher, would tell my lawyer to look elsewhere for damages…especially since when I, the publisher lose, I am responsible for the legal fees of the other party (in the Cambridge case, the publisher was told to pay the fees of the university).
Tip #2: It is unfortunate that, like the courts, I can’t give a simple formula for Fair Use. However, one way you can sometimes get a bit of “free” advice on this is to consult with your institution’s insurance carrier. It is very likely your institution is insured for copyright infringement, and that they have a list of best practices they would like to ensure you, the insured, are following. As a professional within the library, it is good to also confirm that this coverage will cover not only the institution, but you as an employee. That can help you sleep at night.
Tip #3: And finally, if ever an entity notifies you that they are suing you for infringement, notify your insurance carrier right away. Often times, they can provide counsel, and help you reach a quick, low-stress resolution.
I encountered a situation in which a patron wanted to share an article that I sent to [a not-for-profit organization’s] educational portal. As it happened, she had a very specific intended audience…which I thought fell within the "Fair Use" doctrine as, in addition to the information being educational, it was to be shared with [only] a small group.
However, it made me wonder how to approach a situation in which intellectual property was to be shared on such an electronic educational forum for the entire [not-for-profit] staff to sign off on having read. Would sharing with all [not-for-profit] staff for educational purposes be acceptable?
This is a great question, as it occupies the crossroads of the specific exceptions for libraries and archives in the copyright code, the elements of fair use, and an essential aspect of a library’s mission: dissemination of information. So, I am a bit sorry to say the answer is most likely: NO.
That said, there is a “YES” along the way, and with careful analysis, the two answers can be kept separate.
How is that? First, you have to see the query as not one question, but two.
LIBRARY COPIES V. FAIR USE
Part of this analysis depends on appreciating the subtle differences between Section 108 (exceptions for libraries and archives), and Section 107 (fair use).
Here is the formula for a library to provide an authorized copy of an article under Section 108:
Here are the factors used to analyze fair use under Section 107:
Note the difference between Section 108’s simpler, formulaic elements (providing a bright-line rule for providing an authorized library copy), versus the complex, inter-connected fair use factors (which most will agree provide anything but a bright line). Commentary on the Copyright Code shows this is a deliberate difference, and the effect is a positive one for libraries: whether or not subsequent patron duplication of a “Section 108 copy” meets the elements of fair use, a section 108 copy is authorized so long as Section 108’s much simpler elements are met.
A library’s provision of an authorized copy does NOT depend on the patron’s subsequent fair use. Section 108’s provisions stand alone, and on much easier-to-analyze ground. However, absolutely key to Section 108 is the library’s lack of notice regarding a patron’s intent to use the copy for anything more than private study/scholarship.
If, during the consultation, the patron discloses intent to use the copy to create their own mass distribution, the use will not qualify under Section 108, and infringement could be found. Just as critically, providing a copy once the library was aware of a further intent to copy could also run afoul of the fourth commitment in the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association: “We respect intellectual property rights and advocate balance between the interests of information users and rights holders.”
Because of this “notice factor,” Section 108 might be easier in theory than it is in practice. Patrons seeking information often use librarians as co-strategists in whatever project they are working on.** During such quests, a librarian’s awareness of the full extent of patron needs can be helpful, so there is often a discussion of not only what is sought, but why. This type of discussion may lead to better service, but if it leads to notice of a patron’s intent to put an article on an intranet or portal, the librarian can be put in a legally and ethically awkward position.
So…you are right to be cautious! Thank you for a great question.
*If the article isn’t commercially available, or the article is being parodied or provided as an example of “what not to do”--basically anything other than its simple face value as an educational tool--the fair use analysis would be different. But we’d need the precise factors from the patron.
**There is one other complication worth mentioning on this FAQ forum. For academic or other libraries operating within a larger institution, if the requesting party is simply another part of your organization, Section 108 is more difficult to credibly apply, so caution is needed.
Our local newspaper of record used to microfilm itself (using a third party vendor) for their own use in their private archives. I’m not sure what terms they had with the microfilm vendor, but it was relatively inexpensive for the public library to purchase a copy from the microfilming company for daily use. The newspaper has come under new ownership and longer microfilms itself. My first question is whether I understand 17 U.S.C. §108 correctly. Does paragraph A give libraries the right to make 1 analog copy of pretty much anything they own? Or, in this case, to microfilm the newspapers we have on hand? And does paragraph C give us the right to make up to 3 more microfilm copies, for preservation purposes? It would be our position that newsprint is always deteriorating (we have no climate control storage space to preserve a long run; people steal issues and cut out articles) and after “a reasonable effort” there will be nowhere else from where we can buy a pristine back run “at a fair price”…. Must we enter negotiations with the publisher to secure the right?
The question relates to showing a performance video to a sanctioned college club. I understand that as long as the college's library owns the DVD or streaming rights, the movie can be shown in its entirety for educational purposes in a classroom to registered members of the institution. Does the same hold true for showing the same movie to clubs on campus as long as the event is restricted to college members? This second question is related to the movie presentation but is concerned with publicity. Can the cover image be copied and inserted into the event posters and on the college's website? The web announcement would be removed immediately after the event.
