Library Camp: Copyright & Librarians

Library Camp SnacksOn Saturday (28th June 2014) I attended Ireland’s second Library Camp, organised by the LAI Career Development Group and Academic and Special Libraries section. So what is Library Camp? For me, it is definitely becoming one of the highlights of the library calendar. It is an “Unconference”  – designed for sharing ideas or discussing new and emerging topics without  the formalities you would expect at a professional conference or seminar.

Instead of presentations, there are pitches, and instead of PowerPoint, there are markers, flip-charts and of course post-its! In addition to the these informal, frank, and often fun discussions, there is also cake, lots and lots of cake! Almost everybody brings something along, adding a neighbourly pot-luck and getting-to-know-you element to the proceedings as attendees gather around discussing their offerings (both of food and thoughts?).

First up for me on Saturday was Betty Maguire’s pitch on the topic of Copyright and Librarians. She began the discussion by asking us what we knew about copyright law or what it means to us in our various roles. She also posed the question; Why is copyright important to librarians? The general consensus of our group seemed to be that we know it’s important, but maybe we aren’t as familiar with its intricacies as we should be, considering the responsibility we have for the use and re-use of materials.

The discussion between participants also raised the questions: is copyright a nuisance; and to what extent is it our responsibility as librarians to enforce it? Should we stand over the photocopier working out percentages of pages?photo of copyright handout from Library Camp

Fair use for educational purposes possibly leads a lot of us to bury our heads in the sand – but even for students you can’t photocopy a whole book! It was also noted that performances of plays need to have permission under copyright law, even in a school.

Betty pointed out to us the importance of being aware of international differences and the extra complications that online access to resources has created. New European copyright laws being considered will likely have an impact on Ireland. It is thought that the standard period of 70 years for copyright to expire might be reduced to 50 years.

Questions came up time and again about the ownership of photographs, particularly older images, and the transfer of ownership once an image is digitised.

Betty Maguire leading the copyright pitch at library camp

Betty Maguire leading the pitch at library camp

Interestingly, Betty told us about a special condition in copyright law, specifically for librarians and archivists, that permits the copying of items in order to replace them if already held in the permanent collection. This copying of the material can be done in order to preserve, insure, or promote a collection.

Betty went on to outline the issues surrounding intellectual property and copyright, and how intellectual property is becoming increasingly relevant to the work that librarians are involved in.
Intellectual property has many definitions, but is often described as original creative thought, and applying to “creations of the mind”, including art, designs and trademarks. The World Intellectual Property Organisation goes into more detail – but how protected is intellectual property? It would seem that copyright law is not yet that clear on this, and new precedents are being set as time goes by.

In navigating the use of material that may not be copyrighted, but could be considered someone else’s intellectual property, our group had a few suggestions. When using photographs in particular, always double check ownership, ask the owner’s permission, and give credit. This raised the crucial question; are we moving towards an acknowledgement culture?

With the rise of  open access and digital material it is more difficult  to establish copyright than with printed material. There is no doubt that the evolving nature of open access and changing approaches to publishing there is greater responsibility or a more significant role with librarians relating to copyright – but there are significant gaps in our knowledge that we need to fill in.

Overall this was an interesting discussion, which really brought to light the reasons why copyright is as important as ever – if not more so – for librarians, and that for many of us we could do with some better training in navigating the various laws and when they should be applied.

Thank you to Betty for the pitch, and to all of the LAI CDG and A&SL for organising another great day, here’s to the Unconference!

Check out the Library Camp 2014 Event Archive!

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Posted in Conference, Copyright

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