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University InterestsUniversity Interests

Risk management

Universities manage risks every day because life entails taking chances. We can't eliminate all risk. We have to live with a certain level of risk and we know it. So it is with copyright. Look at your budget to see how high a priority copyright risk management is for your institution. Actually, the chances are, it's not even in the budget. At least not as a line item. The costs of copyright risk management are hidden and scattered all around your budget. Your license with Microsoft for access to the Office suite for your students, faculty and staff is copyright risk management. Your staff and technical infrastructure for responding to the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices of infringing works found somewhere on your network (probably on a student's computer connected to the residential network) are also risk management. Your licenses to databases of art history and architecture images are risk management. Your legal review of software and database contracts to be sure that they don't create liability for your institution for the infringements of those who use or access the software or database content, that's risk management. Your staff and technical infrastructure for assessing which of your faculty's thousands of course readings require permission each semester, and which are licensed or are fair use, and getting and paying for needed permissions, is risk management. All of this is expensive, and I've just scratched the surface. According to the RIAA, the Motion Picture Association of American (MPAA), and the Association of American Publishers (AAP), we're not doing enough to protect their interests. All of them are actively pursuing their customers, our students, but they are also pursuing universities and Congress, to get us to do more.

Until they figure out how to replace the revenues they are losing or will lose as consumers turn away from products they no longer desire, these industries are going to continue to pressure us to help them forestall the inevitable. If you have someone on your campus who is responsible for dealing with these issues, you're fortunate. Most campuses do not. Thankfully, there are many resources available on the Web to help those just starting out. I offer some here on the Crash Course (the first two listed below), and there are additional resources I can recommend from others' Websites:

Implementing a comprehensive copyright policy. This Crash Course page describes an approach I have recommended for years -- that we provide guidance about fair use, license frequently used resources comprehensively (database access), and make it easy to get permission when necessary, among other steps.

Access to digital course materials. This Crash Course page focuses on the steps needed to create a truly integrated course materials delivery system, one that enables institutional payment when permission is required by law, but that also takes full advantage of the library's digital database resources, materials available freely on the public Web, and fair use.

Educause Connect has materials on many copyright issues, including infringement and p2p file sharing.

Catholic University provides a page about legal alternatives to illegal file sharing.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) reports periodic studies on the music industry's efforts to enforce its rights, the toll this sometimes takes on individuals who are sued, as well as the question of whether the results obtained are worth the cost, and makes recommendations regarding approaches other than litigation.

The best copyright risk management strategy is to hire someone whose job it is to set policy on this issue with the authority to bring the need for implementation action to the table at budget time. There is no way to get around the fact that this particular risk costs a lot to manage it well.



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The Copyright Crash Course © 2001, 2007 Georgia K. Harper