Libraries teach faculty authors about copyright issues

The area of copyright law is ever-changing and usually confusing. The fact is most authors don’t fully understand what rights they have and how to keep them.

But University libraries are trying to educate faculty with the release of a tutorial explaining the gray areas of copyright.

Karen Williams, associate University librarian for academic programs, said the tutorial is part of a larger campaign started last year to educate faculty on authors’ rights.

“In this country, we’re very fortunate in that copyright favors authors,” she said. “It automatically gives us ownership of the work we create.”

Williams and the libraries are encouraging authors to negotiate with publishers so authors can maintain some of their copyrights for the future.

“It’s really restrictive on scholars if they give away all of their rights, and costly for students to gain access to them,” she said.

The University offers the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition authors addendum, which is an agreement between authors and publishers for the use of material for education-related purposes.

“We talk about copyrights as a bundle of rights,” Williams said.

According to the library copyright Web site, copyright allows the holder to reproduce, distribute and display their work in various other forms, which can include course packets, Web sites and other publications.

It’s common practice for publishers to request copyright ownership before they publish an author’s work – making writers relinquish rights to their own material.

“In order to get tenure, you have to publish,” Williams said, “and where you publish matters.”

Dr. Jagdev Sharma, of the College of Veterinary Medicine, is the editor of the journal Avian Diseases and allows his authors a lot of their copyrights.

“It’s important for the authors to feel the ownership of the work they do,” he said. “The authors weren’t really feeling as connected with the work as they should.”

Sharma maintains the rights for first publication of a work, but all republication rights are awarded to the authors, he said.

“I think the associations and the publishers will try to retain some of these rights, and use them to actually control the quality of work that gets out there,” Sharma said. “If you don’t know for sure if that information is good or not, you get misinformed.”

Both Sharma and Williams see the trend of authors keeping some of their rights becoming a more common practice in the future.

Increasingly, there are journals that don’t require people to sign over their copyrights; more and more of those journals are becoming available, Williams said.

The more old-fashioned idea of publishers and editors taking over copyrights is a thing of the past, Sharma said.

“This is the future of scientific publication,” he said.

The future of publication also includes the increasing popularity of electronic journals, including the University’s own Electronic-Reserve. The problem results in how to enforce copyright laws on digital media.

There is still a gray area as to who pays for these resources and what the copyright implications are, Williams said.

Students may think the information on E-Reserve is free, but in fact the library pays for it, Williams said.

When a course packet is put together, students pay the copyright fee, but there is no fee for Electronic-Reserve, Gary Magee of Paradigm Course Resource, said.

“It’s unclear in a digital era, but for paper it’s very clear,” Magee said.

There will always be questions of copyright and authors’ rights, but as long as copyright practices change with the times, there will be fewer problems.

“It’s important to survive in this rapidly competitive area of publishing,” Sharma said.