Interview with the Editors: Ferullo and Buttler on Copyright Best Practices

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

October 10, 2023

Special libraries and all other libraries must adhere to the same copyright laws. Donna L. Ferullo and Dwayne K. Buttler edited Copyright: Best Practices for Academic Libraries that will be available this fall from Rowman & Littlefield. 

This book includes chapters on fair use, music, images, data mining, and many other topics relevant to special libraries in addition to academic ones. My interview with the editors is below. 

1. Please introduce yourselves to our readers.

Dwayne serves as the first Evelyn J. Schneider Endowed Chair for Scholarly Communication at the University of Louisville and is a Professor in University Libraries. Most of his teaching, work, and writing concentrate on copyright, licensing, analog and digital technology and related legal and policy concerns arising in teaching, learning, and scholarly communication. Donna is a Professor and the Director of the University Copyright Office at Purdue University.  Her role is to advise the University and educate the Purdue community on copyright issues. 

2. Briefly summarize Copyright: Best Practices for Academic Libraries.

Copyright has played a central role in the work of libraries for decades and governs many facets of library practices and expectations. The rapid growth of digital technologies since the 1980s has further reinforced the need for librarians and others to learn more about copyright in order to best serve patrons and make reasonable decisions about the use of copyrighted materials—which under current law equals nearly all materials, including books, print, photographs, sound recordings, video, websites, and more. With automatic protection of eligible works as a default, the Copyright Act of 1976 produced numerous thorny issues involving library collections, and frankly, daily life in an information society. Best Practices for Academic Libraries includes teachings and insights from the most well-known and experienced practitioners working in US libraries today. The cadre of specialists is still small in many ways but growing exponentially in the library world and represents a wealth of practical experience focusing specifically on libraries and library practices.

3. Why did you decide to produce this book?

As two of the earliest focused practitioners in academic libraries, we have spent many years sorting through the deluge of copyright issues unleashed beginning in the latter 1990’s, resulting from the advent of the World-Wide-Web, the move to electronic serials (aka databases) and the increasing use of contract law and licensing to frame the legal relationship between library and vendor. These thorny questions felt ripe for a book of multiple perspectives from authors with a common goal of educating a community of librarians both new and experienced in library philosophy and practice in copyright.

4. Why is understanding copyright important for all librarians?

That question requires a two-part answer. Copyright is a federal law and implicates legal risk and mitigating that risk are both factors of compliance and insurability from an institutional perspective. More importantly, copyright law also requires assuming some degree of legal risk and applying the exceptions to copyright infringement carefully developed in copyright law. This approach best serves the fundamental constitutional purpose of “promoting the progress of science useful arts,” with science meaning copyright and useful arts patent law in the original iteration of 1790. The key role of libraries is to make knowledge available through public domain and copyrightable works to enrich society and build literacy without unduly negating incentives to produce those works, many of which are central to the work of academia and research and increasingly open access in some disciplines. The role of copyright is to incentivize the creation of knowledge for enlightenment and education regardless of the inevitable rigid application of the law by rights holders. Striking a balance between risk and providing resources to a range of library patrons of various origins and values is a core goal of the book.

5. In what ways do best practices for copyright differ between types of libraries?

Copyright theory and practice, including the interpretation of the federal statute, apply equally across all communities in practice. However, the statute also specifically  recognizes the values of libraries and encourages the creation of them by drawing distinctions between libraries and other institutions in key places such a Section 108 concentrating specifically on the work of libraries. While Section 108 doesn’t answer every question for libraries and perhaps needs to be modernized, that provision aligns nicely with the fair use doctrine as articulated in Section 107 to provide opportunities for libraries to serve patrons, albeit not always adequately or meaningfully consistent with presumed constitutional foundation.

6. What are two practical things you hope all readers take away?

One sort of practical thing is that copyright is important to libraries and that understanding copyright is central to making the law better for libraries, scholars, educators, and the academic community. The second is that in order to best serve their communities, every librarian can play a role in ensuring that their community makes viable uses of copyright exceptions.

7. Is there anything else you would like to share?

Working with copyright is sometimes exhausting and at others exhilarating in solving problems for patrons and other constituencies. Like many disciplines, copyright is esoteric in many ways and weighted by the use of legal jargon like most law. On the other hand, the embedded principles and policy justifications often drive solutions that only require reasoned approaches and some basic knowledge in order to reveal reasonable answers. The book strives to provide a foundation for further development and reasonable approaches related to the facts at hand and the copyright implications.

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Dr. Lauren Hays is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent presenter and interviewer on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Please read Lauren’s other posts relevant to special librarians. Take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all types, sizes and budgets.

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