Is that Dark Slate, Charcoal, or Just Gray?

Academic libraries, Copyright, Fair Use

The semester has just barely started, and already we are faced with a Copyright Conundrum.

That sounds rawther grand, but I have a sneaking suspicion that anything that involves copyright is a conundrum.

Here’s the issue: I work at a public college. The department that handles professional development would like to show a movie to faculty. Because of time considerations, they will not show the entire piece, just selected segments.

Public institution, educational purpose, check.

Fair use? Well, if they create a shortened version of the DVD to streamline the showing of selected segments, it could be considered a derivative work?

Darn. With a little help from a librarian that gets to play with copyright all the time, I found scads of information on copyright limitations on showing moving images at a public academic institution. Stanford has a lovely website on copyright and fair use, with a section for Academic and Educational uses of copyrighted material. Cornell has a book called Copyright and Cultural Institutions, and the University of Texas has put together fair use guidelines for educational multimedia.

All of these were excellent sources, easy to navigate and, considering the complexity of what they set out to describe, quite readable. Unfortunately, none of them offered suggestions on what to do when you have a movie you want to show to faculty, not students, in a modified form, but not store or distribute after the showing.

My next thought was to try original sources, like the mysteriously named Circular 21 (The full title kills the mystique–Circular 21: Reproduction of Copyrighted works by Educators and Librarians). I event found the link to U.S. Code Title 17: Copyrights on Cornell’s Legal Information Institute website.

But none of the original sources offered much in the way of concrete assistance either. The entire group of us looked at the resources, and what they had to say about where our project fell in the murk of fair use, and decided that it was all far too gray. And so, armed with many resources that outline just how we might (or might not) be covered by fair use guidelines, we are contacting the copyright holder.

First Posts Are Awkward


First posts are invariably awkward.  I have been a blogger for many years now–six?  Seven?  Writing the first post is always fraught with anxiety and indecision, and comes out sounding…just awkward.

It’s like going on a first date, or interviewing for a job.  You want to put your best foot forward, but don’t know what to say.  You don’t want to sound horribly boring, but not cringingly glib either.  You haven’t built any history or common ground, so you don’t know what will come off well and what will go over like a lead balloon. 

The one thing you do know is that you want it to go well.  After the date, interview, or first post is over, you will lie awake in bed wondering if you said the right things, if you’ll get a second date/interview/comment, and second-guessing all the things you might have done wrong (which are everything).

So let’s get this over with quickly.  I’m Allison.  I’m an academic librarian, and in this blog, I’ll post about things I find worthy of comment.  They might be library related, or information-related or culture-related.  Libraries store information which stores culture, so in the end it’s all related. 

Please take a gander, and chime in.  The most awkward moments are the ones where you pause for breath and realize your date/interviewer has been waiting to get a word in edgewise.