Sunday, 29 June 2014

Copyright Masterclass

On 11th June I attended the ASLIB "Copyright Masterclass" led by Naomi Korn. Here are some titbits from my notes with some added explanations of my own.

The law is "late"
There is a discrepancy between what we want to do (usage) and what we are allowed to do. We use licences for cases where the law does not go far enough.
As the UK Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) puts it: "If the material you wish to reproduce does not fall within one of the [copyright] exceptions, or if you are unsure, you should contact the copyright owner, or someone authorised by them to grant the necessary permission." A CLA licence will usually cover you for a wider use than the copyrights exceptions, because they provide a blanket licence where rights have been cleared for specific uses (the CLA is "someone authorised by the copyright holder to grant the necessary permission"). So before copying a work, check in this order: your CLA licence, your electronic licences, exceptions to copyright law.

Copyright duration and foreign works
When copying/using a work, you would ask yourself whether the work in question is covered by copyright, and if so, who is the copyright owner.
If the work is potentially covered by copyright (I'm not going to define this here - go see the details on the IPO website) then you need to determine whether it is STILL in copyright; if the copyright has expired it's in the public domain and you're alright to use it.
Beach promenade in Pondicherry
CC BY-SA Sanyam Bahga
So how do you know if a work is in the public domain? In most cases you will need to know either when it was published or when (if) the creator died. Let's take an example: a text. If the author is British then it's easy: copyright lasts 70 years after the end of the year in which the author died. That makes sense, right: UK copyright laws apply to British works. So what happens when the author lived and worked in... Pondicherry? In India copyright only lasts up to 60 years after the author died - if the copyright has expired in the author's country but would not have in the UK, can you still use it legally here? The answer is yes - when using copyrighted works from another country in the UK, you would apply UK copyright exceptions but the copyright duration from the country of origin (think about it - it makes sense). Or as the Europeana public domain calculator says: "The Rule of Shorter Term (Comparison of Terms) applies. This means that the term of protection is that established by the legislation of the selected country, unless (barring provisions to the contrary in the legislation of that country) the term fixed in the country of origin of the work is shorter. In such cases, the term of protection is that of the country of origin."

Ooh, yes there is a public domain calculator! Did I not mention it? Sorry... Temper your enthusiasm though: the Europeana calculator is a factual one, that asks you the right questions to guide you through the different copyright rules. If you want to just be able to enter the name of a work and get an (almost) yes or no answer, try the public domain calculator developed using metadata from the French National Library (beta version at:

Orphan works risk management
You have established the work you want to use is still in copyright, or you have not been able to establish that it is definitely in the public domain. You now need to obtain permission from the copyright holder (if the use you want to make of the work is not covered by your CLA or other licence, or any copyright exceptions, as mentioned above). Finding a copyright holder is not as easy as it sounds, which is why a lot of works are actually "orphan works".
Oliver Twist at the orphanage
Illustration by James Mahoney (1810-1879)

Let's consider another example: you've found an image you want to use (e.g. on the Internet), it looks like it may still be under copyright, but you are not sure who the creator is. That's where you will need to do a bit of risk management. If you use this "orphan" image nevertheless... what are the chances of you getting caught? If you get caught, what will it cost you? Are you ready to face the reputational damage, not just to you personally but to your employer/organisation, linked with being sued for copyright infringement? Well, personally (my boss will be pleased to hear), I'm not.
To help you assess the risks, the JISC-funded Open Educational Resources IPR support project offers a risk management calculator. It gives you an indicative risk level for using orphan works, depending on what type of work you are dealing with, whether it was originally created for a commercial purpose, the licence under which you intend to offer it and how much of an effort you have made in tracing the copyright holder.

Happy calculating!

Friday, 20 June 2014

The bank adviser and the librarian

A few weeks ago I had to visit my financial adviser at my French bank. What could have been a 20-minutes appointment turned into a 55-minutes meeting, because we didn't discuss my financial situation only. I actually realised that my bank adviser and I were faced with - would you believe it! - similar issues and questions in our professional lives. Here are a few of them.

First, both a public library branch and a bank one are a customer-facing service; people come in wanting to carry out a specific task and sometimes seeking help (I can see you thinking: "Do they get the same awkward customers as we do?" My bank adviser did mention something about feeling patronised by some of his customers; I didn't push this topic as it wouldn't have been professional for him to complain about customers to me) My bank in France is actually a small branch with only two financial advisers and a receptionist; it's located right next to a big supermarket.

CC BY-NC-SA Devon Buchanan
Information literacy
In libraries we are keen on our "authoritative resources" - we recognise their necessity and promote them - but we also know full well that for a quick answer we might be better off using a good search engine or Wikipedia as a first port of call rather than delving into the right encyclopedia. When my bank adviser is looking for the definition of a term, he does the same! Except his next port of call, instead of the encyclopedia, are the documents on the bank's intranet.
While doing that, he also made a comment which I could sympathise with: "We've just changed our platform because we've had to move over to Windows 7, and not everything is quite working the way it should be"!

"People don't know the range of services we offer - we don't only bank, we also offer insurance which is often very competitive but people don't think about it and go with the traditional insurance companies". Welcome to the club - people still mainly associate libraries with book-lending! This said, a bank and a public library service don't have quite the same resources to allocate to Communication... In a bank, it's not the branch that will do a huge marketing campaign, it's the head office and it will be nationwide. So in libraries, are we making the most of whatever nationwide publicity we can get, via every SCL and CILIP campaigns that grab the headlines, or for example participating in National Libraries Day?

CC BY-NC-SA Devon Buchanan

I've seen ATMs long before I ever saw self-service machines in a library. As an adult, I've never been a customer of a bank that still kept cash behind the counter. Bank customers are used to using a machine to: withdraw money, deposit cash, check their account balance, deposit cheques, print bank statements... That's coming slowly for libraries. Of course, in both cases, there are still some staff around to help.
My bank adviser told me about a pilot of a full self-service bank - with no staff around. No receptionist; financial advisers only available by appointment. He was quite concerned about it; for several reasons. One being that just like in libraries, some bank customers aren't quite confident using the self-service and either need or prefer to have someone to help them. Another being: what happens to the receptionist - do they lose their job, have to move into a very different one?
Again, things that can be easily applied to libraries.