Working in higher education, I have copyright conversations with a lot of very smart people. These are folks who spend their lives educating others, spreading knowledge and wisdom as a career. Which is why it’s so surprising when they are deeply misinformed about copyright law.
This often seems to stem from “institutional knowledge” passed down through the years. Some of this information is incredibly helpful, but an unfortunately large percentage of it is downright wrong. I have been working with copyright issues for just over a year, and have already heard more myths about fair use than I can count.
Where can folks go for quick straightforward copyright education, without legalese or confusing jargon? And, most importantly, what sources can be relied upon to provide accurate copyright information? This post lists out some of the resources that I found most helpful when starting out in copyright, and that can serve as helpful tools in dispelling copyright myths.
The best copyright resources are home-grown (at The Ohio State University)
While there may be a bit of bias at play here, the Copyright Services website is the single best resource I have found for basic copyright information. This includes a lot of myth-busting information on Fair Use, the TEACH Act, and other commonly misunderstood copyright concepts.
Whether you need information on copyright basics (https://go.osu.edu/copyrightbasics), fair use (https://go.osu.edu/fairuse), or how to ask a copyright owner for permission to use a work (https://go.osu.edu/permission), we have a page for that. In addition to the great copyright education we provide, our website can also help you find materials in the public domain or licensed through Creative Commons, so copyright can become the solution to your problem, instead of the other way around! If you visit https://go.osu.edu/find-open-materials, you’ll discover a curated list of sites where you can search for public domain and openly licensed works.
Beyond The Ohio State University
While Scarlet & Grey looks great on everyone, there are resources beyond OSU that will give you a thorough, and accurate, copyright education. If you’re looking for a guided journey through copyright, Copyright for Educators & Librarians is a Coursera Course put together by Duke University, Emory University, and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The focus is on folks working in all levels of education and in libraries, but it is also a great general introduction to copyright law for anyone new to the topic.
If you enjoy absorbing information through text, the Stanford University Libraries have a great Copyright Overview, covering topics from Copyright Basics to performing Copyright Research. This is a very thorough resource, and as such it is a bit dense. It may be helpful to review some of the other resources presented first and then move on to this guide once you have a good base of copyright knowledge to work with.
Beyond the Basics
After establishing your copyright base, where can you go to build up additional knowledge? This blog (Copyright Corner – https://library.osu.edu/site/copyright/) is one resource you can use to learn about current topics and issues in copyright law. Our posts cover everything from the historical underpinnings of modern copyright myths to the most recent articles and legal decisions on pressing copyright issues.
Beyond the Copyright Corner, there is a wonderful MOOC offered by Harvard called CopyrightX. There is an application process for this course, and you must be at least 13 years old to attend, but there is no charge if you are accepted to the program. The course gives you an in-depth copyright education created by the same Professor – William Fisher – who teaches copyright at Harvard Law School.
There are also numerous blogs that provide excellent in-depth coverage of copyright issues. The Creative Commons Blog touches on copyright issues through the lens of open licensing. Another good source is Excess Copyright, a blog focusing on Canadian and international intellectual property (IP) law. Posts relating to copyright are frequent, unlike some other general IP blogs that focus more on patent and trademark law.
The Best Resource of All
Above and beyond written resources, videos, or even guided courses, the number one way to get a thorough, accurate, and compelling copyright education is to ask an expert. My colleagues at Copyright Services were invaluable in giving me a copyright foundation when I first started. Our office is not alone in taking calls from the public, so check with your local institute of higher education and see if they have a Copyright or Scholarly Communications office. The experts there may be able to help you with your questions and dispel any copyright myths you may have.
Be a Copyright Advocate
After putting in the work and giving yourself a solid copyright education, be sure to speak up when you hear copyright myths being thrown around as fact. Educating colleagues, friends, and family on copyright issues is the best possible way to demystify copyright law and allow everyone to see how helpful it can be.
What’s your favorite copyright resource? Have you ever spoken up on behalf of copyright? Share your resources and experiences with us in the comments!
By Marley C. Nelson, Rights Management Specialist, Copyright Resources Center, The Ohio State University Libraries