I’m very proud that our University Libraries provide support for thousands of classes every year. Our course reserves service gives access to expensive textbooks and other resources.We also support you, our faculty, with electronic course packs. We save you time by posting readings in Blackboard so that you don’t have to find or scan the resources yourselves. At the library, we also pay close attention to copyright. We frequently pay licensing fees for these materials. However, we also rely on an important exception in the copyright law called fair use.
Fair use is a provision in the copyright law that acts as a safety valve. It allows you to sometimes use copyrighted works without permission from the copyright owner when your need to use the work is more important than the need of the owner to control the work. Copyright ownership varies, but for academic works, the owner is often the publisher.
If copyright owners could control every aspect of their copyrighted works, then we would not have freedom of the press or freedom of speech. Academics would also be profoundly affected. You would be unable to quote from an author’s works in conference presentations or writings, use examples from author’s works to illustrate mistakes or flaws in their research, or post copyrighted materials online for teaching without permission. Fair use can often allow these things. Most of us take this right for granted.
So what’s a faculty member to do? Isn’t it enough for you to understand geophysics of the Andes or phenotypic plasticity? The library is here to help with course reserves, classes and guides. But the bottom line is that it’s important to understand copyright because these are the laws that control the access and use of your work, and your work matters.
Happy Fair Use Week, USC! Go exercise your rights.
-Contributed by Tucker Taylor