I guess we’ll have to go back to coursepacks

Looks like four big time publishers have sued Georgia State University for their e-reserves program. Here’s a quick Q&A with the associate dean for academic affairs and a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law from The Chronicle.

Looks like GSU was just putting items up on reserve without asking for and paying for copyright. Which bears some similarities to the way that we do business at UWT.

What will happen here in Tacoma? Dunno. I’m sure the Reserves Operations Group will be on top of this topic.

My hope is that we go back to course packs. Less demand on the printers in that case, eh?

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1 Comment

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One response to “I guess we’ll have to go back to coursepacks

  1. The problem with Georgia State University is not that they weren’t paying for copyright per se; the fair use provisions of U.S. copyright law expressly allow the use of copyrighted material for educational use. However, fair use is not without restrictions, and it is alleged that GSU did not take proper steps to ensure that the use was fair. One primary issue was the lack of any restriction of access to their electronic reserves (for example, with a password or user authentication like we use at UW), effectively allowing the materials to be accessible to the general public. GSU also allegedly failed to take down materials after repeatedly being asked to do so by publishers.

    As long as materials on electronic reserve are either licensed or fall within fair use, placing them online should not be a problem. The UW Libraries share responsibility with instructors for ensuring that electronic materials are in compliance with copyright law. The UW Libraries obtains licenses for a wide variety of electronic journals and e-books, and make sure that access to these and to electronic reserves is limited to UW students, staff, and faculty. Instructors are responsible for making sure that any materials they post online—either themselves or through assistants or support staff—are in compliance with the law.

    The way I see it, the main problem with fair use is that it is not specific. What may appear to be fair use to one copyright expert may seem like a flagrant violation to another. A lot of material falls in the “gray area”, and interpretation all too often must be done without sufficient guidance.

    Considering the possibility of litigation, copyright as it applies to electronic resources should be a major concern of the university. Whether instructors are posting their materials online through the library’s ERes system, through Blackboard, or on their personal web page, they need to be aware of their responsibilities. I know that we here at the UWT Library try to provide guidance to instructors about fair use, but I really do not know who takes responsibility for what is posted online outside of the library’s jurisdiction. This worries me.

    I don’t think that switching to course packs is the answer, especially in this world where everything is (or is expected to be) online. But I do think that the situation with GSU provides us with an opportunity to reexamine our copyright practices at the UW: in the libraries and other departments, across all three campuses. We need to look at what we’re doing and ask ourselves if there are things that we could be doing better. Could the UW’s copyright authorities make themselves more visible? Could the UW provide better education about copyright issues? Interpret the rules and institute best practices for those who need to know? I’ll be looking for answers to these questions as the GSU case unfolds.

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