As you say, a college can show a movie they own, without further licensing, so long as:
This is a broad exemption, but it absolutely does not apply to non-instructional, non-classroom showing of movies by student clubs. Such a showing would require express permission via license.
Of course, if a student club has an academic focus (for instance, Spanish Club) and the film is to be part of an academic experience (for instance, watching the movie in Spanish, to enhance learning), in an academic setting (class room, with a qualified academic instructor) one could argue that the required elements are still met. But the educational purpose must be bona fide…no watching “Deadpool” for entertainment and then having a half-hearted, academically disconnected discussion on modern comic book tropes. And of course under no circumstances should money be charged.
The second question is very simple: the cover images of most commercial films are subject to copyright. Because of that, and because there is no exemption allowing them to be duplicated, unless permission is obtained, the college is well-advised not to allow copies to be displayed to promote the event, and especially should not allow that image to be published on the college website.
Keeping it off the website is critical. Even smaller rights holders police the internet for images they own, and insurance companies, facing mandatory statutory damages and attorneys’ fees, will quickly settle claims…something that will eventually lead to higher insurance premiums for your institution.
The best way to promote the licensed showing is to either use the approved promotional material that comes with the license, or generate a version that does not infringe on the content of the original (or the film).
We have a request from a patron from another state for scans or photocopies of music scores that we own and that are still under copyright. They are rare and only a few libraries have them across the country. The patron does not intend to perform the music, only to study the scores. Is it fair use to copy or scan them for the patron who is writing a doctoral thesis?
Short answer: The proposed copying would not be a permitted, duplication or Fair Use without some additional steps consistent with the four Fair Use factors.
Long answer: This is a great question, as it marries the practical consideration of access with the scary question of a liability for infringement. To answer it, there are a few initial points of priority….
First, it is critical to note that Section 108 (a) of the Copyright Act, which would normally allow for one copy of a work to be provided to fulfill this request, expressly excludes musical works (see Section 108 (i)).
Second: Because of the Section 108 (a) exclusion, it is important to distinguish: while the patron may have a Fair Use defense if they duplicate the work for the purposes of scholarship, the library, in simply making the copy to provide easier access to a remote patron, might not.
Third, as plaintiffs can sue “innocent infringers,” careful steps should be taken to ensure the library could not be viewed as a part of the chain of infringement, if the patron ends up not having a valid Fair Use defense for any copy or derivative work they generate.
Fourth, while this scenario does not state the original copy requires archiving, it sounds as if you have a rare and precious copy, so we’ll draw a bit from the law, case law and guidance covering the protection of deteriorating/rare documents.
And now…how do you enable the proposed access, but keep the library safe? By ensuring 108(c) and the “Fair Use” factors are on your side, whether you send them a scanned copy, or loan a physical copy.
Informed by the latest case law and guidance, the following steps could help claim Fair Use for providing the proposed copy digitally:
Step 1: As the Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in Academic and Research Libraries (www.arl.org/focus-areas/copyright-ip/fair-use/code-of-best-practices) puts it: “Providing [digital] access to published works that are available in unused copies on the commercial market at reasonable prices should be undertaken only with careful consideration, if at all.” It is essential to verify that the works, or a licensed copy, are not commercially available. This is essential for 108(c), too.
Step 2: It is best if the transformation of format is not an ad hoc effort, but rather is part of an effort to promote a special resource of your library. Making the digital copy a part of “special collection”—for instance, of rare music scores—will give you a stronger Fair Use defense.
Step 3: Again from the Code: “The Fair Use case will be stronger when the availability of the material is appropriately publicized to scholars in the field and other persons likely to be especially interested.” In other words, once you have the collection digitized, don’t let it be just that ad hoc project—promote it.
Step 4: Use appropriate technological controls (digital watermarks, etc.) to restrict the access, limit duplication, and ensure proper attribution of materials in the collection. That way, any eventual copying or derivative work generated by the patron is separate and distinct from the access provided by the library.
Step 5: As with any digital collection, make sure the library has an easily found way for people to register privacy or intellectual property concerns related to digital collections.
What if you just want to provide them with a physical copy? Following Section 108(c)’s rules for duplicating deteriorating copies, you can generate a copy for preservation purposes, loaning it to them with the expectation that it will be returned. Just take care that the work is not commercially available, and that the original copy is not available while the preservation copy is out on loan.
[NOTE: 108(c) bars a digital copy made on this basis from leaving your institution.]
The bar on Section 108 (a) applying to musical works makes this a bit more challenging than the usual duplication request, but with some care, access can be provided.
Further, if the patron wants to make a copy of what your library loans them (either digitally, or in hard copy), if their use is as you describe, they may have their own Fair Use defense. This will mean both the library and the patron can stand on separate, but solid, copyright ground.
