‘Lowering barriers’ for researchers, UC Berkeley Library adopts broader permissions policy

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Update 6/6/2019: This article has been updated to include additional information from library news writer Tor Haugan.

Scholars can now republish public domain materials and works that fall under fair use from UC Berkeley Library collections without permission from the library under a new policy implemented in April, according to an email from Tor Haugan, a news writer for the library.

The policy was reformulated in an effort to facilitate the research process for scholars. Previously, materials were guarded by various guidelines, including permissions and fees that varied across the UC Berkeley Library, according to a UC Berkeley Library News article. The UC Berkeley Library used to require approval or even charge for the reuse of certain library materials, but the new policy, aligning with federal fair use rights and public domain guidelines, eases the process that researchers undergo to use this information in their own published work, according to Haugan.    

“The previous policy required more documentation of use, and sometimes a fee, to be provided by researchers,” said Michael Lange, a copyright and information policy specialist for the library, in Haugan’s email. “Staff also had to review researchers’ requests to publish items from (the) Library collection, regardless of the copyright status of the original material.”  

According to the U.S. Copyright Office website, fair use is “a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances.” Fair use permits the usage of copyrighted materials in cases such as news reporting, education and research.

According to the website, the Copyright Act takes into account four factors in deciding whether work falls under fair use. These include whether an item is intended for nonprofit or commercial use, whether a source is creative or factual, the “amount and substantiality of the portion use in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole” and the ”effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.”

Moving forward, the only cases in which researchers will need permission to reuse materials from the UC Berkeley Library are when the researchers’ planned uses go beyond fair use. If faire use will be exceeded, the researchers should request permission from the copyright holder, according to Haugan.

“Researchers have always had a variety of required responsibilities before reusing content in their own project,” said Lange. “The new policy just makes it much more clear to them what they are, while substantially lowering barriers for them.”

The overarching goal of this change is to encourage easier access to the library’s many works without the difficulty of navigating separate, confusing policies and obstacles that hinder the research process, according to the article.

“The Library wanted to align with the broader movement in libraries, archives, and museums to provide more open access to stewarded collection materials, and to support the Library’s strategic directions to increase access to research resources,” said Mary Elings, assistant director and head of technical Services at Bancroft Library, in Haugan’s email.

Contact Sasha Langholz at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LangholzSasha‏.

A previous version of this article attributed a quote to Tor Haugan. In fact the quote was from Michael Lange.

A previous version of this article stated that the policy change took place within campus libraries. In fact, it took place in the UC Berkeley Library.