Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals: From the Columns of Against the Grain

Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals: From the Columns of Against the Grain

by Laura N. Gasaway

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Copyright law is a critical issue for authors, librarians, publishers, and information vendors. It is also a complex area, with many shades of gray. Librarians continually need to seek answers to questions ranging from the reproduction of copyrighted works for library users, through the performance of audiovisual works, to the digitization and display of protected


Copyright law is a critical issue for authors, librarians, publishers, and information vendors. It is also a complex area, with many shades of gray. Librarians continually need to seek answers to questions ranging from the reproduction of copyrighted works for library users, through the performance of audiovisual works, to the digitization and display of protected works on library websites. This book presents updated versions of the authors copyright columns published in "Against the Grain," the leading journal in acquisitions librarianship since the late 1990s. It is the first volume in the series "Charleston Insights in Library, Archival, and Information Sciences." The aim of the "Charleston Insights" series is to focus on important topics in library and information science, presenting the issues in a relatively jargon-free way that is accessible to all types of information professionals, including librarians, publishers, and vendors, and this goal shapes the pragmatic and accessible tone of the book. The volume is presented in question-and-answer format. The questions are real, submitted by librarians, educators, and other information professionals who have attended the authors copyright law workshops and presentations or submitted them to her by e-mail or telephone. The author has selected the questions and answers that have general applicability. She has then arranged them into logical chapters, each prefaced by a short introduction to the topic. Because it is written in an accessible and clear style, readers may want to review the entire work or they can just access particular chapters or even specific questions as they need them. The volume includes an index to facilitate reference use.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Lolly Gasaway is an expert in the field of copyright law and practice and is widely known for her ability to explain the law in a way that is understandable to all. This book, with its 336 questions and Lolly’s accurate, comprehensive, and understandable answers, should be on every information professional’s desk.”
--Marybeth Peters, Register of Copyrights, 1994–2010

"Lolly Gasaway is a pioneer in the field of copyright education for information professionals. Both her commitment to the profession and her extensive knowledge are reflected in this comprehensive and detailed book, which addresses a wide range of topics that will enable the reader to understand the practical application of copyright. Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals is an invaluable resource, and I highly recommend it to anyone, from beginner to expert, who grapples with understanding and applying the complex law of copyright."
--Donna L. Ferullo, Director, University Copyright Office, Purdue University

"Lolly Gasaway’s compilation of copyright questions and answers for information professionals is a unique and needed resource. Copyright questions abound, and information professionals often have similar, recurring questions. However, finding a single, organized resource that covers a variety of complex scenarios is difficult at best. Lolly’s very practical book solves this problem and will likely become a ‘go to’ reference book for many years. Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals supports and enhances copyright literacy and fluency for information professionals."
--Kimberly M. Bonner, Executive Director, Center for Intellectual Property, University of Maryland University College

"Few professionals can rival the depth of experience and seasoned perspective that Lolly Gasaway brings to the challenge of understanding copyright for libraries. Her Q&A style will inform, provoke, and at times even entertain readers who need to grasp the law’s practical implications."
--Kenneth D. Crews, Director of the Copyright Advisory Office, Columbia University Libraries, and faculty member in the Columbia Law School

"Lolly Gasaway’s pioneering columns on copyright and education provide an unparalleled view of the evolution of copyright in the late twentieth century and trace the growing influence of technology on that law through her always insightful and helpful responses to reader questions. The questions are invariably complex, but Lolly’s answers are inevitably accessible to all, not just copyright practitioners. This book provides a solid foundation for understanding the increasingly complex social conversations about copyright law in the twenty-first century."
--Dwayne K. Buttler, Evelyn J. Schneider Endowed Chair for Scholarly Communication, University of Louisville

"What a gift our copyright guru has given us in this treasure house, which contains hundreds of practical, complicated, and timely copyright scenarios. No longer must you face those twisted conundrums alone, with a colleague like Lolly an arm’s length away with exactly what you need, exactly when you need it. If you have anything to do with copyright on your campus and you won’t snap up this book, you need to get a new day job."
--Peggy E. Hoon, Scholarly Communications Librarian, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

"Librarians and other information professionals will appreciate Gasaway's ability to make the complex and often bewildering copyright environment relatively straightforward and uncomplicated. Copyright Questions and Anwers for Information Professionals deserves a place on the desk of any librarian dealing with copyright issues, especially those at risk-averse institutions."
--Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, Volume 1, Issue 3 (2013)

American Association of Law Libraries.

