New IP Handbook for Teachers and Researchers

Posted December 12, 2014

Kevin Smith, Duke University’s Director of Copyright and Scholarly Communication and an Authors Alliance founding member, has just published a handbook on copyright and related issues for teachers and researchers that will be a useful resource for many Authors Alliance members. Kevin introduces the book, its approach, and his motivations below.

The idea that I might write a handbook about intellectual property that was aimed specifically at scholars and researchers was originally suggested by a publisher, although not the publisher who ultimately published Owning and Using Scholarship: An IP Handbook for Teachers and Researchers. I was eager to write such a book, but spent a lot of time pondering how it should be shaped.

I have a lot of experience trying to explain various IP laws and best practices to scholars, and I have encountered the same frustration many times. Even though someone may appear to understand the abstract concepts that I have been explaining, when the next concrete situation arises, they struggle to apply the rules and ideas to that factual setting. It has occurred to me, observing this struggle, that that is why lawyers are taught using cases, with a so-called Socratic method. There is a real advantage to starting with specific facts and circumstances, and allowing the principles to emerge from comparison and contrast. As frustrating as that is to law students, it may be more fruitful than teaching “bright line” rules in the abstract, without clear examples of their application.

For the teachers and researchers with whom I work, I think that the lack of concrete examples of application is part of the difficulty they have when being taught about IP. The other problem, different yet related to the first, is that scholars want to know “why” when they are faced with rules. While for many people the why behind the law might seem unnecessary and confusing, for many academics it is a key component in moving from understanding to application.

So in this handbook I have tried to address both sides of this difficulty. There are lots of concrete examples of the application of copyright law, especially, to specific research and teaching situations scattered throughout the book. These are often drawn from real situations I have encountered, or things I have been told about be colleagues. But the book is more than rules and examples. Without, I hope, being too long-winded, I have tried to provide enough background – enough of the policy decisions and reasoning that underpin the law – so that my particular audience can do what they do best, which is to grasp, analyze, and apply abstract ideas in new contexts. That is the key to making good IP management decisions, as it is central in so many other parts of the academic world.

One kind of new and complex decision that academics face in the digital age involves how, where, and under what conditions to publish their work. Two of the seven chapters in my Handbook are dedicated to helping authors make those decisions about how best to manage copyright, which is one of the most important intellectual assets a scholar has, and to sort out the different publishing options that are now available.

These decisions became very real for me as I needed to look for a publisher rather late in the process. Given the values to which I am committed, it was important to me to find a publisher that was willing to let me retain the copyright in my book and, I hoped, to allow some form of open access to at least a part of its contents. That is not yet the norm in academic publishing, especially for a new author. I was extremely fortunate to find, in the Association of College and Research Libraries, a publisher who shared my values and was willing to accept a license to publish rather than a transfer of copyright, and willing to post a complete PDF copy of the book in open access form. ACRL was an ideal publisher for this particular volume, and the lesson I have learned it that I should have known that it was sure to be librarians who would best understand and cooperate with the way I wanted my work released.

Purchase the handbook.
Download the open access PDF.