We are shifting away from VHS here on this campus (along with everywhere else), and have a question from an instructor about transferring a VHS tape to DVD. She's not able to get the tape on DVD or streaming, but knows that it's under copyright. Are there any loopholes to allow for making a digital backup of a VHS tape because VHS is an obsolete medium? Does going through a good-faith effort to find a digital version give some protection or leniency? Should we encourage the instructor to contact PBS or the show's producers to obtain copyright clearance for making a digital copy?
We’ll start out with the best advice: unless you stand on the legal high ground of a disability accommodation or a crumbling single copy unavailable in the original medium, when it comes to creating a new format of a work, written permission from the copyright owner is always best. That is the gold standard. If you have permission, the blood, sweat, and tears (or stress, more likely) of a Fair Use analysis are not needed.
This scenario does not occupy any legal high ground. For a library in this position—dealing with the increasing rarity of VHS players—there is great guidance out there from the Association of Research Libraries’ “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use” (http://www.arl.org/storage/documents/publications/code-of-best-practices-fair-use.pdf): Here is what the code has to say on this issue…
Even when libraries retain the originals of preserved items, digital surrogates can spare the original items the wear and tear that access necessarily inflicts. Section 108 of the Copyright Act authorizes some preservation activities, but does not address some of today’s most pressing needs…[including] the transfer to new formats of materials whose original formats (such as VHS magnetic tape) are not yet obsolete (as the term is narrowly defined in section 108(c)) but have become increasingly difficult for contemporary users to consult.
Case law also acknowledges this VHS problem, but gives no relief: “Fair use has never been held to be a guarantee of access to copyrighted material in order to copy it by the fair user's preferred technique or in the format of the original.” (University Studios et al v. Corley, U.S. Court of Appeal 2nd Circuit, 2001). This case is 15 years old, which means a lot has happened in the world of technology, but is still good law.
So the answer is, for now, unless you are making a disability accommodation, or faced with a crumbling copy, there is no iron-clad loophole or clear precedent to allow the proposed conversion to be a “fair use.”
That said, if you have a deteriorating copy, a good-faith effort to re-purchase it in the original medium will certainly contribute to a fair use defense if you duplicate it to preserve this resource.
To help both you and your institution show that you have gone through this exercise, when you address such questions, I advise that you compose short emails to yourself, documenting the question, process, and conclusion. A simple:
“Instructor stopped by today and asked if we could convert VHS in the collection to DVD for ease of access. I let her know we’ll try to purchase a copy on DVD or seek permission of the copyright holder to make a copy on DVD.”
“Instructor stopped by today and asked if we could convert VHS to a format that would allow Deaf student to view closed-captioned version; we are arranging conversion solely to allow reasonable accommodation under the ADA.”
“Instructor pointed out that VHS tape in collection was not working right. [Co-worker] and I verified the condition. As best practices state it is fair use to make digital copies of collection items that are likely to deteriorate, or that exist only in difficult-to-access formats, for purposes of preservation, and to make those copies available as surrogates for fragile or otherwise inaccessible materials, the library will create a back-up copy, UNLESS a fully equivalent digital copy is commercially available at a reasonable cost. We will of course not provide access to or circulate original and preservation copies simultaneously.”
This July, various news outlets reported that the world’s last manufacturer of VCR’s has cease production. Please check back on this issue; we’ll update this entry in the FAQ when we have better guidance, which should be coming soon. Congress is working on new guidelines, and was recently told by the Register of Copyrights, Susan Pallante: “In its current state, Section 108 is replete with references to analog works and fails to address the ways in which libraries really function in the digital era, including the copies they must make to properly preserve a work and the manner in which they share or seek to share works with other libraries.”
We would like to digitize newspapers that were published prior to 1923. Since the paper is still in business, does public domain apply in this case? They are very difficult to deal with. We do have a contact there. However, if there is nothing stopping us from digitizing the older issues, we prefer not to deal with them. Would this also apply to other newspapers who are still publishing today but whose content does exist prior to 1923.
You have confirmed that the “Buffalo Evening News” (and other iterations) content originates BEFORE the strategic “1923” date confirmed by the Copyright Office (Circular 15a) as in the public domain. This is true whether the original article or image was owned by the paper, or licensed by the paper and owned by another person or entity.
Once an item is in the public domain, there are numerous ways for either the original owner, or another, to create a copyright in a new medium re-presenting the content (this is a motivating factor in many “special editions”), but the original is no longer protected, and may be digitized as you describe, without concern about an successful infringement claim.
One caveat on the “Buffalo News” content: there could be a concern as you promote the newly created resource. “The Buffalo News” is a trademark owned by (interestingly) The Columbia Insurance Co. (registration # 75834888). So while you can list the resource, I advise against using the name “The Buffalo News” in any promotion of the collection. That is for optimal safety and so you don’t get a cease-and-desist.
The good news is that the “Buffalo Evening News” trademark is officially “dead” (see attached screenshot). This may be used to promote the service, should you wish to do so.
This analysis and a similar caveat would apply to any other newspaper.