Library Launches Copyright First Responders Program

Below is the latest from Harvard Library communication on my beta program for copyright and libraries.  I developed the Copyright First Responders program with one thing in mind: Librarians should be the front lines of copyright expertise.  A brief survey I did a few years ago revealed that the Library was the place where the majority of copyright questions were being asked – Circulation, Reference, Tech Services, Special Collections, Preservation, Digitization, Access Services – every department interacted with it in some way.

I believe the decentralized copyright model will work the best.  Why?  Because when answering copyright questions at a library you need the expertise of the subject matter as well.  How does the field publish? What are the norms for access to information? What databases and licenses exist in this field? Who are the routine publishers of the journals, serials, monographs, or e-books in this discipline? Where are the materials located? How are they accessed? Who owns the materials?

Librarians have this necessary expert-level of knowledge.

Building an understanding of “practical copyright” on top of their information expertise is, I believe, the best and most efficient outcome for a “hub-and-spoke” model for a decentralized copyright structure.  So far, the copyright immersion program I am running has been fantastic.  The Copyright First Responders will be deployed at their respective libraries this Fall, and more cohort are planned for the future!

[Linked from]

Library Launches Copyright First Responders Program

Training front-line responders to copyright questions

July 8, 2014—This fall the Harvard Library will deploy the Copyright First Responders (CFRs) — a pilot program being developed as a resource for anyone at Harvard struggling with copyright issues.

The program was founded by Kyle K. Courtney, the copyright advisor at the Office for Scholarly Communication, who observed an increase in his caseload and had rising concerns about copyright’s rapidly changing law and the resulting implications for libraries and their users. In response, he is building a distributed network of individuals across Harvard’s libraries trained to either answer questions themselves or refer them up to experts.

The inaugural cohort of the CFRs – a dozen library staff members from diverse corners of the Library – started training with Kyle this spring under his “Copyright Immersion” program. The CFRs will be open for business in fall 2014, with a series of introductory presentations at each library featuring Kyle and the CFR representative for that particular library. The goal is to aid the library community by addressing copyright issues regularly faced by their colleagues and patrons.

In the weekly CFR meetings, Kyle couches thorny copyright issues in timely questions like, “Who owns a selfie?” Participants apply principles from case law and their assigned readings in their discussion, which usually lead to bigger questions about copyright and its effect on libraries, publishers, researchers and readers.

In a recent session addressing digital first sale, the importance of copyright on daily library operations was clear: “If a library has 1,000 e-books, it doesn’t really own them in the traditional sense of the word, which interferes with collections, which interferes with preservation, which interferes with being a library,” said Courtney.

Once the first CFR cohort is deployed, Kyle plans on launching a second cohort for training in late fall for more libraries, departments, and programs.

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