Copyright in the Age of Digital Reproduction

* Editorial Note about Monkey Selfie – PIC BY A WILD MONKEY / DAVID SLATER / CATERS NEWS – (PICTURED: One of the photos that the monkey took with Davids camera. 1 of 2: This photo was the original photo the monkey took) – The photographer behind the famous monkey selfie picture is threatening to take legal action against Wikimedia after they refused to remove his picture because ‘the monkey took it’. David Slater, from Coleford, Gloucestershire, was taking photos of macaques on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in 2011 when the animals began to investigate his equipment. A black crested macaque appeared to be checking out its appearance in the lens and it wasn’t long before it hijacked the camera and began snapping away. Learn more at

As a recent addition to the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship, I am relatively new to the discussions surrounding copyright that occur in libraries. My academic background is in medieval and early modern literature, so I have not had to think terribly hard about fair use; all of the works I write about are in the public domain. I once contemplated using an image from Early English Books Online in my thesis, but I took one look at the requirements for obtaining permission, cried, and continued writing my thesis without images.

So as I was thrown into the midst of the FSU community, which engages in vibrant conversations about copyright in higher education, I had the opportunity to learn about the impact that copyright law has on scholarship and on the university as a whole. I was also fortunate enough to arrive just after several key decisions surrounding copyright and fair use in the University. The Google Books case (Authors Guild v. Google), delivered in October of this year, maintained that digitization for the purpose of preservation and indexing constitutes fair use. The HathiTrust case demonstrates the ways in which fair use can be used to render materials more accessible to disabled persons. The service, which allows “users who are certified as having print disabilities to access the full text of public domain and in copyright volumes in HathiTrust,” was deemed not to violate copyright, even in cases where the works were not yet in the public domain. The Georgia State University case, while perhaps a more tempered victory, has shored up the university’s and library’s right to provide materials to students. The court determined that Georgia State’s use of e-reserves constituted fair use 95% of the time. However, the Judge also decided that electronic reserves could only reprint 10% or less of the published work to constitute fair use.

However, there is still much to be discussed in the light of these recent events. In order to further explore the implications of these decisions and other copyright-related topics, Florida State University Libraries will be hosting an Institute on Copyright in Higher Education. This one-day event will bring together librarians and scholars with different disciplinary backgrounds including leading copyright experts from Harvard University and the University of Florida. The event is also particularly well-suited for those who (like me) are looking to expand their understanding of library’s and university’s relation to copyright, including the contributions of different offices and departments within institutions of higher learning, as well as best practices to employ in use-case scenarios that students, faculty, and librarians encounter in their everyday work. The Institute will be held on February 26th in the Turnbull Conference Center. For more information and for a link to register for this event, see our event page.

Further Reading and Viewing

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Sarah Stanley

Assistant Digital Scholarship Coordinator at FSU Libraries. Text Encoding nerd.

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