CALL held its third business meeting of the 2016-17 year at Wildfire, 159 West Erie Street, on Thursday, February 16, 2017.
Vice president Clare Willis introduced the meeting sponsor, Vable. As a representative from Vable was unable to attend at the last minute, they provided a video. Vable is a U.K. company with a growing presence in the U.S. and Canada. Vable, formerly known as Linex, is a current awareness platform that enables you to automate the monitoring, gathering, indexing and sharing of information from public and subscription news sources.
Our speaker is Paula Cozzi Goedert, partner in the Chicago office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP. Ms. Goedert received her undergraduate degree from Mundelein College and her J.D. from Northwestern University. She chairs the Associations and Foundations Practice Group at Barnes & Thornburg. Her practice focuses on non-profits, including professional societies, trade associations, public charities and private foundations. She serves as general counsel for several of these types of organizations, including the American Library Association. She has frequently lectured and published articles on topics that are often applicable to non-profits such as governance, antitrust, copyright issues, lobbying by exempt organizations, human resource issues, and the legal status of chapters.
Today she spoke to CALL on the basics of copyright, especially the myths, misconceptions, and common misunderstandings about copyright law. She begged our forgiveness as she began as she only has twenty minutes to cover issues that usually take a whole semester.
Americans believe that if they see something on the internet, it’s free to use. Americans believe that copyright law doesn’t apply to the internet. Americans are wrong about that.
So what does copyright law apply to? She focused first on “words”—likely what is most applicable to libraries. However, most lawsuits today focus on images—often found online. So how are the infringers found? Because they put the stolen images back on the internet.
Many lawyers today use “trolling” software that continually searches the internet for clients’ copyrighted materials—articles, photographs, etc. Once the infringer is identified and located, they’ll receive a strongly worded cease & desist request or notice of being sued for copyright infringement.
98% of copyright law can be summed up by the following: “Everything belongs to its creator.” So who owns the copyright to words? The person who wrote the words, or someone the creator assigned it too. But as for photographs—who owns the copyright for those works? That would be the photographer, not the person or subject of the photograph.
However, there are two important exceptions: the federal government and employers.
The federal government claims copyright in anything they produce, author, create, etc. Employers own the copyright in whatever the employee creates, specifically W-2 employees. But that doesn’t cover independent contractors. This is a commonly misunderstood fine point. Often a company or individual hires someone to create something—a logo or perhaps software. The hiring party then thinks that when they pay the contractor so that they own the created work. They would be wrong.
Unfortunately, people assume that if there’s no copyright notice on something that it’s not protected. That is not true; the rights still belong to the creator. So why put a copyright notice on something? To remind people that it’s protected. A copyright symbol indicates a registered copyright. A registered copyright is needed in order to sue for damages.
The creator has the sole right to make copies. So how do libraries make copies of articles for example? There is an exception to the reproduction aspect of copyright law for public libraries—one copy is permitted per patron. A single electronic copy downloaded for personal use is also often allowed.
E-licenses changed this. Those licenses are good for a specific number of users. Ms. Goedert offered three positives of e-licenses:
- Copyright law is very blurry on the concept of fair use. Licenses provide your rights in writing. Those rights are plainly laid out. A license falls into the realm of contract law that is far less nebulous than copyright law.
- Because e-licenses are contracts, they’re negotiable. Read the license! Determine what the user actually needs. Everything is negotiable.
- E-licenses allow us control over what resources we need for a fee. This also gives our attorneys or other patrons the ability to use the content in the way that they need it.
However, copying is only one of things in the bundle of rights given to the creator.
Another is the right to create derivate works. This is also not well understood and she refers to it as the “8th grader rule.” For example, young students (or not so young adults) will copy from an online encyclopedia and maybe change a few words. Americans believe if they take a work and they change it then it’s their own. They’ll ask, “How much do I need to change it to make it ‘mine?’” There’s no rule for that. It’s a derivative work, and at best you might gain joint rights.
She shared a story of a committee that was creating copyright guidelines, which they then posted to their website. As it turned out the committee has just copied another company’s guidelines and changed them a bit and added a couple more guidelines. The changes were minor to say the least. But the committee was also at an academic institution. Not only was this copyright violation, but it was plagiarism. The committee chairman lost his job.
Ms. Goedert firmly believes that every American needs to take a course in copyright law as the misunderstandings are rampant across society.
Ms. Goedert ended with three pieces of advice:
- Read your license; don’t just say yes to copy requests beyond one copy for personal use.
