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KnowYourCopyrights.org Helps Library Advocates Assert Rights in Digital Era

screen shot of KnowYourCopyrights.orgToday the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) launched KnowYourCopyrights.org, a revamped resource to support library leaders, practitioners, and advocates in proactively asserting library rights in the digital era. Libraries, as well as the research, teaching, and learning activities that they support, enjoy special rights in US law, starting with the constitutional purpose of copyright: to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. Core to these rights is fair use, a flexible doctrine that allows the use of copyrighted works without permission from the rightsholder under certain circumstances. In the current era of digital teaching, lending, and loaning, research libraries may rely on fair use to continue to exercise these fundamental rights.

In a previous iteration, ARL created KnowYourCopyrights.org as an author-facing resource to educate scholars about the importance of retaining rights to their works in order to better enable them, along with research institutions and libraries, to provide equitable access to increasingly expensive and paywalled research. In its current refresh, the website invites a broader audience to consider how the rights afforded to libraries under the US Copyright Act can be asserted to advance equitable digital access to information.

The new website also hosts a series of new papers taking an in-depth look at questions of digital rights that have not been settled by courts:

  • Copyrights and Contracts: Issues and Strategies is a discussion draft delineating problems that research libraries face when contract terms prohibit or limit these rights, and proposing a series of advocacy strategies.
  • Controlled Digital Lending describes how research libraries’ may rely on the fair use analysis laid out in the controlled digital lending white paper.
  • Copyright and Streaming Media in the US Context is a forthcoming issue brief authored jointly with Ithaka S+R on policy considerations and advocacy opportunities around using streaming content in teaching, learning, and research.

Finally, KnowYourCopyrights.org includes Modern Interlibrary Loan Practices: Moving beyond the CONTU Guidelines, a white paper meant to cut through outdated and inaccurate “rules of thumb,” and to inform library practice and advocacy around interlibrary lending, licensing, and journal subscriptions.

This project began in 2020, when ARL’s Advocacy and Public Policy Committee prioritized the ability to perform the functions of research and learning support, even with limited access to physical spaces and materials. Throughout the past two years, ARL members and staff have hosted conversations and engaged in initiatives that informed and honed our position on key digital-rights issues, such as contract preemption and controlled digital lending.

The KnowYourCopyrights.org project team is Darcée Olson, Judy Ruttenberg, and Katherine Klosek, with consultation by Jonathan Band. The project team would like to thank Toby Graham, Claire Stewart, and the ARL Advocacy and Public Policy Committee. ARL thanks the authors of the Modern Interlibrary Loan Practices and Copyright and Streaming Media papers for their contributions. For further information, please contact Katherine Klosek, director of Information Policy at ARL.


About the Association of Research Libraries

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of research libraries in Canada and the US whose vision is to create a trusted, equitable, and inclusive research and learning ecosystem and prepare library leaders to advance this work in strategic partnership with member libraries and other organizations worldwide. ARL’s mission is to empower and advocate for research libraries and archives to shape, influence, and implement institutional, national, and international policy. ARL develops the next generation of leaders and enables strategic cooperation among partner institutions to benefit scholarship and society. ARL is on the web at ARL.org.