Quite recently in my role as administrator of our library's networked databases, copyright once again became a hot topic of discussion.
As is usually the case, reference staff were wondering about the limits to acceptable use of the databases by clients. We are generally quite diligent (or at least well-intentioned) when it comes to abiding by our license agreements, and have, on many occasions, revisited these agreements when a new situation leads to new questions. The questions have become more difficult to answer, however, as new technologies have made searching more flexible and comprehensive, and users come to expect unlimited access to the whole world of information. Many of the makers of the rules of copyright which we, as librarians, should be following, are struggling to keep up with rapid changes in the ways that people are accessing information. Naturally, everyone is finding it a little difficult to keep current, and to feel confident that they are doing the right thing where intellectual property is concerned.
The term 'fair use' is one that librarians hear frequently, and there is Web site committed to making that idea a little more clear for the confused or curious. It is a very good starting point for an examination of copyright law in the United States and internationally, and provides a source of information on the latest breaking news in this area. Keep in mind that the sites that I mention provide a good overview of the issues, and a review of recent government initiatives. For news of other governments, it will be necessary to supplement these sites with information on the laws of specific countries. A visit to the site at Stanford (http://fairuse.stanford.edu), put the topic into a format that was easy to deal with, and gave a good overview of the subject and current trends.
Perhaps the most central documents in this area, which are currently the subject of much debate, is HR 3531, the Database Investment and Intellectual Property Antipiracy Act of 1996, and the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Association) database proposal. Both of these are put together in a neat package at the top of this page. These two documents alone would make this a useful site to anyone concerned with copyright, but there is much more here. In the same section of the page, links are also provided to references to this bill in the Congressional Record, Digest information, and a list of contacts. There is a also a link to the World Intellectual Property Organization Diplomatic Conference (being held as I write).
For those who want a more detailed look at the issues, this page also provides a large amount of information under the heading 'Articles, Analysis and Letters'. Here can be found a wide variety of articles both for and against the proposed legislation. These links proved very useful for me in coming to a more complete understanding of the issues, the major players and the likely implications of the latest trends in technology and copyright. A menu bar across the bottom of the page provides a collection of related links. The 'Library Copyright Guidelines' link provides access to the copyright-related policies and publications of many libraries, a useful resource for those looking in to developing their own documents, or investigating what others are doing about this issue. Another link to 'Articles and Publications' provides a long list of articles and connections to bulletins, journals, and newsletters on copyright and fair use. Links can also be found to Primary materials (the Constitution, case law, Statutes), a collection of materials on the National Information Infrastructure, and a section on fair use and multimedia.
This page will be of great use, both to the expert on copyright issues and the person who is just interested in developing a deeper understanding of the terminology and the issues that surround copyright. For those who need more information on this topic, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has an intellectual property page at http://www.eff.org/pub/Intellectual_property with a wealth of information, Cornell has a copyright site at http://www.law.cornell.edu/topics/copyright.html, and a rather large an well organized collection of links can be found at http://access-iplaw.com As libraries continue to introduce new technologies and increase access to information, these issues seem to become more and more complex, while the answers seems to become harder to find. As a person faced with these issues, I found these sites to be very useful.
University of Guelph