VRA Bulletin

Vol. 50, Iss. 2 Fall/Winter

December 2023, Article 6


Review of Copyright: Best Practices for Academic Libraries


John Hosford

Alfred University, hosford@alfred.edu



Copyright: Best Practices for Academic Libraries provides valuable advice for librarians to navigate the complex world of copyright law in their profession. The book consists of twenty chapters, each written by experts, focusing on academic libraries and enhancing copyright literacy. One of the book's aims is to enable readers to become proficient in understanding the intricacies of copyright and take an active part in the ongoing conversations.



Book review, copyright, intellectual property rights, IPR, fair use, education, academic libraries, library copyright policies, interlibrary loan, images, legal, law, court cases.


Author Bio

John Hosford is the art librarian at Scholes Library at Alfred University and a graduate of the Information and Library Science program at the University at Buffalo. He started his career as a visual resource curator and digital projects librarian at Scholes Library. As art librarian, he curates the library exhibition space: the Scholes Project Room.




Editors Donna L. Ferullo and Dwayne K. Buttler set the stage for the book Copyright: Best Practices for Academic Libraries (Rowan & Littlefield, 2023) in its preface by emphasizing its aim to guide librarians through the complex world of copyright law in their profession and daily work. Recognizing that copyright law can often be confusing and occasionally overwhelming, the book seeks to encourage librarians to clarify and better understand the various copyright laws and amendments, which are complex and nuanced. Each of the twenty chapters in this book, authored by experts in their respective fields, focuses on academic libraries and aims to enhance the reader’s copyright literacy. The editors hope this knowledge will empower information professionals – particularly those who lack access to copyright experts in their institution – to become effective copyright managers and advocates.


In the first five chapters of this book, the editors and contributors clarify copyright law and examine how torts and contracts relate to the broader United States Constitution as well as discuss issues related to the public domain and the four fair use factors. These chapters provide a clear foundation for understanding the subsequent chapters on copyright and the librarian’s role in the specific contexts of each chapter.


In each of the fifteen subsequent chapters, the authors present background information, relevant case law, and suggested strategies for librarians and staff members. Topics covered include remote learning, interlibrary loan, e-reserves, archives, audiovisual works, images, music, software, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In addition, it covers important trending topics such as controlled digital lending, open access, and text and data mining. The final chapters are dedicated to international copyright considerations and establishing copyright services.


In each chapter, the contributing authors explain the complexities of copyright law and provide applications and real-life examples of best practices. This work prepares librarians for their roles and responsibilities in copyright management and provides them with the tools to manage copyright effectively. It also encourages readers to advocate proactively for ethical usage and information dissemination within their academic communities.


One real benefit of the book is the review of judicial decisions in many of the chapters. Several chapters of the book, including those on fair use and interlibrary loan, provide insight into the outcomes of recent court cases that have shed legal light on relevant areas of copyright law. Because court cases are crucial to a better understanding of copyright law and its subsequent amendments, their inclusion is critical to understanding the legal changes that are occurring. The digital age has changed the way librarians approach and manage copyright and, as the editors state, these changes will affect every aspect of academic libraries. The fast-paced development of technology and its integration with libraries has increased the need to stay current with the outcomes of copyright litigation. While there have been many amendments to the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, these amendments have not kept pace with the times.


Although there are books specifically relating to image use, this book will be beneficial to those working in visual resources due to its broad scope and systematic approach to the various dimensions of copyright in the library setting. At the same time, there is a chapter specifically dedicated to image utilization and intellectual property rights. Topics included are the originality requirement, works made for hire, government works, archives, fair use, right of publicity, invasion of privacy, and cultural appropriation.


We have lived in the information age for more than half a century, during which access to knowledge and creative content has expanded and evolved with technological advancements. Recognizing the critical role librarians play, the editors in the concluding chapter express their optimism concerning librarians’ capacity to actively contribute to creating a better understanding of copyright law within academia, emphasizing that librarians should “participate in and shape the conversation in libraries and elsewhere.” Copyright: Best Practices for Academic Libraries is an essential reference tool for those library professionals who desire a strong understanding of the complexities of copyright law as it relates to libraries.