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To Comply or Not to Comply: Copyright in Higher Education Libraries

Stephen J. Belcourt

Fair Use and Fair Dealing permissions in copyright law provide educational institutions with flexibility when dealing with published materials, allowing a limited portion of a work to be duplicated, often through digitization for a limited audience and a limited duration.

Many library copyright guides outline basic copyright parameters or frameworks, and simply trust that faculty will understand and follow these instructions. In other words, it falls to the faculty and teaching staff to stay within the boundaries of a nuanced set of restrictions. 

At the same time, the Learning Management System (LMS) facilitates the uploading of PDF documents into the learning environment without any prerequisite compliance checks or balances (even when policy dictates otherwise). 

Together, this devolved responsibility, along with the capacity to be non-compliant without apparent repercussions, can potentially leave an institution exposed to the risk of a rights-holder claiming their rights have been violated. 

Happily, the platform-neutral Resource List Management System (RLMS), Talis Aspire, provides an end-to-end workflow, audit and reporting capability that provides faculty with the ability to request digitization without endless forms – directly within the LMS. 

Faculty can identify items of interest and easily add them to the Resource List. From there, it’s a single click to select Request Digitization. This auto-populates metadata for the library and initiates the digitization workflow. 

A few mouse-clicks to outline the desired range (either by page number, or by chapter), and the submission is directed automatically to the library team for evaluation and fulfillment 

The Talis Aspire digitization concierge compares the requested range to the parameters allowed under Fair Use/Dealing, and checks a number of elements including whether the requested copy is the latest edition, whether there’s an e-book in existing holdings, and whether the library has previously scanned this same range (that prior copy remains in the ‘vault’ associated with the institution). In some cases, the entire approval process can take mere seconds and involves no secondary interaction. 

Alternatively, if a request requires licencing or has not been previously digitized, then it is queued for library intervention. Both automated and manual steps are captured in the audit record of the copyright workflow for each digitized item.

By unburdening faculty from the responsibility of copyright compliance, the library reduces overall institutional risk to non-compliance exposure while also gaining insight into the resources being used and requested.

For more information, or to schedule a demo of Talis Aspire, please click here.

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