Libraries & Fair Use

One of the things I love most about working at MLibrary, and the University of Michigan as a whole, is the institution’s commitment to broadening education in every way. From integral involvement in MOOCs like  Coursera to preserving and unlocking hidden collections via Hathi Trust, we’re all of us lucky to be at an institution so involved in groundbreaking endeavors. The fair use doctrine is integral to these endeavors, and has been in the headlines recently (at least among librarian circles).

I had not given much thought to fair use prior to my time at Michigan’s School of Information and MLibrary. Fortunately, the Association of Research Libraries has drafted a fair use code, aimed specifically at academic and research librarians. ARL, after analyzing “how copyright law comes into play [during] core library functions,” developed an clear code on applying fair use in support of library efforts. The code addresses:

Fair Use logo from Wikimedia Commons under GNU Free Documentation License
Fair Use logo from Wikimedia Commons under GNU Free Documentation License
  • When and how much copyrighted material can be digitized for student use? And should video be treated the same way as print?
  • How can libraries’ special collections be made available online?
  • Can libraries archive websites for the use of future students and scholars?

They are also highlighting stories of fair use successes in a series on their Policy Notes blog. Currently featured are the Washington University at St. Louis, Yale, and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Personally I’m hoping a U of M feature is in the works. ARL’s YouTube channel also has video interviews with librarians and deans of leading institutions, including UC Berkeley and UCLA. You can also follow the conversation via #librarianscode.

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