Wednesday 1 June 2011

Exploring copyright in academia

Four interesting articles from The Chronicle of Higher Education, looking at copyright issues in relation to researchers from several different angles:

Pushing Back Against Legal Threats by Putting Fair Use Forward

A rarely discussed form of self-censorship happens routinely on college campuses. Professors and graduate students choose not to tackle academic arguments that involve music, movies, or other forms of popular culture. They worry that including relevant clips in their work means the hassle and expense of getting copyright permission for each snippet.

Two professors at American University argue that actually scholars (terrible word, I'm sorry, but it probably means something specific here) can use this material, without asking for permission, and even if they hope to profit from the resulting publications.

A professor's fight over Shostakovich heads to the Supreme Court

Music professor Lawrence Golan has been fighting for 10 years to have a statute that makes it prohibitively expensive for small orchestras to play certain pieces of music overturned.

The dispute that led to Golan v. Holder dates to 1994, when Congress passed a law that moved vast amounts of material from the public domain back behind the firewall of copyright protection. For conductors like Mr. Golan, that step limited access to canonical 20th-century Russian pieces that had been freely played for years.

Out of Fear, Colleges Lock Books and Images Away From Scholars (slightly hysterical header)

Wide online access to university collections is curtailed due to legal uncertainty around 'orphaned works' - items that are in copyright, but for which the copyright owner can not be identified or traced.

[UCLA] is sharing only a fraction of [its collection of Mexican and Mexican American Recordings] with the world because it believes most of the collection is made up of orphans, still covered by copyright. Full access is restricted to computers connected to the campus network. Off-campus users can hear only 50-second snippets. UCLA chose that policy based on its reading of fair-use exceptions to copyright law, which may permit reproductions for teaching and research. Going further would introduce "a level of risk that, given the current status of copyright law, was really challenging," says Sharon E. Farb, associate university librarian for collection management and scholarly communication.

What you don't know about copyright, but should

Profiles Nancy Sims, a copyright-programme librarian at the University of Minnesota Libraries who's 'there to help people on campus and beyond—both users and owners of protected material—understand their rights'. Her job includes advising faculty on their own copyright rights (copyrights? hmmmm).

The only pity with these articles; that there's not one devoted to open research and Creative Commons licencing.

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