Category Archives: Blog

Resource Roundup: The Public Domain

Posted January 15, 2018

public domain image courtesy of the Library of Congress

The first day of Copyright Week is dedicated to the public domain and creativity. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the most recent Public Domain Day, which took place on January 1. On that date, a host of works entered the public domain in Canada, New Zealand, and Europe, as detailed here. But due to copyright term extensions that went into effect in 1998, those of us in the United States have been in a public domain drought for decades. We’ll have to wait until 2019 to freely access many works first published in 1923—almost 100 years ago.

Although some works first published in the United States in or after 1923 may already be in the public domain as a result of failure to comply with formalities, and some unpublished works may also be in the public domain, it can be devilishly difficult to determine when this is the case. We recommend Peter Hirtle’s Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States and Berkeley Law’s “Is it in the Public Domain?” Handbook to help you evaluate a work’s copyright status.

We at Authors Alliance are already looking forward to next January 1, when all works first published in the United States in 1923 will (finally) enter the public domain in the United States and become “free as the air to common use.” Read why in Molly Van Houweling’s post on how the public domain benefits authors.

In the meantime, check out Public Domain Review’s Guide for thorough guidance on how to find public domain works online.

Please Support Authors Alliance Today

Posted December 20, 2017

Can you help Authors Alliance remain the organization you turn to for copyright resources and for a voice of reason in copyright debates?

Authors Alliance Gift Campaign 2017

Since our founding, Authors Alliance has provided education and advocacy for a growing community of authors. Authors who want to keep their works discoverable and in the hands of readers. Authors who value a robust interpretation of fair use. Authors who want to revive their out of print books through termination or reversion. Authors who support integrity and attribution. Authors like you.

With our growing collection of resources, Authors Alliance helps you understand and manage the rights necessary to make your works broadly available now and in the future. We continue to celebrate the open access and reversion successes of authors who have been empowered to take control of their works. Our new Termination of Transfer tool unlocks the mysteries of the termination of transfer provisions of U.S. copyright law that give authors the right to get back their rights, and our templates help you exercise that right. Members and allies have embraced our newest guide, Fair Use for Nonfiction Authors, released just two weeks ago. We can’t wait to hear how the guide has helped you navigate your fair use decisions!

In the policy arena, we’ve advocated for your right to integrity and attribution and encouraged the Copyright Office to recognize the right to revive your work if it is no longer available commercially, as well as the right to revise your work over time. We’ve spoken up for your fair use rights by petitioning for exemptions to laws that could otherwise prevent you from making fair use of multimedia content in e-books. In a high-profile fair use case, we gave voice to academic authors whose motivation to write and publish scholarly works is grounded in their desire to share and advance knowledge. And we’ve voiced our support for modernizing copyright recordation so that you can increase the compensation for and dissemination of your works, and so that your works are less likely to become orphaned.

We have so much more in store for 2018, but we can’t do it without your support.

Brianna L Schofield bio photoWe rely on your donations to operate, and to lead us into the new year. With your support, Authors Alliance can release a new guide to help you decipher and negotiate publication terms, continue our advocacy for educational uses of copyrighted material, develop resources to help you make your works accessible to all learners, and so much more!

Please consider giving today to support our work. Every contribution truly helps us fulfill our mission to support authors who write to be read.

 

 

Brianna Schofield
Executive Director

Authors Alliance Comments in Support of Modified Exemption to Section 1201 of the DMCA

Posted December 19, 2017
photo of CD with padlock

photo by 422737 |CC0

Earlier this week, Authors Alliance submitted comments to the Copyright Office in support of a modified exemption to Section 1201 of the DMCA for multimedia e-books. The proposed exemption would allow all authors to access the clips they need to make fair use of video clips in their e-books. These comments were submitted as part of the seventh annual triennial rulemaking process for 2018, with the goal of building on the success of our previous efforts to advocate for fair uses of copyrighted content.

