Copyright Resources

Libraries are often impacted by issues of copyright. Copyright can be complicated and requires some research to determine outcomes of using resources that may be under copyright. However, there are freely available resources available that will help anyone to learn more about Copyright.

The United States Copyright Office provides a wealth of information to learn more about copyright. The homepage provides detailed information for anyone who wants to register a copyright or would like to learn more about the rights and responsibilities of a copyright holder. As with most federal agencies, the Copyright Office provides access to the relevant laws and regulations directly from their homepage in the “Law & Policy” tab. This section provides more than just primary law.

One of the useful links in this tab is for Copyright Office Circulars. The circulars provide detailed information about various aspects of copyright. The subjects range from simple topics such as “Copyright Basics” to more complex topics such as “How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work.” Some of these circulars are older but the Copyright office is in the process of refreshing and updating the circulars.

Another link in the “Law & Policy” tab that is extremely useful is the Fair Use Index. The Fair Use index is a database of cases dealing with fair use that have been curated by the US Copyright Office. The database can be sorted by jurisdiction, or category such as “parody/satire,” “music,” or “textual work.” In addition, each case entry has an outcome which indicates if Fair use was found.

The Copyright Office also has a “Research” tab, which provides links to the databases to find information about existing copyrights. In addition, the “Research” tab provides a series of videos known as the “Learning Engine Video Series”. The series provides information about copyright basics as well as links to more detailed information.

The Copyright Office’s “About” page has the History and Education section which provides more detail about history of copyright in the United States as well as resources to learn more about that history. Finally, there is an extensive Frequently Asked Questions page which provides answers to many of the questions that come up related to Copyright.

In addition to the Copyright Office, there are some guides that may help us learn more about copyright. The Stanford Libraries have a Copyright and Fair Use guide which provides detailed information about copyright. In addition to providing information about copyright generally, the page has a “What’s New” section with tabs to track up and coming information on copyright laws and how they may be changing.

How Does Malawi’s New Copyright Law Measure Up (EIFL Review)?

EIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries) is a not-for-profit organization that works with libraries to enable access to knowledge in developing and transition economy countries in Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe and Latin America.”

“EIFL’s assessment of Malawi’s new copyright law finds that while a good range of library activities are permitted, there are missed opportunities.

An EIFL review of Malawi’s Copyright Act of 2016 has found that although the new law permits a range of library activities such as making copies for research and use of works in virtual learning environments, it places big limits on what libraries can do in practice, misses opportunities to enable digital activities, and restricts the making of accessible format copies.”

Read more about the assessment here and download the full review here.

Copyright Resource

Copyright issues can often come up between vendors and libraries.  Often this can be intimidating for someone who doesn’t know much about copyright.  Here is a blog post about a handbook that can help librarians navigate some of the aspects of copyright that we regularly encounter.   The Copyright Librarian 

Information has value

ACRL recently released its Final Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. It reminds us that users, whether college students or not, start with the perception that information is “free” and lack understanding of how personal information is being commodified.The third frame – “Information has value” – addresses the complex values associated with information by introducing concepts of publishing and intellectual property. It speaks of information “as a commodity, as a means of education, as a means to influence, and as a means of negotiating and understanding the world. Legal and socioeconomic interests influence information production and dissemination.” Read the full framework for tools to incorporate in your reference consults, training or teaching.

AALL Program Preview: Mass Digitization in the Law Library

Over the next couple days, CRIV will be highlighting some of the vendor relations-themed offerings at AALL in Seattle…

F5: Mass Digitization in the Law Library: Obstacles and Opportunities
Time: 8:30am – 9:45am
Location: 615-617

Copyright law is one of the greatest obstacles to mass digitization; the Google Books and HathiTrust cases vividly illustrate the problem. This session will explore those legal challenges, and will discuss new approaches to enabling mass digitization and access. The session will highlight how fair use and best practices can be used to address orphan works (i.e., works whose copyright owners cannot be located), and will explain strategies for how law libraries can more realistically balance the risk of copyright infringement against the risk of failing to provide users with effective digital access to the incredible wealth of materials in their collections. For more information about the research work of these scholars, see

Takeaway 1: Participants will be able to identify the core copyright obstacles facing law libraries that seek to digitize and make available their collections to users.

Takeaway 2: Participants will be able to locate and employ resources, such as best practices, to help make decisions about digitization and use of copyrighted works in their collections.

Takeaway 3: Participants will be able to more accurately assess and balance the risks of using copyrighted works as weighed against the mission risk of failing to provide users with digital access to the library’s historical holdings, a critical part of the collection that retains untapped value in today’s “digital-plus” world.

Who should attend: All law librarians who access historical information in digital format and need to understand the major challenges to making historical material available in such formats; all law librarians who want to stay apprised of the timely, cutting-edge developments in this field

Track(s): Library Management, Information Technology, Reference, Research and Client Services, Collection Development and Cataloging


Victoria K. Trotta, Associate Dean for Information Technology and the Ross-Blakley Law Library, Arizona State University

Dean Rowan, Reference & Research Services Director, University of California School of Law Library, Berkeley

David Hansen, Reference Librarian, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Grimmelmann on the GSU E-Reserves Opinon

NYLS Professor of Law James Grimmelmann can always be counted on for immediate, deeply informed, crystalline commentary on the latest IP issues.  His blog,The Laboratorium, has an excellent preliminary assessment of the GSU decision here.

Ruling in GSU Suit

It never good for relations between libraries and information vendors when the latter sues the former in federal court.  But at least the ruling in the Georgia State University copyright infringement suit might bring some desperately needed clarity to fair use determinations made by academic libraries.  The ruling is here.   Early expert commentary can be found at Kevin Smith’s excellent blog, Scholarly Communication @ Duke.