The ability to share information has never been so easy. As a result, online piracy and copyright infringement have been running rampant. As far back as 2010, an article on Bright Hub noted, “Resources say that at least 80 percent of Americans admit to downloading illegal merchandise on the Internet without paying for it. Thirty percent of software on a computer is pirated in the United States. Every year the [number] of materials that are stolen is on the rise. Experts say the reason that so much merchandise is stolen each year is because we have a weak education on the consequences you receive for stealing material.”
In other words, users tend to have little or no understanding of copyright and, consequently, copyright infringement. This NewsBreak, although not to be construed as a substitute for a thorough education on the ins and outs of copyright, lists some of the key resources that address questions on the topic.
U.S. Copyright Office
The U.S Copyright Office website has an Education section that features a searchable database of court opinions on fair use, an FAQ, historical documents and publications, events at the Copyright Office, and sources for students and teachers. Its Taking the Mystery Out of Copyright page provides a section called Reading the Fine Print, in which a character named Cop E. Wright explores topics such as “If it’s on the internet, can I use it?” and “Is it OK to use up to 5% of someone else’s work?” The “Copyright Exposed” video also features Cop E. Wright, who tells “a group of teens the basics of U.S. Copyright Law.” In addition, the Copyright Office publishes a free newsletter, NewsNet, which lists pending legislation and relevant copyright events.
Drop-down topics on the Copyright Office’s homepage include News, Law and Guidance, and Policy Issues. Quick links are provided for copyright modernization efforts across the entire Copyright Office; Copyright Law of the U.S as written in Title 17 of the U.S. Code; the Code of Federal Regulations’ Title 37—Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights; and the third edition of the Compendium of U.S Copyright Office Practices, which is “the technical manual for the Office’s staff, as well as a guidebook for authors, copyright licensees, practitioners, scholars, the courts, and members of the general public. It addresses fundamental principles of copyright law, routine questions about accessing the Office’s public services, and the policies and procedures the Office uses in the course of conducting business.”
Copyright Clearance Center
Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) was founded in 1978, the same year the Copyright Act of 1976 took effect. Its About page says that it “clears the path to integrated data and information, accelerates knowledge and advances copyright. [It builds] solutions that combine licensing, content, software and professional services to advance the way people integrate, access and share information.”
In addition to providing rights management solutions to publishers, users from corporations and academic institutions, and libraries, CCC offers several educational resources related to copyright. Its Learn About Copyright page links to an About Copyright section, which features Purpose of Copyright, Global Copyright, Copyright Duration, International Copyright Treaties, Exceptions & Limitations, Licensing Copyrighted Content, Obtaining Copyright Protection, and Tools and Guidelines (for businesses, academic institutions, and publishers and authors).
Under the Learn topic, CCC offers training and webinars such as Copyright in Academia and Copyright and Publishing. These sessions are also listed in News & Events, along with CCC in the News and the podcast series Beyond the Book, which offers “The Volume on Audiobooks Going Up … And Up,” “Michelle Obama Takes the ALA Stage,” “The Content Liberation Movement,” and more. Additionally, CCC produces a regular blog, Velocity of Content, which features posts on topics such as digital transformation for publishers and OA publishing. It also includes tweets from the SLA 2018 Annual Conference.
Copyrightlaws.com offers courses and education that give insight into copyright. According to its website, “Copyrightlaws.com provides independent, non-biased training to help students around the world understand copyright law. … With ongoing online courses, copyright certificate programs, and up-to-date articles, Copyrightlaws.com demystifies copyright and teaches you how it works in your workplace.”
Founder Lesley Ellen Harris, who has a law degree, is the CEO of Copyrightlaws.com. Harris “is a copyright consultant, published author, copyright blogger and educator. She is an expert in navigating copyright issues in today’s modern world. Her areas of concentration include U.S. and Canadian copyright law, international copyright law, and licensing digital content.”
Courses are designed to help users understand global copyright law and licensing issues. They can also sign up for a free weekly email featuring tips and additional information. A recent edition lists the most commonly asked questions about copyright duration.
