U.S. librarians must know about national copyright laws as well as international copyright laws and licensing issues. While librarians are not always trained in their university education about copyright law and licensing digital content, Copyrightlaws.com offers the Copyright Leadership Certificate to provide an in-depth professional development opportunity to learn about U.S. and global copyright law and their application to everyday situations in libraries and organizations.
Managing Global Copyright Issues
In the pre-Internet days, global copyright management included photocopying an article in a U.S. office and mailing or faxing it to an office in London, England. With the Internet, enterprises are faced with a myriad of new copyright issues from posting an audio recording on their website, to accessing from abroad a licensed database, to dealing with rights such as moral rights, which are much more limited in the U.S. than elsewhere.
Keeping up with technology is difficult enough, so where does a librarian or information professional begin grappling with global copyright issues? First, it is important to know as much as possible about U.S. copyright law (or your own country’s copyright laws.) Your own country’s copyright law will continue to govern the majority of your copyright use issues.
Second, you should be aware that copyright laws vary from country to country. Even a country as close as Canada has very different copyright laws than the U.S. For example, the duration of copyright protection is 20 years longer in the U.S. than in Canada, and moral rights protection is much stronger in Canada than in the U.S..
No International Copyright Law
Third, you should understand that there is no such thing as international copyright law. There are copyright treaties (the leading one is the Berne Convention, www.wipo.org), however it is up to Berne member countries (173 at the current time), to amend their laws to meet the minimum standards required from member countries.
As an example of how Berne works, Berne provides a minimum protection of 50 years from the author’s death. So many countries (Canada included) protects copyright works for life of the author plus 50 years after his death. However, countries are free to protect for a longer period of time. The U.S. and European Union countries, amongst others, protect copyright works for the life of the author plus 70 years after his death. This means that if you use a copyright-protected work in the U.S., you will have to clear the copyright in the work if the author has been not been dead for 70 years.
However, if you use the same work in Canada, you may freely use the work if the author has been dead for 50 years. However, if you are using that work on a website accessible around the world (and following the rule that you apply the law of the country where the work is being used), even if you are located in Canada, you would clear the rights for life-plus-70 to “cover yourself” for access from the U.S. and other countries with the longer duration of copyright protection.
In many circumstances, your license agreements for digital content (such as databases and periodicals) will govern terms and conditions for using such content. The Authorized Users clause may state that employees in your U.S. office may use the licensed content, or it may allow those same U.S. employees to access the content from outside the U.S. Also, Authorized Users may extend to content users in other countries. Check your existing licenses, and keep these issues in mind when negotiating future licenses.
Also important from a global perspective are the governing law and dispute resolution clauses in your licenses. These clauses set out what state/province and country laws will govern the interpretation of the contract (should that be necessary), where any agreed upon mediation/arbitration may take place, and in what jurisdiction any litigation would take place.
Keep in mind that although litigation between content owners and libraries is rare, your licenses do and should address such a possibility. It is always best for the governing law, jurisdiction for any mediation/arbitration, and litigation, to take place in your jurisdiction, as your lawyers are likely more familiar with that law, and it would like be less expensive to resolve such disputes without paying for travel and taking the time to travel for that purpose.
Who Made Me the Copyright Go-To Person?
Many librarians and information professionals find themselves the go-to copyright person when it comes to copyright issues. If you find that that describes you, read all you can about copyright law, find others who you can consult on copyright issues, and get involved in any copyright discussion groups and professional development opportunities.
A librarian’s professional development opportunity: The Copyright Leadership Certificate