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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

List and explain four factors of production
Vuyo Reply
capital labour entrepreneur natural resources
What is supply
Ogodo Reply
when the supply decreases demand also decreases
types of demand and the explanation
akin Reply
what is demand
akin Reply
other things remaining same if demend is increases supply is also decrease and if demend is decrease supply is also increases is called the demand
if the demand increase supply also increases
you are wrong this is the law of demand and not the definition
Demand is the willingness of buy and ability to buy in a specific time period in specific place. Mian you are saying law of demand but not in proper way. you have to keep studying more. because its very basic things in Economics.
what is commercialization?
Doris Reply
How to talk loan for bank?
Alfred Reply
what is the meaning of gpa?
Ritisha Reply
Answer: GPA stands for Grade Point Average. It is a standard way of measuring academic achievement in the U.S. Basically, it goes as follows: Each course is given a certain number of "units" or "credits", depending on the content of the course.
what is small and Microbuisenes
tadesse Reply
What is fiscal policy
Who is the funder of Economic
founder , that is Adam Smith
what is model
Daniel Reply
The wealth of Nations
Yusuf Reply
the wealth of nations, is it the first?
Yes very sure it was released in 1759
thank you Yusuf.
then when did he died?
17 July 1790 Born: 16 June 1723, Kirkcaldy, United Kingdom Place of death: Panmure House, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
that's my today questions, thank you Yusuf it's bed time see u after.
what is fiscal policy
kemigisha Reply
what's mode?
Umar Reply
mode is the highest occurring frequency in a distribution
mode is the most commonly occurring item in a set of data.
Please, what is the difference between monopoly and monopsony?
Olaleye Reply
is there monopsony word?
I have no idea though
please, in which year Adam smith was born?
monopsony is when there's only one buyer while monopoly is when there's only one producer.
who have idea on Banter
like trade by barter?
Monopoly is when there's excessively one seller and there is no entry in the market while monopsony is when there is one buyer
Adam smith was born in 1723
 (uncountable) Good humoured, playful, typically spontaneous conversation. verb (intransitive) To engage in banter or playful conversation. (intransitive) To play or do something amusing. (transitive) To tease mildly.
which book Adam smith published first? the first book of Adam smith pls.
wealth on nation, 1776
what is market power and how can it affect an economy?
Gab Reply
market power:- where a firm is said to be a price setter.market power benefits the powerful at the expense of others.
Market power refers to the ability of a firm (or group of firms) to raise and maintain price above the level that would prevail under competition is referred to as market or monopoly power. The exercise of market power leads to reduced output and loss of economic welfare
find information about the national budget
three branches of economics in which tourism is likely to figure
Makgotso Reply
What are those three branches?
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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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