Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Copyrights, Fair Use, and Attribution

From the beginning of this project, I've had two to-dos on my list:

1. Obtain permission to publish photographic images of Suellen Glashausser's works both in the finding aid and in Michael's journal. This will be done by sending a letter with a copyright permission form to Ms. Glashausser's widower. We will need the signed form prior to publishing the images.

2. Develop attribution information (and possibly obtain copyrights permission, if not within fair use) for the artist's statements that accompany some of the descriptions of the works.

Yesterday morning, while folding invitations for the upcoming book arts symposium, Michael and I discussed those to-dos as well as a few others. Point 2 was of particular interest because we differed in our opinions on how to handle the matter.

For the majority of this semester (the last 6 weeks), the readings for my two online classes have included content on copyright law because it figures very heavily in digital collections as well as online interfaces. The references below include class readings for the WISE course Creating and Managing Digital Assets as well as results of other searching I've done on the topic myself. While I am not an expert in this field, the information was fresh in my mind as we discussed the matter.

Michael and I also discussed fair use as it would apply to the quotes. I agreed that the quotes could fall under fair use because they were one or two sentence snippets of the original works and would be used solely for scholarly information. However, the attribution information for each of the statements was still an issue over which we disagreed.

My assertion was that each of the statements should have its own citation (whether in a references section or as a footnote). Michael argued that we could identify the quotes with an umbrella statement saying that the artists words originated in a variety of documents, without specifically naming the documents or their dates of publication.

After much consideration, Michael pulled the quotes from the descriptions, although we did save a copy of the document with the quotes just in case it was decided that we would research the origins of the statements from the archives. It would most likely require some intense detective work, which is not within the scope of this Independent Study. However, if a student wished to take on the effort and contribute the information later, I am sure that it would add a nice dimension to the finding aids and eventual digitized collection.

I think that if I had not been so steeped in my recent (and continuing) readings of copyright law with regard to digital collections, I probably wouldn't have stood my ground as solidly. However, on this point, it is clear that if a user who had been involved in producing one of the original documents were to discover a quote that had not been properly cited in our finding aid or Michael's journal, he/she could potentially sue the university for violation of copyright if the attribution issue were not resolved. Regrettably, there are case studies of this kind of thing happening.

A very important lesson in all this is that collegial discussion of differing opinions is key. I'm glad that we work in an atmosphere where we can honor each others' thoughts and knowledge on subjects. It is the responsibility of researchers and students to be able disagree without becoming disagreeable. A lively debate is an important part of learning for everyone. We all gain by the experience.

Old Business

Last week, Stew left the following note:

V. nice, thorough job in overviewing digitized collections of artists' books. You note that few are done "well." Is there one that is recognized as "best" or is otherwise well noted that you could use as a benchmark? What are its characteristics that could be emulated? Or pick and choose from several, for example, the intro. page from the Queensland site. This is out of my domain, but I visited several and think they all might have some copy-able (??) characteristics.

It looks like the finding aids work is gaining momentum, and that aspect will be interesting to follow.

Regarding your reference list, do any of the ones you listed have authors? Groups responsible for the intellectual content.

Overall a very inclusive, readable and informative report. Thanks!

To address Stew's questions/comments (in order of appearance):

1. I have not yet found a digitized collection of artists' books recognized as "the best" and we have not yet identified one to use as a benchmark. Part of the reason is that the scope of the project is now limited to the finding aid and Michael's journal rather than a true digitized collection of artists' books. (See the comment below about the grant discussion.)

2. I also believe that there are items on each of the sites that are worthy of imitation -- especially the landing page of the Queensland site.

3. We are still working out the details on the finding aid, and will most likely nail down how to move forward on that this week (we'll need to because we're already pretty far into the semester and I need to start coding).

4. Regarding the reference lists, I don't have a lot of references with actual authors rather than institutions. However, you will be happy to discover that this week's list includes quite a few authors.

Otherwise, I suggested to Michael that we look into getting a grant for a full digitization of the artists' books collection for the following reasons:

1. It would expand the scholarly knowledge of artists' books.
2. The project requires significant funding not currently available to the libraries (for a professional photographer, for a full-time person to create the code for the metadata and enter the metadata and digital images into the database, etc.)
3. It would add prestige to the libraries if the collection proved to become the benchmark needed for this type of object digitization within libraries (or at least artists' books).

I'm not sure if the grant will be considered since the library is already making cuts that are quite painful (staff, etc.). However, it was worth thinking about and is now documented for future students to consider in their efforts.


Cornell University Copyright Information Center. (n.d.). Retrieved October 7, 2009, from

Hughes, L. (2008). Digitizing Collections. Digital Futures Series (p. 327). London: Facet Publishing.  

Minow, M. (n.d.). Library Digitization Projects and Copyright. Retrieved October 7, 2009, from

Samuels, E. (n.d.). The Illustrated Story of Copyright. Retrieved October 7, 2009, from

Smith Levine, M. (2000). Overview of Copyright Issues. In Handbook for Digital Projects: A Management Tool for Preservation and Access (First., pp. 74-92). Andover, Mass.: Northeast Document Conservation Center.  

U.S. Copyright Office - Law and Policy. (n.d.). Retrieved October 7, 2009, from

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