at The Evergreen State College

Librarians and Copyright

From booktorrent

Jump to: navigation, search


Librarians and Copyright

An XKCD webcomic comparing/contrasting the story of the Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein to current day electronic copyright issues. Are the professionals of today not living up to the sharing standards of the Giving Tree when it comes to the education and rearing of America's children population due to copyright? Can librarians not give children all the sources they need due to private ownership? Are we raising children with values that cannot be used or expressed in our political and economic climate? XKCD

Information Distribution

Corporations and librarians hold different ideals for information distribution, most crudely divided between those who believe knowledge is available to those who can afford it, and those who believe knowledge should be free for all. This is particularly divisive when libraries, which make limited revenue (and are most commonly funded from a subsidiary force) are forced to engage in the more capitalistic process of securing information resources from corporations, which are out to make a profit.

Distribution Types

There are copyright materials, copyleft materials, and creative commons licensed materials. Copyright materials have terms for usage, limiting reproduction and distribution in order to encourage more unique purchases of that commodity. Copyleft materials, often open software, also have a terms or usage agreement, only this one legally defines how you are not allowed to sell it. Creative commons materials, more often an image, film, sound, or textual item, are in the public domain and are not supposed to be sold, but also don't offer a legally binding method of enforcement (such as what the "I Agree" button at the end of a Terms of Agreement passage would do).


Corporations come up with "deals" like subscription services that give copyright-compliant access to information tied down by time, not quantity. The problem arises when libraries have to pay hefty (though comparatively "cheap," for the amount of information that is being subscribed to) up-front prices for access, and gamble with whether or not users will make use of it. An added problem is when the database interface is hard to use, or it doesn't have the features users are accustomed to in a regular search engine. Libraries have to advertise that the database is a resource, or users won't know about it.

The Search for Better Information

There is a current emphasis in libraries on how to teach patrons to find good sources. Part of that lesson is also how to cite copyright materials appropriately, most often in APA or MLA citation styles that are used in bibliographies. With the advent of computers, the Internet, and a generation of technology-savvy people uploading terabytes of original material to the web every day, libraries have many shifting trends to keep on top of. One of which is the copyleft and opensource/freeware movements. These movements offer decent and high-quality sources that may be elusive to those who are unfamiliar with the concept of searching for information off the beaten (corporate) path.

A possible solution for the goal of "free information to all" may be if libraries can host open, free, and/or copyleft information. Information collection costs would go down, and strong support for these formats and ideas will encourage more information to be distributed that way. In a strong community, newer information would be generated much more rapidly, and collections would probably have a higher turnover rate. It would definitely be a different sort of library, probably computer-based, in which the technology would be a cost concern, as newer computer models usurped outdated ones every few years. Remote-access capabilities on personal computers would alleviate this to some degree.

Related Pages