2017.12.18 Multimedia E-Books Modification Long Form Comment AuAll AAUP ...

 

As we wrote in the comment, “Electronic books continue to represent a well-utilized form of authorship that becomes more dynamic when multimedia elements are added. With modern technology, authors are now able to incorporate audiovisual content directly into their e-books for lawful fair use purposes. Multimedia e-books allow a unique experience not possible through simple static text and visuals. By allowing authors to embed non-static forms of content into e-books, multimedia e-book technology empowers authors to conduct scholarship, express new ideas, facilitate rich discussion, educate others, engage in creative expression, and share research and findings in a way that mere prose cannot.”

We also joined with EFF, New Media Rights, the Organization for Transformative Works, the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of College Research Libraries on a comment in support of one clear, easier-to-use exemption for video excerpts that would allow authors, educators, libraries, documentary filmmakers, remix artists, and others to use video snippets without fear of legal repercussions by copyright owners. The comment is available here.

We will continue to track the status of these proposed 1201 exemptions and to provide updates as the rulemaking process moves forward in 2018.

Model Publishing Contract Features Author-Friendly Terms for Open Access Scholarship

Posted December 14, 2017

The University of Michigan and Emory University have teamed up to create a Model Publishing Contract for Digital Scholarship designed to aid in the publication of long-form digital scholarship according to open access principles. It’s a terrific new resource for authors and publishers alike!

Developed by a team of library and university press professionals, the model contract takes into account the needs of a variety of stakeholders. The contract is shorter and easier to understand than typical publishing contracts, and it offers authors more rights in their own work, while still allowing publishers sufficient rights for commercial uses and sales. Associated documents include:

  • An introduction to the project
  • A guide to using the model documents
  • A customizable contract template in Word format
  • A sample letter for requesting permission to create and distribute digital copies of a copyright owner’s work
  • A glossary of legal terms

All of the documents are available online under a CC0 license, so they can be tailored to meet an author’s or institution’s specific needs. Even for those not currently negotiating a publishing agreement, the model contract provides useful information and sample language demonstrating author-friendly terms.

The model publishing contract is a great complement to one of our current projects here at Authors Alliance. We’re hard at work on a guide to understanding publication contracts—the fourth volume in our series of educational handbooks, due to be released in 2018. Our guide will explain various contractual terms from an authors’ rights perspective. We recommend the model contract project as an excellent example of a fair and workable document with a special emphasis on open access scholarship.

 

Demystifying Fair Use: Our New Guide, FAQs, and More!

Posted December 7, 2017

Fair use, as many of our readers know, can be a tricky concept to pin down. What exactly does fair use mean? What makes it such an important part of U.S. copyright law? What are the “four factors” that courts consider when evaluating claims of fair use? And, perhaps most importantly of all, how does fair use support authors’ research, writing, and publishing goals?

Authors who want to incorporate source materials with confidence, while also respecting copyright and the integrity of their fellow creators, may find themselves faced with more questions than answers. Fortunately, help is at hand!

Cover of the Fair Use Guide for Nonfiction AuthorsAuthors Alliance released a brand-new guide to Fair Use for Nonfiction Authors last week. Although the guide was designed around the needs of nonfiction authors, much of the information applies to authors across disciplines. After all, many questions and misconceptions about fair use overlap regardless of genre. The FAQ section of the guide addresses some common questions, such as:

  • Can I still claim fair use if I am using copyrighted material that is highly creative?
  • What if I want to use copyrighted material for commercial purposes?
  • Does fair use apply to copyrighted material that is unpublished?

Learn the answers to these and other fair use questions at our new Fair Use Resources page. While you’re there, you can also download a PDF version of the guide. A print edition is forthcoming in February 2018, and Authors Alliance members can sign up for the pre-order list by emailing us at info@authorsalliance.org.

If you’re not yet a member, we encourage you to join today! And if you value this and other Authors Alliance resources, please consider a donation to support our 2017 gift campaign.