- Is the article available online and your license allows multiple copies? That’s more clear-cut.
- If you’re concerned that you’re working outside your license, contact the managing partner to have a written record of your concerns. Protect yourself, and in doing so, protect your employer.
CALL Member Questions
Question: A judge contacted a non-I.P. attorney at her firm on a Friday afternoon and wanted a copy of a manual by Monday morning that was referenced by the attorney in a brief. The attorney took it to the copy center; the copy center said they had to clear it with the library. Are there any options to legally make that copy since the request is from a judge? Could this be considered a single copy for personal use?
Answer: Ms. Goedert admitted this is a tough and frustrating question. You are faced with angering the lawyer or putting the firm at risk. It cannot be exempted as a single copy for personal use as it is a copy for the entire work, not just an excerpt from it such as a single chapter. Lawyers have to be responsible to figure out a solution to the problem. They have to weigh the risk of being sued for copyright infringement or angering the judge and possibly losing the case.
Question: Are Creative Commons licenses legally equivalent to other licenses?
Answer: Yes, but there are variations in Creative Commons licenses—do not assume they are all the same. You need to check which one it is and make sure you’re staying within the scope of the license. Licenses are enforced to the letter—you don’t get to pick and choose what you follow. The courts say that licenses are narrowly construed.
For understanding fair use, she advised that we follow “Aunt Paula’s Rule of Threes”:
One copy in a file for personal use. If you’re going to copy something —no more than 3 paragraphs from a larger work with attribution. No more than 3 sentences from a shorter work, such as a newspaper article.
Fair use does not apply to photographs—you can’t use an excerpt.
Question: What about linking to other content? Can that be considered a copyright violation?
Answer: They’re used to be lawsuits over that—but those lawsuits have stopped. Linking is always the better choice rather than trying to determine what size of an excerpt is permissible.
President and Vice-President’s Announcements
Vice president Clare Willis reminded everyone to save the date for the joint meeting of MAALL (Mid-America Association of Law Libraries), LLAW (Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin), MichALL (Michigan Association of Law Libraries), and CALL, to be held October 19-21, 2017 in Milwaukee. An email regarding the Call for Proposals will be sent soon, with more information about the conference to follow.
Margaret Schilt – Nominations & Elections Committee
About upcoming elections, Margaret reminded us that voting opened yesterday. They should have received an email from AALL with the necessary information to vote online. If you haven’t received that information, please contact Margaret.
- Joe Mitzenmacher
- Debbie Rusin
- Annie Mentkowski
- Lucy Robbins
- Carolyn Hersch
- Scott Vanderlin
Please vote! The election runs from February 15th to March 15th.
Jamie Sommer – Mentorship & Leadership Committee
The committee is always seeking new mentors and mentees. Please apply!
Joanne Kiley – Public Relations Committee
If you have anything to announce between meetings, chairs can access the blog on the CALL website. Also—as there are probably authors in the room—if you’ve written something or presented and want to share that, contact Joanne and the committee to publish that with the community. As a fair warning to the membership, Scott Vanderlin may also contact you about putting said content in the CALL Bulletin.
Joe Mitzenmacher – Government Relations Committee
Joe announced an upcoming event on Thursday, April 6th, that will feature Emily Feltren from the AALL Government Relations Office. The event will be held at Dentons (thank you, Eugene Giudice for hosting!). Emily will discuss tips on legislation advocacy and how to be more involved in those kinds of activities. A link to register for this event will be emailed tomorrow.
Robert Martin – Community Service Committee
At the November business meeting we collected over $220 for the Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation. At today’s meeting, we are collecting both in-kind and monetary donations for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which distributes food to over 700 local food pantries.
Julie Pabarja – Grants and Chapter Awards Committee
Julie encouraged members to apply for grants. Registration for the AALL Annual Meeting just opened. Grants are available for that event and other educational opportunities. The committee is also seeking nominations for chapter awards. Please contact the committee to nominate a colleague. Criteria for the awards is listed on the CALL website.
Door Prize Drawing
Door prize winners were Joe Mitzenmacher and Edison Ellenberg. Todd and Clare thanked Bridget MacMillan and LexisNexis for donating those prizes.
Adjournment and Next Meeting
The next meeting, to be held Thursday, May 11, 2017, will celebrate the 70th Anniversary of CALL. Stay tuned for venue information and other details. Todd adjourned the meeting but welcomed everyone to say to talk with colleagues and enjoy dessert.