Tag Archives: legalities

Quick notes: Naomi Korn on copyright and educational resources

I gate-crashed a lecture on copyright that Naomi Korn gave at Edinburgh University. I’ve had an interest in copyright for as long as I have been working with open access and open educational resources, about ten years. I think I understand the basic concepts pretty well, but even so Naomi managed to catch a couple of misconceptions I held and also crystallised some ideas with well chosen examples.

hand drawn copyright symbol and word 'copyright' in cursive script.
from naomikorn.com

First, quick intro to Naomi. Naomi is a copyright consultant (but not a lawyer). I first met her through her work for UKOER, which I really liked because she gave us pragmatic advice that helped us release resources openly not just list of all the things we couldn’t do. Through that and other work Naomi & colleagues have created a set of really useful resources on copyright for OER (which are themselves openly licensed).

Naomi has also done some work with the Imperial War Museum from which she drew the story of Ethel Bilborough’s First World War diary. It’s there on her website so I won’t repeat here. The key lessons (to me) revolved around copyright existing from the moment of creation until 70 years after the author’s death; copyright is a property which can be inherited; ownership of the physical artifact does not necessarily mean ownership of the copyright; and composite works (the diary contained press cuttings and photos) creating more complex problems with several rights holders. All of these (and the last one especially) are relevant to modern teaching and learning resources.

In general copyright supports the copying and use of resources through permission from the  rights owner (a licence) and various copyright exceptions. However, sometimes it is necessary to fall back on a pragmatic approach of taking a reasonable risk, for example when the rights owner is not traceable.  Naomi described some interesting issues around the use of  copyright resources in teaching and learning. For example, there are exceptions to copyright for criticism, review or quotation and for teaching purposes. However these are limited in that such use must be fair dealing (I learnt this: that fair dealing/fair use is an additional limitation on an exception, not a type of exception). Fair dealing is undefined, and may not include putting materials online. Naomi described how easy it is for use of a resource under an exception to become an infringement in the context of modern teaching as the private space of teaching becomes more public. For example a resource used in lecture which is videoed, the video made public. All the more reason to be careful in the first place; all the more reason to use liberal licences such as creative commons, which are not limited to a specific scenario.

copyright pragmatics

All the way through her talk Naomi encouraged us to think about copyright in terms of being respectful of other people: giving the credit due to resource creators. She left left us with some key points of advice

  • make sure that you know the basics
  • make sure you know who can help you
  • ask when you’re not sure

fun fact

For copyright purposes, software is classed as a literary work.



eBooks and libraries, the right to eRead? #ebooks14

About once a year I go to some meeting or another on libraries and eBooks. I nearly always come back from it struck by the tension between libraries, as institutions of stability, and the rapid pace at which technology companies are driving forward eBook technology.  This year’s event of that type was the Scottish Library and Information Council’s 13th annual eBook conference. The keynote from Gerald Leitner, chair of the European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations task force on eBooks was especially interesting to me in introducing the Right to eRead Campaign.

Leitner spoke about the ecosystem around ebooks and libraries and about the uncertainty and instability throughout the system. Can lending libraries compete  with commercial lending of eBooks (Amazon kindle unlimited, £6 per month for over half a million titles)?  Publishers too are threatened and are fighting, as the spat between Amazon and Hachette shows–and note, it’s not publishers who are driving the change to eBooks, it’s technology companies, notably Amazon and Apple.  Libraries are at risk of being the collateral damage in this fight.  And where do book lovers fit in, those who as well as reading physical books read ebooks on various mobile devices?

Leitner made the point that consumers and libraries very rarely buy eBooks; you buy a limited license that allows you to download a copy and read it under certain restrictions–and no, like most people I have never bothered to read those restrictions though I am aware of the limit to the devices on which I can read that copy, that I am not allowed to lend it and that Amazon can delete copies remotely (I don’t use Apple products, but I assume they have similar terms). A consequence of this relates to the exhaustion of rights. Under copyright authors have the right to decide whether/how their work is published, and the publishers may have the right to sell books that contain the authors work. But once bought the book becomes the property of the person who bought it; the publishers rights are exhausted, they cannot longer forbid that it be resold or lent. The right to lend and resell is provided by Article 6 of the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the EU Rental and Lending directive (2006/115/EC). Library lending rights are written into statute and accompanied by remuneration for authors. Ebooks, intangible, licensed and not sold, are classed as services by the EU Information and Service Directive (2001/29/EC), and for these there is no exhaustion of rights, no right to resell or lend, and no statutory guarantee that libraries may provide access.

The EBLIDA right to eRead campaign is about trying to secure a right for libraries to provide access to eBooks. The argument is that without this right to access  information itself becomes privatised at the cost of an informed democracy. The campaign is asking for a statutory exemption with IP law, or mandatory fair licensing that provides libraries with the right to acquire and a right to lend.