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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

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.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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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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