Announcing the Authors Alliance Guide to Fair Use for Nonfiction Authors

Posted November 29, 2017

Cover of Fair Use for Nonfiction AuthorsWe are pleased to announce the release of our brand-new guide to Fair Use for Nonfiction Authors! The guide is designed to empower authors to exercise their right to use source materials to further their research and writing goals by helping them to make confident fair use decisions. This new guide is the latest addition to our growing library of resource books for authors, which includes educational guides for rights reversion and open access.

Inspired by the work of Peter Jaszi and Patricia Aufderheide at the Center for Media and Social Impact at American University, this guide focuses on best practices for nonfiction authors—from biographers to science writers, historians to literary critics, memoirists to academics, and beyond—who depend on the use of copyrighted materials in their work.

The guide will help nonfiction authors who want to do things like:

  • Include song lyrics in an academic paper discussing musical trends;
  • Quote from a novel to analyze the author’s use of metaphors in a work of literary criticism;
  • Incorporate a photograph in an article about the photographer’s use of light and shadow;
  • Use a chart in a scientific paper critiquing a researcher’s methodology and findings; or
  • Quote from unpublished letters in a memoir.

The guide addresses three common situations faced by nonfiction authors in which fair use may apply: 1) criticizing, discussing, or commenting on copyrighted material; 2) using copyrighted material to support a point made in the author’s work; and 3) using copyrighted material for non-consumptive research.  It also addresses the most frequently asked questions about fair use and clears up some common misconceptions about when it might apply.

We thank Rob Walker and the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley School of Law for their help in researching and drafting the guide, which features extensive input from nonfiction authors, copyright experts, and partner organizations. The guide has also been endorsed by the American Council of Learned Societies and the Association for Information Science and Technology.

Download the guide and learn more about fair use at our new Fair Use resource page. And, if you have any fair use questions or experiences to share with us, please get in touch at info@authorsalliance.org.

 

DMCA Exemptions: We Want To Hear From You

Posted November 21, 2017
photo of CD with padlock

photo by 422737 |CC0

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is hurting authors’ ability to make fair use.

But you can help by taking 5 minutes to fill out this short survey.

The problem: The DMCA makes it illegal to rip from DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and many other encrypted technologies, and this restriction is blocking authors’ ability to make fair use. This causes serious harm to authorship in the digital environment. Why? Because even though fair use allows authors to use copyrighted video in their e-books in certain situations, the DMCA restricts authors’ access to such material.

What we are doing about it: Fortunately, the law allows for a triennial rulemaking process where the Copyright Office can recommend exemptions for authors to access the works they need. There is an exemption currently in effect—but it only applies to nonfiction multimedia e-books offering film analysis. That’s why Authors Alliance and other organizations are fighting for a modified exemption that will allow all authors of e-books to access the clips they need from DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and digital streaming services.

How you can help: The Copyright Office places a heavy emphasis on stories from authors who have been harmed by the DMCA in the past or are likely to be harmed by the DMCA in the future. Please CLICK HERE TO SHARE YOUR STORIES.

Want to learn more: Click here to learn more about our petition.

 

Making In-Copyright Works Open Access:
A Report From Iceland

Posted November 15, 2017
Typewriter with Icelandic keyboard

Photo by Rob McKaughan | CC BY-NC-SA

The island nation of Iceland—about the size of Virginia, and with a population of around 300,000—might be one of the smallest in the world, but it enjoys a robust influence on literature and culture that’s out of all proportion with its size. Thanks to a long tradition of universal literacy, a booming publishing industry, and an enthusiastic reading public, Iceland is home to a great many authors, some of whom are eager to make their books available online.

To help address this need, Professor Ian Watson of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology undertook a project to help some of these authors release their out-of-print books online under Creative Commons licenses. His article, “Assisting Living Authors in Opening Access to Their In-Copyright Works: A Report From Iceland,” details his experience with author-by-author rights clearance. Watson worked with authors to digitize their books (if they were not already part of Google Books) and ensure that their permissions status in HathiTrust was fully open. Watson’s results were successful overall, with 31 of 36 authors responding favorably to the idea of opening their works. Ultimately, 28  works were made newly available online. (The difficulties that did arise were most often bureaucratic or technological, rather than the result of unwillingness by authors or publishers to cooperate.)