The Copyright Alliance, founded 12 years ago, represents “the copyright interests of over 1.8 million individual creators and over 13,000 organizations in the United States” and serves as a resource for issues and policy, as well as current and proposed copyright law. It is designed to “educate and inform the copyright community, policy makers and the public about copyright law.”
In the Resources section, “you can find two types of copyright information: (1) information created or compiled by the Copyright Alliance to help individual creators and users; and (2) general materials about copyright law authored by nongovernmental agencies (materials published by government organizations can be found in the copyright law section of this site).” Tools designed to help individual creators include the following:
- Find a Copyright Attorney—offers a list of attorneys who specialize in copyright matters, along with their relevant contact information.
- Creator Assistance Directory—provides independent creators with a list of Volunteer Lawyers of the Arts (VLA) and law clinics that offer pro bono services.
- Find a Copyright Owner—offers to help potential licensees locate a particular copyright owner. Of course, this service will only benefit those creators who are [Copyright Alliance] members, so if you’re a creator who is not yet a member of the Alliance, you should consider joining now.
The Association of University Presses (AAUP) covers copyright and access: “AAUP provides a number of resources and guides for publishers and scholars to work through practical copyright and permissions questions, including a guide to online copyright tools. … The Association also closely follows relevant case law, legislation, and international policy, as well as the public debate over open access models and copyright reform.”
The mission of Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain “is to promote research and scholarship on the contributions of the public domain to speech, culture, science and innovation, to promote debate about the balance needed in our intellectual property system and to translate academic research into public policy solutions.” Listed on the site are links to videos of lectures from well-known copyright scholars, such as William W. Fisher’s “The Legal Treatment of Traditional Knowledge” and Paul Goldstein’s “The Americanization of Global Copyright Norms.”
Each year on Jan. 1, the center celebrates Public Domain Day, listing materials that will enter the public domain during that year. On Jan. 1, 2018, the site said, “Canadians can now add a wealth of books, poems, paintings, and musical works by [a selection of] authors to online archives, without asking permission or violating the law.” Unfortunately, nothing will enter the public domain in the U.S. in 2018.
Another university site is the Penn State Copyright Portal, whose goal is to ensure that students, faculty members, and staffers make informed decisions about using copyrighted material. The section Copyright Basics offers What Is Copyright?, Constitutional Basis, What’s Covered?, What’s Not Covered, The Copyright Rights, Who Owns the Copyright?, Copyright Duration, What’s the Public Domain?, and Additional Resources.
Most university libraries feature guidelines about copyright, but if a user is still unsure about what to do, he or she can simply ask a librarian. Other university sites offering copyright information include the following:
- Fordham University Libraries’ Copyright Resources: About Copyright—“While copyright is often confusing, familiarity with copyright basics is necessary for all faculty and students. This guide offers comprehensive sources and materials to assist the university community by providing a clearer understanding of the law and its intricacies.”
- Kent State University Libraries’ Copyright Resources—Its topics are Essential Copyright Web Sites, Public Domain Information, Fair Use, The TEACH Act and Other Exceptions for Instructors, Identifying and Locating Copyright Owners, Obtaining Permissions, Orphan Works, and Current Copyright Readings.
- University of Michigan Library’s Copyright Basics—“Our office provides information to help you make decisions about sharing and using copyrighted material in your research, learning, and teaching.”
- Stanford University Libraries’ Copyright & Fair Use—Its About page says it “includes primary case law, statutes, regulations, as well as current feeds of newly filed copyright lawsuits, pending legislation, regulations, copyright office news, scholarly articles, blog and twitter feeds from practicing attorneys and law professors.”
- Ohio State University Libraries’ Copyright Services—“Copyright Services supports Ohio State faculty, staff, and students by providing education and guidance on the application of copyright law to facilitate teaching, research, and scholarship.”
ALA offers several resources on copyright, particularly in areas such as current issues and legislation. A related resource is the Library Copyright Alliance, whose members include ALA, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and ACRL. And of course, there are a multitude of copyright-related resources available at your local library. Always make sure you know the copyright status of a work before you reuse, copy, or share it.