Appointing a Copyright Officer
Many large academic institutions now have a copyright
officer or agent, and/or copyright department. If your institution
does not, you might consider creating such a position and/or department
as it will help you to be more efficient in your information gathering
process and in administering your copyright-related procedures
At a minimum, you should designate a copyright officer and have
that person register with the U.S. Library of Congress as your
institution's agent under the requirements of the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act. This individual will serve as the institution's
official recipient for reports of infringement and implementer
of "take down notices" for electronic content in the
event that your institution should receive such a notice.
The copyright officer is not necessarily a lawyer and his/her
role need not include providing legal advice. In addition to serving
as your registered copyright agent, this person can also gather
information about your institution's copyright needs and use,
develop and maintain your copyright policy, and serve as the ongoing
manager of copyright information and coordinator of copyright
permissions in your organization. Because intellectual property
issues such as patents and trademarks are often important issues
in academic institutions, many institutions have an intellectual
property office under which copyright falls.
The copyright officer should be in contact with all the people
involved with copyright issues in your institution and solicit
their input when creating your copyright policy. These individuals
may include people who obtain copyright permission, provide permission
to others, negotiate license agreements, and register copyright-protected
works owned by your institution.
In developing your copyright policy, you should gather
as much information as you can about copyright in your institution.
Key points to investigate include:
- What copyright-protected materials are used in your institution?
- How are these materials used?
- How frequently are these materials used?
- How is fair use applied in your institution?
- Who typically owns the copyrights to the materials being
- What permission procedures are currently in place?
- Who is in charge of obtaining copyright permission?
- How do you keep track of the permission once obtained?
- Do you have an account with Copyright Clearance Center?
- Do you have any licenses for the ongoing use of digital publications
or digital databases? If so, how are they managed?
- What are the procedures for off- or online copyright infringement?
Access to a Copyright Lawyer
Since the copyright officer is generally not an attorney who specializes
in copyright law, he or she should have a rapport with your institution's
legal counsel. If this is not possible, ask your counsel to recommend
a copyright lawyer outside of your institution. Either way, make
the most of your consultations with a copyright lawyer. One efficient
way to do this is to compile your copyright questions and consult
with your copyright lawyer for a few hours at the end of each
month. Keep track of your discussions and the practical responses
from your copyright lawyer. Incorporate your lawyer's advice into
your copyright policy so it becomes part of your day-to-day copyright
procedures. Be sure to notify faculty, staff members and other
employees when significant changes occur, perhaps via e-mail or
your intranet. You may find over time that you have fewer questions
for your copyright lawyer as your copyright procedures and policies
become more streamlined and established.
Copyright law is complex. There are many different sources and
ways to learn about copyright; explore as many of them as possible.
Once you have a basic understanding of U.S. copyright principles,
familiarize yourself with the copyright laws of other countries,
and how copyright law applies to digital media. Then, learn what
you can about obtaining copyright permission, about copyright
intermediaries such as Copyright Clearance Center, and about copyright
licenses. Always keep in mind that there is a lot to learn and
it may take a while to feel comfortable about copyright law.
It is also very important to encourage others in your institution
to understand the importance of copyright law. Circulate information
about new publications, new cases or amended copyright law. Tell
others about online and in-person copyright seminars. Create a
reference shelf of print materials on copyright law. Maintain
a list of Web sites and online discussion groups on copyright.
Many general news Web sites such as CNN (www.cnn.com)
cover copyright issues. Another helpful site is the legal Web
site Findlaw (www.findlaw.com).
Update both your print shelf and your Web lists as new copyright
information becomes available. However, make sure the information
is germane to your institution before including it your collection.
Once you have obtained copyright permissions in situations where
they are required, you need to develop an organized method of
retaining and tracking those permissions. Your copyright officer
should have a copy of each permission and a system for retaining
these records. Each permission should be kept at least as long
as the permission period and for several years afterward, in an
easily accessible and referenceable format. An electronic database
of permissions that is searchable by title, name of author and
name of publisher may be a convenient way of storing copyright
A Living Document
A copyright policy is a living document. Within the policy itself,
you may want to provide for periodic review and updates. How often
will it be reviewed? Who will be part of the group responsible
for reviewing it? How will amendments be made to the policy? Who
will finalize the revised policy? How often and in what way will
faculty, staff and students be asked to review the policy and
renew their commitment to copyright compliance? Will faculty,
staff and students be required to participate in copyright training?
Your Policy as a Stand-Alone Document
In reviewing various institutional copyright policies you will
see that they take a variety of forms. Some address all the copyright
issues an institution may have, from the DMCA to electronic reserves.
Other institutions have individual policies for specific copyright
issues such as the TEACH Act, photocopying, and other library-related
copyright issues. And some institutions incorporate copyright
issues into larger institutional policy documents such as those
covering all intellectual property issues. Each institution operates
differently and you must determine which approach will best suit
the needs of your institution.
The sample policy included in this document specifically addresses
the use of text-based copyright-protected materials used in the
classroom and library. Such a policy is a good starting point
for many institutions and it may complement other existing copyright
and general intellectual property policies.
It's time now to put that copyright policy in writing. If this
is your first policy, this may seem like a daunting task. Begin
where you are most comfortable. Pick an area and work on it. Consult
the checklist and sample policy included here, as well as the
many policies available on the Web. Determine what sections from
these policies apply to your institution and where you must amend
them for your needs.
Your copyright policy may be one of the most useful documents
for your colleagues to consult, so write it in plain English and
in clear, concise and comprehensive language. And keep in mind:
policies are not born overnight. Try to develop yours one step
at a time.