Head shot of Ian Watson

Authors Alliance: You are a longtime advocate for open access, as well as the former editor of an OA journal [Bifröst Journal of Social Science]. How did you first become interested in OA?  What do you see as its main benefits?

Ian Watson: I got interested in open access in 2008, originally because I saw that it was the best way to publish written work by scholars at the university in Iceland where I was working. The university wanted to start a journal to help its employees get their research published. If we had held their work back and given it out only to those willing to pay for a paper copy, very few people would have ever read what they wrote, and administering payments and subscriptions would have taken hours of work. I offered to set up an open-access website for the journal using OJS, in addition to printing a few paper copies. This appealed to our open-minded rector. Later on, I also realized that open access was the right approach for many books and monographs in Iceland.

AuAll: How do you view the current state of OA? What changes have you observed over the years? What would you like to see in the future of OA publishing?

IW: Open access is well accepted and supported these days, and that’s wonderful. Still, too much new scholarship is being published behind toll barriers. Too many books and papers are still published in the old guard of high-prestige, toll-access presses and journals.

The rise of sites like SciHub that circumvent the existing legal framework signal that the market for scholarly journal articles is not yet in equilibrium; in the long run, I think it will just be very hard to sustain charging high prices for things that have a zero marginal cost. Just as users have long used public and university libraries for free, I think it’s inevitable that digital libraries will tend towards being free too.

It’s tremendously important to get the word out to authors that they can change the rights status of their work. At the same time, open-access advocates should be comfortable with the fact that there are many books that are still written to be sold and to make money, and that’s OK.

AuAll: You found that the majority of the authors that you contacted wanted to open up access to their works.  Why do you think these authors were enthusiastic about making their works newly available online?

Continue reading

The “Sonny Bono Memorial Collection” and U.S. Copyright Terms

Posted November 7, 2017
Page spread from The Dictionary of American Slang

A Dictionary of American Slang, 1926 – One of the books in the Internet Archive’s new Sonny Bono Memorial Collection

Last month, the Internet Archive announced the launch of the “Sonny Bono Memorial Collection,” a set of digitized full-text books published in the U.S. between 1923 and 1941. The collection takes advantage of an obscure section of U.S. copyright law, section 108(h), which allows libraries and archives to reproduce, distribute, and display books that are in the last twenty years of copyright, provided that the work is neither obtainable at a reasonable price nor being commercially exploited.

The provision was included in the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), which extended U.S. copyright terms for works by individual authors by twenty years.  CTEA resulted in a twenty year delay in some works entering the public domain: Works that were protected by copyright at the time the CTEA passed will not enter the public domain until 2019 or later. (The legislation is also known as the Sonny Bono Act because of Bono’s support of longer copyright terms during his tenure in the House of Representatives.)

The term extension had the effect of locking away countless works that would have been eligible to enter the public domain just as the promise of digitization and online access was beginning to emerge. Section 108(h) was added as a safety-valve to help ensure that the extended copyright term did not restrict public access to commercially unavailable works, providing a limitation on copyright that allows libraries and archives to rescue these works and make them available for research, scholarship, and preservation.

While section 108(h) allows for a step in the right direction, it’s not a cure-all. Determining a work’s eligibility is time-consuming and labor-intensive, and there are a number of variables to consider. But thanks to automation, the Internet Archive plans to add thousands of volumes to the collection. Professor Elizabeth Townsend Gard’s new paper gives libraries and archives guidance on how to implement section 108(h).

If your books are not eligible for inclusion in 108(h) collections, but you would like to see them freely available online, Authors Alliance can help.  Our rights reversion and termination of transfer resources provide strategies you can use to regain your rights in order to make them newly available. And together with Internet Archive, Authors Alliance can even help you to scan previously undigitized works to add them to our online collection just ask!

We hope that the Internet Archive’s leadership in implementing 108(h) inspires other libraries to create more “Last Twenty” collections and gives a second life to previously unavailable books.