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It is not always necessary to contact the copyright holder directly to obtain a license to use their works. Many countries have collecting societies (also known as collective administration organizations) that act as agents for large numbers of copyright holders. Such organizations now administer licenses pertaining to a wide variety of uses of copyrighted materials. Examples include broadcasts of musical composition and the use of various modern technologies to reproduce graphics works or literary works.

Another set of organizations assist and encourage those copyright holders who are willing to give away some of their rights for free. The most famous of these are Creative Commons and the Free Software Foundation , but others are emerging.

Back to the case study

Nadia (the librarian) should help Angela (the professor) organize the set of materials she has gathered by asking a series of questions:

  • Are any of the materials in the public domain?
  • Are any of the remaining materials licensed under a Creative Commons license or a similar set of terms that allow their use?
  • Are any of the remaining materials freed for use by any of the statutory exceptions contained in their nation's copyright statute?
  • Does the library already own a license to use the materials in the way Angela proposes?

If the materials are in the public domain, are licensed freely under a Creative Commons license, are covered by a statutory exemption, or are included in existing licenses, they may be used. If not, Angela will need to obtain permission from the copyright holder or a collective rights organization.

Additional resources

A comprehensive discussion of the aspects of copyright law that affect librarians -- and, in particular, librarians in developing countries -- may be found in the eIFL Handbook on Copyright and Related Issues for Libraries .

Carol C. Henderson, “ Libraries as Creatures of Copyright: Why Librarians Care about Intellectual Property Law and Policy ,” 1998. The former Executive Director of the Washington Office American Library Association discusses the roles played by librarians in maintaining copyright balance.

A short debate between Professors William Fisher and Justin Hughes , organized in May 2009 by the Economist magazine, examines the merits and demerits of the copyright system.

The Research Center for the Legal System of Intellectual Property (RCLIP) , in cooperation with the Center for Advanced Study&Research on Intellectual Property (CASRIP) of the University of Washington School of Law, is building a comprehensive database of court decisions involving intellectual property (including copyright law) in every country throughout the world. The database is not yet complete, but already constitutes a highly valuable research tool, particularly for Asian countries.

A map, prepared by William Fisher, describing the main features of copyright law in the United States and, to a limited extent, other countries, is available here .

A Fair(y) Use Tale ” is a 2008 short movie on copyright and fair use in the US. According to the synopsis, “professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University created this humorous, yet informative, review of copyright principles delivered through the words of the very folks we can thank for nearly endless copyright terms.”

The documentaries, Steal This Film Part I (2006) and Steal This Film Part II (2007), produced by The League of Noble Peers, offer entertaining and highly critical views of the recent trend toward strengthening the rights of copyright owners, particularly with respect to the unauthorized sharing of music and movies.

A helpful guide to determining which works have fallen into the public domain in the United States has been provided by Michael Brewer and the American Library Association Office for Information Technology Policy.

A Librarian's 2.0 Manifesto offers a provocative conception of the responsibilities of librarians, particularly in an environment characterized by rapid technological change.


The following judicial opinion explores and applies some of the principles discussed in this module:

Telegraph Group, Ltd. v. Ashdown, Part 10 Case 13 (Court of Appeal, England&Wales, 2001) (the relationships among freedom of expression, the public interest, and intellectual property rights)

Assignment and discussion questions


Answer one of the following questions:

1. Explain briefly what copyright law attempts to protect, as well as what freedoms are reserved for or available to the public.

2. Which (if any) of the justifications for copyright law make sense to you?

Discussion question(s)

Select one of the answers that your colleagues provided to the Assignment questions, and comment on it. Explain why you agree or disagree. Do not hesitate to give examples you have faced as an author, as a member of the public, or as a librarian.


This module was created by Melanie Dulong de Rosnay . It was then edited by a team including Sebastian Diaz , William Fisher , Urs Gasser , Adam Holland , Kimberley Isbell , Peter Jaszi , Colin Maclay , Andrew Moshirnia , and Chris Peterson .

Questions & Answers

where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
ya I also want to know the raman spectra
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
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Source:  OpenStax, Copyright for librarians. OpenStax CNX. May 14, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10698/1.2
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