February 06, 2013 at 3:17 PM   TOPICS: book reviews, copyright law, libraries

Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals, by Laura N. Gasaway. Purdue University Press, 2013, 284 pages. Paperback, $24.95

You may be thinking, “My library already owns half-a-dozen books on copyright issues in libraries. Do we really need another?” Absolutely. Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals should be part of all academic law library reference collections for those specific questions for which you need a quick answer. It is accessible to all readers, regardless of whether or not one has any copyright law knowledge. Similar books tend toward in-depth summaries and explanations of copyright law that may still leave the reader at a loss as to how to address specific questions. Professor Gasaway’s book is quite the opposite, clearly and succinctly providing just enough explanation to enable the librarian to make an informed decision and move on.

The book is comprised of questions and answers compiled from Professor Gasaway’s column in the journal Against the Grain. Each chapter begins with a few paragraphs summarizing the legal issues addressed therein (e.g., library reserves, movies and music, photos, archives), then presents 25–30 copyright-related questions and answers. Because the questions are genuine rather than hypotheticals conceived of by the author, the scenarios presented will undoubtedly sound familiar. Question 148 in the book, for example, parallels a recent inquiry I had at the reference desk: “Two faculty members at the university teach film courses. They run evening showings of the films, followed by discussions, which are widely advertised to the public. Although this provides an opportunity for students to see the films, many people from the general public also attend. No public performance rights are obtained because the faculty members claim that the performances are a fair use. They use copies of the DVDs from the library’s collection for the performances, and many are recently released films. Should the university be concerned about liability for copyright infringement?” Professor Gasaway’s answer is decisive: “Absolutely!” While she does give a brief explanation as to why this is the case (including what factors might change her answer), the reader is left with a definitive answer regarding whether someone in the university should obtain public performance rights for the films or the films should no longer be shown to the public at large. Professor Gasaway’s style throughout the book is the same—in no case are you left to parse out various applications of the law. Instead, the reader’s task is simply to assess whether his or her facts are more or less like those presented in the book.

Unfortunately, this raises one of the drawbacks of the book. If the question hasn’t been raised by Against the Grain readers, Professor Gasaway hasn’t addressed it. Thus, if you do not think your fact pattern sufficiently matches any scenarios presented in the book, you may need to turn to a book with more in-depth copyright analysis, such as The Librarian’s Copyright Companion.

Second, the book is not one to which you’d turn to develop copyright policies for your library because it does not offer a particularly nuanced assessment of issues such as liability and risk. For example, in the scenario described above (faculty showing films acquired by the library), no guidance is offered concerning whether the library or faculty member would also be subject to liability. If the librarian responsible for setting copyright policies for the library has a more comprehensive understanding of the actual risk to the library in these circumstances, he or she could set library copyright policies accordingly. For example, library policy may explicitly state no faculty can borrow films that may be shown to the public—or may simply continue to loan films to all faculty members without inquiring further. For better or worse, the librarian in this situation would still need to turn to university legal counsel and other copyright texts for guidance in this area.

Despite the fact that Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals may not address the big, deep copyright issues that arise in your library, the breadth of information covered makes this book worthwhile. Sometimes you just want a “yes” or “no” answer to the question, “Can we do X in the library?”

Ingrid Mattson is a Reference Librarian at Moritz Law Library, Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University.

Library Journal
Gasaway (Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Sch. of Law) uses here many of the questions she was asked through her "Copyright Questions and Answers" column at The book begins with a basic primer on copyright. Then each topical chapter (e.g., Licensing, Performance and Displays, Digitization, etc.) presents a short introduction to the issues involved, followed by related questions and answers. The author includes reference to the applicable section of the copyright law as well as to other laws dealing with the subject. All in all, there are answers to well over 300 questions concerning copyright, fair use, and related issues. The appendix provides a chart to assist in knowing when a book passes into public domain. This is a reference book, enabling the reader to locate the broad category by browsing the table of contents or using the index to narrow in on a particular subject or question. VERDICT A useful, quick reference tool for librarians, whether novice or experienced. While there are lots of books on issues of copyright, this one is accessible and focused in its help. Recommended.—William Garrett, Troy Univ. Lib., AL

Product Details

Purdue University Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Laura “Lolly” Gasaway joined the faculty of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law in 1985 as director of the law library and professor of law. In 2006 she became associate dean for academic affairs and served in this position until 2010 when she became a full-time law teacher and was named the Paul B. Eaton Distinguished Professor of Law. Gasaway was law library director at the University of Oklahoma from 1975-1984 and at the University of Houston from 1973-1975. She is a past president of the American Association of Law Libraries. Gasaway coauthored Librarians and Copyright: A Guide to Copyright (1994); edited Growing Pains: Adapting Copyright for Education, Libraries, and Society (1997); and Law Librarianship: Historical Perspectives (1996). She co-chaired the Section 108 Study Group for the United States Copyright Office from 2005-2008 and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Copyright Clearance Center.

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