Copyright Essentials for Libraries, Archives, and Cultural Institutions

A working knowledge of copyright is crucial for modern library staff. As librarians, our work increasingly encompasses copyright-intensive programs and projects. In the age of AI, we are confronted with crucial questions about topics like digitization, public domain, fair use, e-media, scholarly publishing, streaming, and more.

Copyright Essentials for Libraries, Archives, and Cultural Institutions trains learners in an immersive-style program emphasizing practical copyright law. The course empowers learners with a grounding in well-established library law and policy that will help reduce copyright risk at their institutions and serve to create an informed, empowered community for the library and their patrons.

With these challenges, libraries and cultural institutions also have an opportunity to harness the powers given to staff through the federal copyright statute. Under the law, libraries represent the carefully crafted balance in copyright: serving both the "economic" and "access" purposes of copyright. Libraries are, therefore, a part of the economic engine that underlies copyright law’s creator rights through purchase of materials while also satisfying copyright’s Constitutional purpose in "promoting the Progress of Science and the Useful Arts" through knowledge distribution.

After participating in this course, learners will be able to:

  • Explain the basics of copyright law, with a focus on library roles in copyright
  • Evaluate a work as copyrightable or unprotectable 
  • Determine if a proposed use falls under fair use 
  • Empower a library's use of the special library and archive exceptions in copyright
  • Examine if a work is under copyright or in the public domain

Kyle K. Courtney is a lawyer and librarian serving as the Director of Copyright and Information Policy for Harvard Library. His award-winning “Copyright First Responders” initiative is in its tenth year and has spread beyond Harvard to reach libraries, archives, museums, and cultural institutions across the U.S. He is a published author and nationally recognized speaker on the topics of copyright, libraries, and the law. He has a fellowship at NYU Law’s Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy, is a member of the U.S. Supreme Court Bar, an Advisor to the American Law Institute’s project on the Restatement of Copyright, and co-founder and Board Chair of Library Futures and the eBook Study Group. His writing on copyright has appeared in Politico, The Hill, Library Journal, American Libraries, and other publications. He holds a J.D. with distinction in Intellectual Property Law and an MSLIS.

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